The Sunset League promises to be a gauntlet this football season.
Of the six teams in the league, four of them entered the week ranked within their respective divisions in the CIF Southern Section polls.
Although only three teams will be guaranteed a playoff berth in that league, Huntington Beach High has done all it can to bolster its case should it not finish in the top half of the Sunset League this year.
The Oilers completed their nonleague schedule with a resounding 32-7 victory over visiting Marina on Friday night.
“We showed tough grit,” Huntington Beach senior wide receiver and cornerback Jeremiah Flanagan said. “Our coaches got us ready for this game. They knew that if we came out soft, [the Vikings] were going to come out hard and throw a few punches. They said if we keep throwing punches, we’ll eventually get them, and that’s what happened.”
Huntington Beach (4-1) is undefeated in games in which Arick McLawyer has played. The senior running back had 24 carries for 191 yards, opening things up for the Oilers’ passing game.
Junior quarterback Brandon Cannella made his second consecutive start in place of injured starter Brady Gardner (sprained left knee).
The Oilers took shots down the field, with Cannella dropping his first pass of the night into the hands of a streaking Flanagan for a 27-yard touchdown.
Cannella wound up with 178 passing yards and four touchdowns. Flanagan had four catches for 88 yards and two scores.
On his second touchdown, Flanagan came back to the ball, ripping the ball away from his defender near the front left pylon.
“I just saw the ball,” Flanagan said. “I knew it was [pass interference] because I was coming back to it, but I just knew that I had to catch it. I wanted that touchdown, too.
“All of my trainers and all of my coaches taught me to come back to the ball. It’s either going to be a touchdown or a [pass interference], and I came away with it.”
Flanagan and the rest of the Oilers’ defense did not hold back on their celebrations. Senior middle linebacker John Gosney picked up the trophy for the Oil vs. Water rivalry game and showed it to the home crowd with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Huntington Beach kept the Vikings (2-3) off the scoreboard until sophomore quarterback Jack Miller connected with senior tight end John Robinson on a 16-yard fade route to the left corner of the end zone with 2:38 left.
The schools wanted to keep the rivalry game on the schedule, even with Marina moving from the Sunset League to the Big 4 League this season. As is the case with most rivalries, there was no love lost between the teams.
“I didn’t really say anything because I’m nice about it,” Huntington Beach senior linebacker Jake Graham said. “Everyone else just kept talking mad trash because we’re rival schools. We just hate each other.”
Graham had three tackles for a loss and a sack.
“He was flying around all over the field,” Oilers coach Brett Brown said of Graham. “He’s a guy who last year for us was a big special teams guy. We just keep putting more on his plate, and he has done a good job of picking it up and being one of our key linebackers the last couple of weeks.”
Gosney had 2½ sacks, including a dual effort with Anthony Antolin on a safety in the third quarter.
Junior tight end Christian Moore and senior wide receiver Isaac Bryant also caught touchdowns for the Oilers.
Vikings coach Jeff Turley said that senior wide receiver and cornerback Ian Cook suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter.
While Marina has hit a rough stretch in its schedule with games against Katella (No. 1 in Division 8), Huntington Beach (No. 9 in Division 6) and El Modena (No. 6 in Division 4), Turley said he wanted to challenge his players all along.
“We’re hitting the three, four, five hitters right in a row,” said Turley, using a baseball analogy. “That’s what they’re facing. The idea is to grow from it, learn from it.
“No one cares at the end of the season, if you’re No. 1, what you did in the preseason.”
Huntington Beach 32, Marina 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Marina 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 7
Huntington Beach 11 – 6 – 6 – 9 — 32
HB – Flanagan 27 pass from Cannella (McLawyer run), 7:03.
HB – Macy 26 FG, 2:10.
HB – Moore 11 pass from Cannella (Macy kick failed), 8:27.
HB – Bryant 33 pass from Cannella (Macy kick blocked), 4:30.
HB – Flanagan 23 pass from Cannella (Diamond kick), 10:30.
HB – Safety, tackle in end zone, 10:05.
M – Robinson 16 pass from Miller (Church kick), 2:38.
M – Rush, 12-87.
HB – McLawyer, 24-191.
M – Miller, 12-21-0, 96, 1 TD.
HB – Cannella, 8-20-0, 178, 4 TDs.
M – Church, 3-24.