Laguna Hills earns hard-fought victory
LAGUNA HILLS – Big plays in the passing game helped give the Laguna Hills Hawks the lead.
Their grinding rushing attack helped them maintain their unbeaten season and advance to the second round of the CIF Southern Division playoffs.
Senior quarterback Robert Refsnyder passed for two touchdowns, while senior running back Derek Browning rushed for 104 yards, and Laguna Hills claimed a hard-fought, 17-9 triumph over the Artesia Pioneers on Friday at Laguna Hills High.
“Being the No. 1 seed, we wanted to come out and make a statement tonight,” said Refsnyder. “We showed that the offense can be versatile and we just have to continue to have a good mindset.”
Defense dominated the opening quarter, as neither team could establish any offensive momentum.
The Hawks (10-0) threatened to score early in the second quarter, after a 45-yard pass reception by junior tight end Michael McCullough, but they were unable to capitalize as a fumble ended the threat inside the Pioneers’ 10-yard line.
Late in the second quarter, it was the Pioneers (7-4) who broke through for the first score of the game, as senior quarterback Donnay Ragland hit streaking wide receiver Derrell Randell, who weaved his way through the Hawks defense for a 50-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed, giving the Pioneers a 6-0 advantage.
On the first play of the ensuing Hawks possession, Refsnyder’s pass was intercepted by junior Kyle Nichols. However, three plays later, Hawks sophomore safety Mark Martindale intercepted Ragland, giving the Hawks the ball with under two minutes left in the half.
After each quarterback exchanged interceptions, a 52-yard pass to senior running backDerek Browning helped set up Refsnyder’s 10-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiverA.J. Martin and the ensuing extra point gave the Hawks a 7-6 lead at the half.
The Hawks increased their lead midway through the third quarter, as Refsnyder hit senior wide receiver Shawn Tucker on a 33-yard touchdown pass, making it 14-6.
The Pioneers embarked on a 12-play drive, but were unable to get into the end zone, as the Hawks defense stiffened inside the 5-yard line Pioneers junior kicker Robert Torres booted a 24-yard field goal, narrowing the lead to 14-9 late in the third quarter.
After forcing Artesia to punt midway through the fourth, the Hawks went to their running game, as both Browning and senior running back Matt Giovinazzo (61 yards) found huge holes created by the Hawks offensive line. Senior kicker Richie Hogan then finished off a 13-play drive that took 6:45 with a 29-yard field goal, making it 17-9 with 1:02 left.
The Hawks then recovered a Pioneer fumble on the ensuing drive to clinch the victory.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org