Twice this week, Huntington Beach’s Cap Sheue Field was the venue to the top two high school football programs in the area and the best in the country.
No one kept score. Next week they will.
The teams scrimmaged on Thursday and Friday, Edison with Mater Dei first, then the following night it was Corona del Mar with Huntington Beach. With the teams kicking off the season in Week Zero next Friday, they worked on offense, defense and special teams.
Edison had the honor of playing host to the Monarchs, the top-ranked team in the nation by USA Today. What a way for Jeff Grady to break in as Edison’s coach.
For Grady’s sake, he’s awfully familiar with Mater Dei.
Before he became Edison’s coach, Grady spent the previous five years as an assistant at Santa Margarita. Grady coached against the Monarchs in the Trinity League.
Now Grady is back at his alma mater, and he still had to see Mater Dei.
At least it won’t be during the season.
The coach Grady took over for at Edison, Dave White, who retired after 31 seasons, always faced the Monarchs every year since 2000. Even though the rivalry wasn’t renewed for this season, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson liked what he saw from the Chargers, who won the Sunset League and the CIF Southern Section Division 3 title in White’s final season in 2016.
“It was different for me going against a non-Dave White team,” said Rollinson, who went 15-4 against White’s Chargers. “I heard Dave was here [for the scrimmage], but what I would commend [Grady] for is they played with the same type of Charger passion. They were sound. They were solid. I was impressed with the release of the quarterback [Yale commit Griffin O’Connor]. It’s good that they came at us with no-huddle. I think that helps prepare us for a lot of the offenses that we will see.”
One aspect of Mater Dei’s offense Edison did not see was the arm of J.T. Daniels.
Daniels, a junior committed to USC, did not attempt a single pass during the scrimmage. He handed the ball off every time, except for taking off himself once.
Not seeing Daniels throw the ball surprised Grady a little. Daniels passed for 4,849 yards and 67 touchdowns last year, leading the Monarchs to the Division 1 finals.
“They ran it close to 100 percent of the time,” said Grady, whose team gave up a 57-yard touchdown run to tailback Chris Street. “I think they were just trying to establish their identity and run the football. Usually teams in scrimmages are pretty generic.”
The Chargers turned in a solid effort, despite not having the services of a couple of standout seniors. They played without receiver David Atencio (charlie horse) and Hunter Griggs (ankle), a defensive end, running back and receiver, and a transfer from Pinnacle in Phoenix, Ariz.
Mater Dei also held out key players, receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has offers from practically every top-25 college program, and C.J. Parks, a UCLA commit, and right guard Christaphany Murray. Rollinson said they would be ready for the opener at La Puente Bishop Amat.
“There was some good and some bad,” said Grady, adding that he was happy with O’Connor connecting with wide receiver Mateo Gallego on a couple of long passes in tight man coverage near the sideline and with finding receiver McCade Barrett underneath. “Lots and lots of things to work on. We certainly haven’t arrived.”
Grady’s head-coaching debut is at Tesoro on Friday.
The five-time defending Pacific Coast League champion Sea Kings and Oilers got ready for their season openers. The visitors stood out right away.
Safety Max Casper returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Erik Zimmerman threw a nice 21-yard fade into the end zone to receiver John Humphreys. Running back J.T. Murphy rushed for a seven-yard touchdown. The Sea Kings jumped to a 20-0 lead.
The only question for CdM was who would be its starting quarterback for the opener at Davidson Field with JSerra, ranked No. 9 in the county. Nathaniel Espinoza and Zimmerman, both seniors, and sophomore Ethan Garbers were competing for the job.
The first game will be a major test for Espinoza, Zimmerman, a transfer who is at his fourth school, or Garbers.
“They’re big. They’re physical. They’re fast,” O’Shea said of the Lions.
Espinoza is the most familiar with CdM’s no-huddle, spread offense. He backed up Chase Garbers last year, all the way to the Division 4 finals.
Whoever is the quarterback will try to do what Garbers did a year ago, and that’s go to star receiver TaeVeon Le, a senior now, and help the Sea Kings return to the section finals.
Huntington Beach is a long way from making a run at a section championship like it did in 2013.
The Oilers are young, with only nine seniors listed on their roster, but coach Brett Brown liked what he saw against CdM, especially from his secondary. Arick McLawyer picked off a pass in the end zone and returned it 50 yards, and Caleb Webb had two picks, returning one for a touchdown.
“For an inexperienced team, I feel like we got better with every snap,” said Brown, who last year led the Oilers to a fourth-place finish in the Sunset League, good enough to qualify for the Division 7 playoffs. “We got a big one next week [at home] against a good Canyon team, and [the Comanches] are in our playoff division, so that will be a good test for us.”