Laguna Beach High School emerged as a legitimate contender for the new Pacific Coast League title as it passed its final pre-season test Friday night with a 16-0 victory over San Clemente.
The Artists displayed all the traits--the hard running of tailback Jonathan Todd, the versatility of receiver-free safety Chris Dickerson, and the good play of a defensive line that averages 253 pounds--that have carried them to five consecutive victories.
Todd, the leading rusher in the Southern Section, gained 121 yards in 31 carries before 2,000 fans in San Clemente. It was his fifth consecutive 100-yard game.
Dickerson, perhaps the most talented player on the team, intercepted a pass at the San Clemente one-yard line to kill the Tritons' only serious scoring threat in the fourth quarter and then teamed with quarterback Danny Lane on a 23-yard touchdown play.
The defensive line simply overpowered the Tritons. San Clemente (3-2) was held to minus two yards rushing as quarterback Andy Greek emerged as his team's leading rusher with 18 yards.
Laguna Beach acting coach Lloyd Cotton said his team had a motivating force for beating San Clemente on its homecoming night.
"Someone broke into our locker room and stole my player's money, bags and a stereo," he said. "I don't have a good taste for this town.
"We came out to intimidate them in the second half, and I think they're glad to see us go home. Our defense was too much for them."
Laguna Beach set the tone for the evening, limiting San Clemente to three plays and a punt on the first series of the game and then driving 69 yards for a score.
Todd, playing with a broken finger on his left hand suffered in practice earlier in the week, showed why he's the section's rushing leader on the touchdown drive.
Todd consistently carried for five and six yard gains on the drive and then scored on a three-yard run. Nothing fancy, just a business-like performance. He had 64 yards by halftime, but slowed down in the second half and was later replaced by Rob Oliver for one series.
"He never leaves the field, so we have to give him a breather every once in a while," Cotton said. "He's strong, but he gets tired just like anybody else."
Lane started slowly, completing only 4 of 11 pass attempts in the first half, but the junior connected on all 7 of his attempts in the second half for 94 yards. He finished the night completing 11 of 18 pass for 134 yards and 1 touchdown.
Lane also showed he doesn't play favorites, completing passes to seven different receivers. Dickerson caught four for 68 yards, including one of 23 for a touchdown with 2:27 remaining to clinch the victory.