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Familiar foes, different setting

For the first time in eight years, Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar game comes in nonleague play.

September 01, 2006|By Mike Sciacca

Traditionally, Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar don't meet on the football field until somewhere at or beyond the midway point of the 10-week regular season.

That's the way it's been for the past seven years, a period in which both schools have been members of the Pacific Coast League. But beginning with the 2006-07 school year, Laguna has moved on to the new Orange Coast League, while Corona del Mar has remained in the revamped PCL.

The rivalry, however, continues, as the teams battle tonight — this time, in nonleague play — at Newport Harbor High's Davidson Field.

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It's the season opener for both the Breakers and host Sea Kings, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.

Laguna Coach Jimmy Nolan likes the idea of taking on a formidable opponent right out of the gate.

"I think it's a great opportunity to face a very tough opponent," he said. "We need to prepare for league. Scheduling easier opponents won't do us any good. Corona del Mar is as good a team as anyone we've faced since I've been coaching here.

"This game will let us know our weaknesses, so we'll have time to get better before league."

A young Laguna team welcomes 10 starters back from a 2005 squad that went 5-4-1, which included a 27-0 loss in the seventh week of the season to Corona del Mar.

The Sea Kings also return 10 starters from a 2005 unit that finished 6-6 and reached the second-round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

One of the key returning Sea Kings is Steven Hillgren. The All-PCL senior cornerback nearly set a Corona del Mar single-season interception record with 10 last year — the record is 11 — four of which he snagged in the win over Laguna Beach. Those four interceptions did set a school single-game record.

Hillgren is a dual playmaking threat. Last year while also playing receiver, he caught 27 passes for 453 yards and six touchdowns. He figures to be a main target again this year.

Laguna's young defense will be tested by a Sea Kings offense that will be led by junior quarterback Taylor Hughes, a transfer from Mater Dei.

"To compete, we just need to have confidence in ourselves," Nolan said. "To win, we cannot turn the ball over, have any silly penalties and must play a flawless game.

"We are really young. The majority of this year's starters are sophomores. These guys need some experience. I know one thing — we can hustle. We average about 170-pounds across the board. We'll see what happens."

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