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Pacifica Lives Up to Expectations, Beats Hawks


MISSION VIEJO — As disappointing as it might be to many fans in this area, there will be no Laguna Hills-Aliso Niguel rematch.

Pacifica, the fourth place team from the Garden Grove League, played a near-perfect game and stunned third-seeded Laguna Hills, 17-13, Friday night at Mission Viejo High in the first round of the Southern Section Division VIII playoffs. The Mariners will play Mayfair in the second round.

Laguna Hills Coach Steve Bresnahan said he knew Pacifica was a dangerous and experienced team with a solid quarterback, but apparently his team never got the message. Pacifica running back Paul Toepel outrushed Orange County's leading rusher, Michael Jones, 100 to 68, and quarterback J.D. Stern made plays he hadn't made all season to keep the ball away from Jones.

Pacifica was favored to win the Garden Grove League title by many of the league's seven coaches but it didn't live up to expectations until Friday.

"We knew coming in that we had a better team than we'd shown," Toepel said. "We've just been making critical mistakes at the wrong time. We looked at this as a new season, a second season."

Pacifica (8-3) went up, 17-0, and made a few mistakes to let Laguna Hills back in the game.

Fullback Jeff Burt (46 yards, 13 rushes) scored on runs of six and two yards and Nathan Kolano booted a 29-yard field goal to give Pacifica its 17-0 lead. Laguna Hills (9-2) turned the momentum before half on a 51-yard pass play from Cory Pardoe to a streaking Jeff Fischer.

The Hawks then took the second-half kickoff 63 yards and scored on a fourth down and 13 from the Pacifica 15, when Pardoe hit tight end Saia Makakaufaki over the middle. Ryan Johnson missed the conversion and that was all Laguna Hills would score.

Stern gave Laguna Hills a chance to take the lead when he fumbled a snap at the Hawks' 47. Laguna Hills drove to Pacifica six, keeping the drive alive with a 26-yard reverse to Fischer on fourth and 10, but it couldn't convert on fourth and four. Pardoe threw a flat pass to Jones, who had only 68 yards in 16 carries, and he was gang-tackled and dropped for a three-yard loss.

Pacifica ran out the clock with four first downs. Its biggest conversion came on an 18-yard grab by Paul Tessier on a third and nine from Pacifica's 10.

The Mariners outrushed Laguna Hills, 133 to 131, and had a 15-10 edge in first downs. Pacifica Coach Bill Craven said the key to controlling the ball was finding Laguna Hills' weakness.

"We call it a 'check with me,' " Craven said. "Before the snap, we'd audible to the side of the line where we saw their weakness."

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