Laguna Hills football built a strong team around a tight-knit foundation – the Orange County Register

Many soccer teams boast on social media that their team isn’t just a soccer program, it’s a family.

Laguna Hills is one of those places where that feeling is true.

Troy Leigber is the Hawks’ star player with 2,133 rushing yards and 44 total touchdowns. His 37 rushing touchdowns lead the Southern section and he had two interceptions in the semifinals game against Western.

In this day and age, it wouldn’t be surprising if a player of his caliber switched to a bigger program.

Leigber is a prime example of the culture and family environment that exists in Laguna Hills. His parents, Chris and Alison, both graduated from Laguna Hills in 1988. His mother, Alison, is a teacher in Laguna Hills.

He has two older brothers, Ross and Mitch, who were All-League players at Laguna Hills. Mitch was a 2019 All-County player and is now the running back at Stanford.

“I just love this school,” said Troy Leigber. “I look at the stands and I have the feeling that the whole city is behind us.”

The close environment that reigns within the Laguna Hills football program is a credit to the experienced coaching staff.

John Lester is in his second season as the Hawks head coach, but has been on the coaching staff since 1992.

Bruce Ingalls, who has been on the coaching staff for 35 years and served as the team’s head coach for 18 years, is still on the coaching staff. Offensive line coach Kirk Brown graduated from Laguna Hills in 1991 and has been on the coaching staff since the mid-1990s.

Defensive coordinator Joel Wittenberg is a former Laguna Hills player and assistant Freddie Banks has been with the program for over 20 years.

“Continuity has really shaped our program over the years,” Lester said. “That’s what makes us who we are.”

Lester worked for coach Steve Bresnahan when the team won a CIF championship in 1997 and coached with Ingalls when the team won its last CIF championship in 2008.

When he succeeded Mike Maceranka in 2021, he wanted to keep alive the traditions established by coaches like Bresnahan and Ingalls.

“For me, it was about building on what we’ve been doing there for years,” Lester said. “We had a very set course of action at Laguna Hills, so it was about me continuing to do what we’ve always done.”

“We have a ‘lunchbox’ tradition, just work hard and bring your lunch. We’ve always instilled in the players that we have to be the hardest-working team.”

Laguna Hills plays Golden Valley of Santa Clarita for the Division 7 championship on Saturday.

Golden Valley turns its second trip into a championship game. It’s the Hawks’ first championship appearance since 2008.

“Every championship team is different. You kind of have to get two or three classes together and have a few standout athletes,” Lester said. “The 2008 group was unique, but this group builds on a very large and successful senior class. That is what makes this group different.”

REMARKS

Cypress played for the Division 7 championship in 2019 but fell 28-21 to Temecula Valley at Western High. The Centurions will be back on Western High Friday to play Downey for the Division 4 championship. “Let’s hope we actually win this time,” joked Cypress coach Rick Feldman Monday. …

Centurions quarterback Aidan Houston makes strong case for becoming an All-County quarterback. The junior has 1,106 rushing yards, which is the highest among quarterbacks in the south section. He will also rush for 3,000 yards and has 28 touchdowns with just six interceptions. …

Laguna Beach started its season on a rocky note. Quarterback Sam Garwal suffered a serious injury in the team’s season opener. Ethan Das filled in well as quarterback, and now Santa Margarita transfer Jackson Kollock has thrown 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions in seven games. …

Lakewood coach Justin Utopo praised Northwood senior quarterback Eugene Miyata for his ability to lead the offense. Running back Adam Harper is rightly credited with the team’s success, but Miyata had three touchdown passes in the semifinals against Vista del Lago. …

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