Senior-laden Huntington Beach Edison went undefeated in summer passing leagues, yet head coach Dave White wasn't sure how good his Chargers were following three victories over middling programs.
Talented skill players may have gone 30-0 without pads and blitzing linebackers, but that won't get you through the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs unscathed. Only one returning starter was back on the offensive and defensive lines, and Oregon State-bound Roman Sapolu was switching positions from right tackle to center.
The lineman acid test came over the weekend against Anaheim Servite, a 23-9 victory that may have asnwered White's question but raised another: Could Edison be the team to beat in the Southern Section?
“There were a lot of question marks and concerns,” White said. “I wasn't sure if we were good enough up front. That being said, beating Servite is even more incredible. The kids have worked real hard and the linemen have improved tremendously. We weren't very good in the offseason, and we were pretty average in the first couple of games, to be honest.
“I had hoped we would compete with the Servites and Mater Deis in the playoffs, but I wasn't really sure.”
Matt Viles wasn't sacked and passed for 226 yards. Wade Houston rushed for 105. Edison outgained Servite, 399-202.
Servite (3-1) had looked all but unstoppable in consecutive dominant victories over Long Beach Poly, Fresno Clovis West and Encino Crespi. The Friars were ranked No. 3 in the state by MaxPreps and had rightfully appeared in all the national rankings. The Friars only points against Edison came on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.
The victory moves Edison (4-0) to No. 8 in the national MaxPreps Freeman Rankings (computer generated), but No. 22 in the Xcellent 25 where the Chargers are ranked two positions lower than Ventura St. Bonaventure, a perennial power that defeated Crespi, 42-41, in overtime. A week earlier, Servite had a 38-0 lead over Crespi going into the fourth quarter, perhaps putting Edison's accomplishment into even greater perspective.
Edison plays on Thursday against another perennial power, Santa Ana Mater Dei (3-1), which hasn't had the kind of season it expected but if it continues to play to the level of the competition, the game could be epic.
This is the 10th consecutive year Edison has played Servite and Mater Dei in back-to-back games. In that span, the Chargers are 8-4 against Servite, having beaten the Friars twice in 2000 and 2006, and 4-6 against Mater Dei, beating them twice in 2001.
“Why do I play teams like that? Because they are two Orange County teams, I respect their programs, I get along with their coaches, we don't have to travel very far, they have great kids and it's a great money maker,” White said. “We have great rivalries, a lot of kids know each other, and the three times we've faced them in the playoffs we won, so it worked out good for us.”
White said his team is a little beat up, “but we're a good football team and we can get better.”
Edison is trying to win its first section title since 1980. The Chargers were beaten in the 2006 Pac-5 title game by State Bowl winner Orange Lutheran, 30-20.
“If we stay healthy,” White said, “I think we can do some damage in the playoffs.”
That would be a great storyline for a team that already has a great storyline. Lineman Luke Gane returned to the lineup this season after missing last season with a rare leukemia that required a bone marrow transplant and threatened his life. Coincidentally, Gane and his family presented Thomas and Servite with a plaque thanking them for their support last season, which included half the proceeds from the sale of last year's game program, and Servite players shaving their heads. Gane isn't just back, he's starting at right tackle and rotates in at defensive end.
Stanford-bound middle linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, the leader of the team, played with a cast on a broken hand but still led a defense that limited Servite to 202 yards, only 113 passing by Cody Fajardo.
Matt Viles, the quarterback with a grade-point average over 4.0 – along with several others, including leading receiver Jeff Trojan – passed for a school-record 457 yards in a 34-17 victory over Dana Hills.
White says no matter what happens down the road, this group of players is a special team.
“If you combine their athletic ability, GPA and high set of morals, this group is about as good as I've ever had,” White said. “Chemistry and senior leadership is everything. You might have a good year, but you're not going to have a great year. That's why I knew we would have fun this year. I'm not sure how good we'd be, but I knew we'd have fun. These are great kids who are easy to coach. The win over Servite is almost like gravy.”
Stepping up, stepping out, stepping on
There are games that Redlands East Valley coaches and players may deem more important, but their 20-14 victory over Orange Lutheran – on a 48-yard run by quarterback Tyler Shreve as time expired – carries far more weight to the rest of us than winning a Citrus Belt League title.
Even understated coach Kurt Bruich admitted that “it was a big credibility win,” while playing up the notion that his team's goals focus on league and playoffs: “I don't want to downplay it, but it is a preseason game.”
Yes, but what a preseason game. The last time REV (3-0) faced a program of that caliber was eight years ago in Bruich's first season “when we played Mater Dei in the first round of the playoffs and got smashed.”
With running back A.J. Fernandez, the Wildcats have a rushing game that must be respected. With Shreve they have a quarterback who can hurt teams with the pass and run. Anyone who sees his winning score (try www.ocvarsity.com) can see that Shreve looks a little like former Lutheran standout Aaron Corp. Although credited with a 48-yard score, Shreve actually started his run after dropping back to his own 40.
“Defensively, we have a good mix of kids who can play power football and kids who can play in space,” said Bruich, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section's Inland Division and is looking for its first section title. “We have the depth and the people in place to kind of make a run.”
Andrew Hudson knocked Lutheran QB Bobby Wheatley out of the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter which helped facilitate the come-from-behind victory; REV trailed 14-0 after Lutheran's Damiani Wilson scored with nine minutes left in the game.
What were the repercussions of taking on Lutheran?
“We got better over the course of the game,” said Bruich, who called the atmosphere playoff-like. “We really accepted the challenge and got better and better. We were getting stronger and hitting harder.”
When the team met over the weekend, coaches and players were focused more on themselves and how they could improve than they were next week's opponent. When the team practiced this week it had “a little more of a swagger” that had previously been missing.
“Rite of passage, jumping a hurdle, however you want to explain it,” Bruich said. “Before we played that game it was like, 'We think we can play with these programs.' Now, we just did.”
LB Poly streak on the line
Long Beach Poly, the program that has sent more players to the NFL than anyone, has lost three of its four non-league games. The Jackrabbits were just beaten by the the No. 1 team in San Diego, Oceanside, 14-7. Other losses weren't to slouches, either: Servite and St. Bonaventure.
Now Poly will try to extend its Moore League winning streak to 80 against Long Beach Jordan on Friday before taking on Lakewood on Oct. 9. Does Jordan have a chance to end the Poly streak? The Panthers (1-2) have a victory over Beverly Hills (1-2) and close losses to Pasadena (1-2) and Compton Dominguez (1-2).
The task won't be any easier for Jordan because it has lost Washington-bound quarterback/defensive back John Timu for the season with a torn ACL.
After playing Poly, Jordan faces Westlake Village Oaks Christian.
Alemany upgrade nets big win
It's hard to argue with success, and it looks like Dean Harrington knows what he is doing. The brother of Newhall Hart coach Mike Harrington, Dean took over a Mission Hills Alemany program that had gone 3-7 in 2005, 4-6 in 2004.
The Warriors have steadily built on that under Harrington with records in successive years of 4-6, 8-4 and 11-2. This season, Alemany is 3-1, its only loss a competitive 28-17 setback to Oaks Christian in the opener.
Having upgraded its non-league schedule, Alemany KO'd Woodland Hills Taft over the weekend, 28-19, as Malcolm Marable scored four touchdowns and rushed for 147 yards in 28 carries. He got victory honors over Taft star D.J. Morgan, who rushed 13 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Morgan missed the first quarter, reportedly for showing up late to practice.
A nest of goose eggs
Los Alamitos has a long history of being good, and head coach John Barnes is the winningest in Orange County, but the Griffins are still a bit of an unknown quantity even though they have outscored opponents, 124-0.
Los Al has yet to allow a point, albeit to Lakewood Mayfair (0-4), L.A. Fremont (0-4) and Long Beach Wilson (2-2). The Griffins instituted a five-man defensive front this season, and it figures to get its first real workout on Thursday against La Habra (3-0) at Cerritos Gahr. La Habra is playing up, but the No. 1 team in the Southwest Division has averaged 45.3 points.
Three dots and a cloud of dust
Game of the Year candidate probably has to include St. Bonaventure's 42-41 overtime victory over Encino Crespi. Mason Kirk, a sophomore kicker, won it with a PAT, which probably doesn't seem like such a big deal except he's a 10th-grader trying to break a 41-41 tie. Crespi missed its PAT, and also gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. . . . Lakewood running back Jerry Stone, whose season never began because he was charged with attempted murder and will be tried as an adult in connection to a drive-by shooting, has a hearing scheduled for Thursday. Lakewood is 3-1 without last year's leading rusher. . . . DeAndre Roberts of Sylmar has asthma, which explains why he was taken to the hospital in the third quarter of a 27-0 loss at Woodland Hills El Camino Real. He had been overcome by smoke from the stadium barbecue, according to the Daily News. . . .
Fontana Kaiser linebacker Josh Sherley and Moreno Valley Rancho Verde linebacker Ronald Powell have been named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game Jan. 9 at the Alamodome. . . . Kevin Ervin set a school record for Sun Valley Poly by rushing for 409 yards (and six touchdowns, including runs of 85 and 86 yards) in a 58-27 in a 58.27 victory over Granada Hills. He did that in 20 carries. Credit the Parrots (2-1) instituting the Double-Wing offense. The old record was 328 yards by Jermaine Pledger in 1990. . . . Former Antelope Valley coach Brent Newcombe will have the stadium named after him Friday against Palmdale Knight. Newcombe coached 26 years and won three section titles. This year's squad is 0-3 and been outscored, 163-12. . . . Knight will be missing four players who were ejected from last week's victory over Sultana (which lost two players). . . .
Four-year old Perris Citrus Hill extended its winning streak to 31 games, setting an Inland Empire record, by defeating Perris, 53-10. It broke a record shared with Norco, which was playing a higher caliber of competition at the time. Washington-bound running back Deontae Cooper carried nine times for 216 yards (a 24-yard average) and scored three touchdowns. He has 887 yards in three games this season. . . . Injury issues continue to plague Long Beach Millikan. Already down three two-way starters in QB/DB Paul Slater (shoulder), WR/DB Silver Vaifanua (knee) and WR/DE Trevon Trejo (knee), the Rams lost Davon Black for the season with a broken jaw suffered on a punt in a 38-19 loss to Fountain Valley . . .
Geoffrey Allen has left Crenshaw to play basketball at Pacific Hills. . . . Kevin Johnson, a 6-10 junior center who left Gardena Serra for Woodland Hills Taft, will reportedly sit out the season because he failed to move: He didn't change his residence.
Derek Campbell, a shortstop from Mater Dei, has committed to Oklahoma State.
Martin Henderson began covering Southland preps in 1993 for the Los Angeles Times. He contributes to the Orange County Register, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and San Bernardino Sun, and offers up motorsports opinions at Racescribe.com. You can reach him at email@example.com.