They finally were able to put on the pads Monday.
Having spent several weeks during the summer in non-contact combat, the Breakers were ready to do some hitting. Two-a-day practices got underway earlier this week for the Laguna Beach High football team, sessions that will eventual tail off to one-a-days leading up to a Sept. 9 season opener. The Breakers will sport a new look in a few facets of their game in 2011, and it starts at the top.
Mike Churchill is at the reigns of the program for the first time, taking over for Jonathan Todd, who stepped down in December.
Churchill has been a head coach at 11 schools, "most notably," he said, at Riverside Poly, Redlands and Clovis West. His Poly teams won back-to-back CIF championship in 1983-84. In 20 years as a head football coach, his teams won eight league championships, made the playoffs 13 times and both his CIF-champion Poly teams were named "mythical" State champion. Churchill was named CIF Eastern Conference ('83) and CIF Big-5 Conference ('84) Coach of the Year.
Now, he heads a Laguna Beach program that has enjoyed moderate success during the last five years. He takes over a team that has several talented players returning from a 3-7 squad that featured record-setting play from a pair of players who graduated in June, quarterback Austin Paxson and receiver Chris Paul.
"It's been a good week so far," Churchill said Wednesday of the official start to practice. "The kids are excited and working hard. We are lacking in some basic fundamentals, in my opinion, but we're teaching them through drills and some of these kids are playing in positions that they aren't used to. One thing that we are doing differently this year is that we are coaching our freshman team alongside our varsity team."
A few players in new roles include 2010 all-league defensive back Robert Clemons moving to linebacker. Spencer Anderson made a big switch by moving from left guard to split receiver. Bobby Weiland, an offensive starter last year, is now a two-way lineman.
Laguna will host University in a Sept. 2 scrimmage and then officially open its season at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 at Guyer Field against Webb School of Claremont.
Below is a capsule look at the 2011 Breakers:
Head coach: Mike Churchill (first year)
Coaching staff: Bill Douglass (secondary/offensive backs); Joe Laffey (secondary/quarterbacks); Spencer Harrell (OL/DL); Mike Colucci (receivers); Butch Fredlow (defensive line); Corey Brown (linebackers/receivers).
2010 record: 3-7
2010 league results: 2-3 (fourth place)
2010 CIF playoffs: Did not qualify
Type of offense: Delaware Wing T
Type of Defense: 50 slant
Returning starters: 6 offense/4 defense
Returning with honors: Robert Clemons, DB, all-league, Jr.
Key losses: Austin Paxson (quarterback); Chris Paul (receiver/defensive back)
Coach's outlook: "I like our chances," Churchill said. "The team, although young, has good speed and a great attitude. We are suffering from a lack of depth and we do not have a good reputation for playing defense. We must get better, much better, on defense to contend."