The Edison High football team’s road showdown with La Habra was one of the marquee opening round games in the CIF Southern Section playoffs, an expectation that was undoubtedly met in a double-overtime thriller.
Led by clutch performances from seniors that could’ve easily been playing their final high school game, the Chargers’ impressive 2017 campaign will remain alive for at least one more week.
Two-way standout Brandon Moradian came through for the Chargers in overtime with four crucial defensive plays, none bigger than the final snap in Friday’s Division 2 first-round game. Aided by fellow seniors Mateo Gallego and David Atencio, Moradian stopped La Habra running back Skyler Taylor short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt, lifting Edison to a 28-27 victory.
“They called a timeout and we were just thinking they are going to go for [two], because that’s what you have to do,” Moradian said. “We just stepped up, made the stop, and won the game.”
Edison (8-3) advances to the quarterfinals to play host to No. 4-seeded Westlake Village Oaks Christian (9-2) next week. The Chargers earned the chance to avenge a 24-19 loss to Oaks Christian from earlier this season because of Moradian.
The game-winning stop followed a sequence of back-to-back plays by Moradian in the first overtime that prevented a potential La Habra score.
After allowing the Highlanders inside the 10-yard line with a 16-yard pass from Zach Fogel to Deavyn Woullard on the first play of overtime, the Chargers held strong. They stopped Taylor, who had 26 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns, for no gain on the following play, a run toward the left sideline.
Moradian then helped force an incompletion on second down with a hit on Fogel, sacked the quarterback for a loss of eight on third down to push La Habra (7-4) out of field goal range, and intercepted a pass in the end zone on fourth down.
“That’s just what he does,” Edison coach Jeff Grady said of Moradian’s performance down the stretch. “He does it in practice, does it in games. He’s just a really, really good football player. It’s really important to him, and that’s the key. It means a lot to him, and he plays like it.”
Although a 35-yard field-goal attempt from kicker Jack Morrell would narrowly miss, extending the game to a second overtime, senior Griffin O’Connor answered offensively for Edison.
The future Yale quarterback, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, found Atencio for a 20-yard connection on the opening play of the second overtime to bring the Chargers inside the La Habra five-yard-line. O’Connor rushed for a two-yard touchdown on third down to set the stage for the defense’s late heroics.
Taylor rushed for an 18-yard touchdown two plays into the Highlander’s next possession, appearing to extend the game to a third overtime. La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta called a timeout, however, before sending his offense back onto the field for a potential game-winning two-point try.
“Both teams are so similar,” Mazzotta said. “Both teams fight hard. Both teams play tough. Both teams are well-coached. This is exactly what we expected. We’d rather have had the one-point [victory] rather than [them], but it is what it is. That’s what everyone wanted. They wanted playoff equity, and we gave it to them.”
The Chargers, the Division 3 champions last year, received a significant boost from two key seniors returning from injury.
Jack Carmichael, appearing in his first game since mid-September, shouldered the bulk of the rushing load. He rushed 19 times for 66 yards and a touchdown, displaying little to no lingering effects from a serious ankle injury.
McCade Barrett also stepped up for Edison. In his first game back from a collarbone injury suffered on Oct. 13, Barrett led the team with 81 yards and a touchdown on four receptions.
“It’s kind of overwhelming, especially after a game like that,” Carmichael said. “Just being able to play again as a senior, you only get a couple of more games. It’s pretty crazy, and it’s electric. I love it.”
CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs
Edison 28, La Habra 27 (double OT)
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Edison 7 – 14 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 28
La Habra 7 – 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 – 6 — 27
E – Eden 5 pass from O’Connor (J. Morrell kick), 6:27.
LH – Taylor 18 run (Remme kick), 2:08.
E – Carmichael 3 run (J. Morrell kick), 9:55.
LH – Anderson 20 pass from Fogel (Remme kick), 6:18.
E – Barrett 25 pass from O’Connor (J. Morrell kick), 1:01.
LH – Woullard 34 pass from Fogel (Remme kick), 7:28.
E – O’Connor 2 run (J. Morrell kick).
LH – Taylor 18 run (run failed).
E – Carmichael, 19-66, 1 TD.
LH – Taylor, 26-168, 2 TDs.
E – O’Connor, 16-25-0, 248, 2 TDs.
LH – Fogel, 13-29-1, 194, 2 TDs.
E – Barrett, 4-81, 1 TD.
LH – Woullard, 5-87, 1 TD.
JOSH CRISWELL is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @joshccriswell