By Zach Cavanagh
The Dana Hills football team crossed into uncharted territory on Friday, Sept. 13.
The Dolphins put forth another stellar defensive effort and ground out the offense to edge out and upset Laguna Beach, 10-7, and improve to 4-0 for the first time in school history.
Liam Boersma led the defense by adding five sacks to his season total of 14.5, which leads the nation, according to MaxPreps. Lukas Saavedra and Sam Shultz each pulled in interceptions, with Saavedra’s denying a score in the end zone.
Tristan Van der Linde ran for 95 yards, and Zack Saavedra threw a touchdown pass to Kellan McGrath to tie the game in the third quarter. Kian Afrookhteh kicked the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter to send Dana Hills, ranked No. 10 in Division 12 last week, over Laguna Beach, then-ranked No. 2.
“First, we had a chip on our shoulder and something to prove,” said Boersma, a senior defensive end. “Now, we’ve got to keep going with it. We feel confidence, especially when everyone around the school is supporting us.”
The Dolphins’ “revenge tour,” as the players are calling it, continues on Friday, Sept. 20 at Irvine High. The Vaqueros are 0-3.
“I think it’s going to carry on throughout the season,” senior quarterback Zack Saavedra said of the Dolphins’ momentum. “We’ve just got to make sure to go week by week and not get too ahead of ourselves. Stay within our own game.”
This is all a new experience for this group of seniors. The Dolphins posted two wins in 2018, three in 2017 and one in 2016. Dana Hills hadn’t won four games since a 5-6 season in 2013.
“It’s a little weird,” senior lineman Tanner Vallejo said. “You feel in the hallways it’s just different. After three years of going to class on Monday morning and having people say, ‘Ha, you suck,’ it’s really liberating, in a way.”
Dana Hills has been getting it done up front with tremendous pressure from Boersma and the defensive line and more than solid protection from the offensive line. The Dolphins are rushing for more than 131 yards per game.
“I’ve been scared, honestly, to run the last three years,” senior running back Van der Linde said, “because I always feel like there’s five people right there on me. This year, I’m confidently running through the hole, because I know (the line is) going to have my back.”
While reaching new heights, Dana Hills has kept its focus and knows there’s still plenty left to achieve.
“We’re not at a point where we can flaunt it,” Vallejo said. “The season’s not over yet. We’re going to go as far as we can and be as humble as possible.”
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.