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PREP EXTRA / SATURDAY FOOTBALL PULLOUT : Laguna Hills Foils Costa Mesa With Timely Passes


NEWPORT BEACH — Costa Mesa's game plan was easy: Stop Brendan McGraw. Do that and the Mustangs will win. That's what the coach had said, and that's what his team had to do.

And the Mustangs stopped McGraw. For 22 minutes.

And then the guy Costa Mesa could care less about, Laguna Hills' Corey Pardoe, completed a 24-yard pass. Then McGraw busted a 23-yard run. And then Pardoe passed 20 yards for a touchdown.

Just like that, Laguna Hills had momentum, a psychological advantage and a whole new ball game. By the time the Hawks were finished, they had four consecutive touchdowns and a 27-14 victory that gave them the Pacific Coast League title, their first since 1991.

Going into the game, McGraw was Orange County's second-leading rusher with 1,947 yards, trailing Costa Mesa's Charles Chatman (2,247). They were 1-2 in the state.

Before his 23-yarder, McGraw had carried 13 times for 21 yards. But after Pardoe completed a pass, giving the Costa Mesa defense something to think about, McGraw was 17 for 115 yards. He finished with 30 carries for 136.

Chatman, the county's second-leading scorer, rushed 18 times for 70 yards and no touchdowns, though he moved past former teammate Binh Tran into second place on the county single-season rushing list with 2,317 yards; Tran had 2,303 last year. Dewayne Crenshaw carried 10 times for 125 yards, but 48 came on Costa Mesa's final drive, trailing 27-7.

"We couldn't move the ball when the game was on the line," Costa Mesa Coach Myron Miller said. "We had to stop McGraw and we're vulnerable to the pass. But the big thing was that they were too tough for us on defense."

The Laguna Hills defense never allowed Chatman to break a long gain--his longest run from scrimmage was his last, 15 yards--and prevented Crenshaw from breaking through the secondary.

And there was an unlikely hero for Laguna Hills (8-2 overall, 5-0). Adam Roman caught that first touchdown pass, of 20 yards, over his shoulder, with 28 seconds left in the first half, and Sako Yakinian's extra point tied the score, 7-7.

Then Roman returned the second-half kickoff 52 yards, to the Costa Mesa 35. After McGraw ran for one yard--surprise--Pardoe's third and final completion went over the middle to tight end Jay Johnson for a 34-yard score.

Roman later returned a punt 29 yards, to the Costa Mesa 16, and McGraw got all 16, capping it with a two-yard run to make it 21-7 with 10:47 left.

Costa Mesa (7-2-1, 3-1-1) was stopped on its next drive on fourth and eight when Ben Massimino dragged down Chatman for a three-yard loss. One play later, with 4:45 to go, McGraw high-stepped into the end zone on a 31-yard score--his 35th touchdown of the season, two short of the county record.

"I was just real excited," McGraw said of the high step. "I wasn't trying to show anybody up. But it's not very often you get a chance to do it.

"Win a league title, that is."

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