Over the last 10 years, the Edison High football program has enjoyed plenty of success, winning or sharing five consecutive Sunset League titles and reaching the CIF Pac-5 Division championship game on three occasions.
The Chargers' most recent trip to the title game came last December, but as they ready themselves for the start of the 2010 season, a majority of that 13-1 team has moved on. Dave White enters his 25th year as head coach of his alma mater with the task of having to construct a team that welcomes back just three starters.
"It's definitely a challenge," he said. "We lost a great senior class to graduation. They won everything. They won as freshmen and then won on varsity three years in a row. They'll be tough to replace.
"But the group we have this year has a lot of talent. They've worked hard and now it's time for them to step up into the role of leading the program. I really think this team will get better as the season progresses. The thing that hinders them is that they're inexperienced."
When a team loses the bulk of its persona from a year ago — linebacker Jordan Zumwalt is now at UCLA, center Roman Sapolu at Oregon State and wide receiver/free safety Jeff Trojan at Stanford — it needs to find its own identity. White, who says he's "excited" about this year's team, says it will take time for that identity to emerge.
On offense, the lone returner is all-Sunset League tackle Kyle Finney (6-2, 250, Sr.), who last year played left tackle but has been moved to the right side for the coming season. The Chargers had another starter back in Davion Orphey, but Orphey, who started last year at cornerback and had 45 tackles and rotated at tailback and accounted for 900 yards of offense, will miss the season because he is academically ineligible, White said.
The defense has two big starters back in senior end Charles Burks (6-0, 230), who was the league's defensive lineman of the year as a junior, and senior lineman Josh Frost (6-0, 270), who was second-team all-league last year.
Frost will also start on offense at center, White said.
"Charles is a dominating player, a special player," White said of Burks, who last year had 14 sacks in 10 games before breaking a leg and missing the Chargers' postseason run. "It was tough to lose him late last year. He was one sack away from tying the school record. But he's back and ready to go.
"Our defense needs to swarm to the ball. We can't give up the big plays. We have to limit them and make our opponents earn what they get."
Other projected starters on defense are senior tackles Charles Dailey (6-0, 240) and Jesse Niutapuai (6-0, 240), senior middle linebacker Mike Douthwaite (6-2, 215), senior outside linebackers Max McCourt (6-0, 200) and Roland Blackstone (5-9, 185), safeties DeJean King (6-3, 205, Sr.) — a transfer from Trabuco Hills whom White said will also rotate at receiver — and Nick Masaniai (5-10, 170, Jr.) and senior cornerback Adam Spies (5-8, 145).
Last year, the Edison offense scored pretty much at will, averaging 40 points and 400 yards a game. That scoring punch will need to be revamped.
"Our biggest challenge is just to get some continuity, especially on offense," White said. "We have a new quarterback, receivers, running backs and four new linemen. It will take time for us to get where we want to be. I think the player and coaches will need to be patient."
Taking over at quarterback for the graduated Matt Viles is junior Chase Favreau (6-1, 180), a transfer from Mater Dei who was the Monarchs' starting JV quarterback last fall.
"He's improved a lot during the summer and so did his receivers," White said of a core of receivers that include Troy Baljeu (5-10, 175, Jr.), Allen Atkins (6-2, 180, Sr.) and Curren Provost (6-0, 185, Jr.) and tight end Bryce Campbell (6-1, 195, Jr.).
"Chase has a good arm and can run a little bit. He just needs to learn the offense a little more. He has talent and a lot of potential."
At Edison's Battle at the Beach passing league tournament in early-July, the Chargers suffered a big blow when Baljeu, whom White said had a "phenomenal" tournament, cracked his jaw in two places during Edison's quarterfinal-round game. White said that Baljeu will return to practice next week and "hopes" to have him back for Edison's second game Sept. 10 at Long Beach Wilson.
Projected starters on the offense line include junior tackles Alex Kircher (6-3, 240) and guards Nolan Heyer (6-4, 270, Sr.) and Jeremiah Frost (6-0, 270, Soph.).
The kicking game includes kicker Gavin Perdomo (5-9, 155, Jr.) and punter Jordan Pizzica (5-8, 155, Jr.). Special teams includes kick returner Marquis Ross (5-7, 145, Soph.) and Masaniai will return punts.
Newcomers to keep an eye on include: senior defensive ends Robert Mase (6-0, 185) and DJ Beynon (6-0, 200), junior defensive lineman Dehvon Brown (5-10, 270), senior offensive guards Cameron McCombs (6-2, 275) and Jake Kiser (5-10, 230), sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen (6-1, 180), junior center Mitch Clark (5-8, 185), junior wide receiver Connor Mase (6-0, 170) and senior tight end/h-back/linebacker Steven Springer (6-2, 200), a transfer from Orange Lutheran.