Defense lifts Laguna Hills past Western in Div. 7 football semi-finals – Orange County Register

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Defense lifts Laguna Hills past Western in Div. 7 football semi-finals - Orange County Register
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LAGUNA HILLS — The Laguna Hills Football Team’s defense forced five turnovers in the first half and the Hawks beat Western 45-33 in the CIF-SS Division 7 semifinals on Friday at Laguna Hills High .

The Hawks will travel to face Santa Clarita’s Golden Valley in the Division 7 championship next week.

This is the first CIF Championship appearance for Laguna Hills since 2008 when they won the South Division title.

“I’ve been to a few championships here, but every time I go to a championship game it’s an amazing experience,” Laguna Hills coach John Lester said. “The trip to get here has been awesome.”

Lester was an assistant coach for the 2008 championship team and this is his first championship appearance as a head coach at Laguna Hills.

Troy Leigber had another outstanding performance on Friday, rushing for 152 yards on 31 carries with three touchdowns. He has 37 rushing touchdowns this season, which is the most in the South Section.

The senior also made two defensive interceptions for Laguna Hills (12-1). Vinny Garcia and Sam Stark also had interceptions for the Hawks, and Angelo Rubio picked up a fumble.

“All week we talked a lot about them throwing the ball and the need to be ball hawks in that and that’s what we did,” Leigber said. “I feel good to win with these boys. I love this school.”

Western (11-2) opened the game with a 10-play, 74-yard pass capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Luna to Joshua Faulkner to put the Pioneers ahead 6-0.

Laguna Hills responded with a 55-yard drive that ended with a Leigber touchdown to give the Hawks a 7-6 lead.

Luna threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Quiman Shemwell. Drew Faulkner converted the 2-point attempt to give Western a 14-7 lead.

Luna threw for 285 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Shemwell led the Pioneers with 119 receiving yards.

Early in the second quarter, Kaden Austin threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Reese Burnham to tie the score at 14.

Leigber got his second interception of the game midway through the second quarter which set up a 1-yard touchdown by Garcia.

On the ensuing Western possession, Rubio recovered a fumble on the Pioneers 30-yard line. Leigber ran for his second touchdown of the game to increase the lead to 28-14.

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Stark intercepted a pass inside the Western 10. Luke Whitfield netted a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give the Hawks a lead 31-14 at halftime.

Laguna Hills opened the second half with a drive that was nearly six minutes late. Austin scored on a 2-yard quarterback to extend the lead to 38-14.

Leigber ran for his third touchdown of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Hawks a 45-14 lead.

Western scored 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Luna threw two touchdown passes to Josh Faulkner in the fourth quarter and Desmin Joshway-Fairley added a late touchdown.

Faulkner had three touchdown receptions.

California Daily Newspapers

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