LONG BEACH — Dave White had been through several of these battles before.
Halfway through Friday's crucial Sunset League game between Edison and Los Alamitos, the veteran head coach of the Chargers said he wasn't surprised at the low-scoring affair. Through the first 24 minutes of action, the teams were scoreless. Midway through the third quarter, his team was down a touchdown.
"We've lost plenty of close games to them, and we knew this would be another tough one," White said. "We've had so many games like this."
After Los Al had taken a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, Edison roared back, wore down the host Griffins down the stretch, to come away with a 24-14 victory. The triumph allowed the Chargers, the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division, to get its first win at Veterans Memorial Stadium since 2006. More importantly, it allowed the Chargers to improve to 2-0 in league, and tied for first-place with Huntington Beach (2-0).
Edison won its third-straight game to improve to 6-1 overall.
Los Alamitos, ranked third in the Southwest Division, had its four-game win streak snapped and fell to 5-2.
"It feels good," White said of the win. "This was a big one, and it feels good to be 2-0 in league.
"Our offensive line, our fullbacks, our tight ends, played great. We won this one in the trenches."
The Chargers did. They turned to their run game in the second half and churned out steady drives to control the line of scrimmage. All three of their touchdowns came on the ground, with Donald Rice rushing for two scores and Marquis Ross for the other.
Los Alamitos had taken a 7-0 lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Marshall to wide receiver Dashawn Gordon. The score came two plays after defensive back Samuel Corder-Lee returned an interception 33 yards to the Edison 22-yard line. Corder-Lee grabbed a pass from Edison quarterback Alek Torgersen that deflected off the arms of Edison tight end Markus Boyer. He then slipped away from the grasp of Boyer at the Los Al 45, and raced to the Edison 22 where he was pulled down.
Gordon found a seam between defensive backs Dylan Luther and Kiante Goudeau to make the catch in the end zone with 4:51 left in the third quarter. The touchdown was the first given up by the Edison defense in 13 quarters.
The lead didn't last long. Edison stormed back in just six plays to tie the score. Elijah Herrera returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the Los Al 39. Consecutive keepers by Torgersen took the ball down to the 14. Rice then ran the ball four consecutive times, the last of which resulted in a two-yard touchdown run. Hunter Kelley's conversion made it 7-7 with 2:47 to go in the third.
From there, Edison took over. After stopping the Griffins in three plays, the Chargers got the ball back at their own 33. Five straight rushes by Ross took the ball out the to the Los Al 43. Four plays later, Rice fought his way for three yards on fourth-and-two, to keep the drive alive at the 32. On the next play, Ross made a nice cut to the inside and broke a few tackles on his way to a 21-yard gain down to the 11.
Ross then reached the 100-yard rushing mark by gaining five on first-and-goal. Two plays later, Rice burst up the middle to score on a four-yard run. Kelley's kick made it 14-7 with 6:40 remaining in the game.
The Edison defense gave the offense the ball back two plays later. On second down, Herrera intercepted Marshall and returned it 23 yards for an apparent touchdown. The TD was negated by a personal foul call against the Chargers. Starting at the Los Al 29, the Chargers upped their advantage to 21-7 with 4:42 left when Ross rambled his way for a 22-yard scoring run on a fourth-and-three call.
The Chargers converted their final fourth down attempts of the game, after failing on their first two.
"Our guys did a nice job of controlling the ball in the second half," White said. "Los Al did good things out there and made us adjust. We had a pick, fumbled at the one, and made some mistakes, but like I said, we won this one in the trenches."
Los Al came right back after Ross' touchdown run for a score of their own. Marshall threw in the flat to running back Richie Molina who turned the short pass into a 29-yard scoring play. It brought the Griffins to within 21-14 with 3:21 to play.
The Griffins then attempted an onside kick which was recovered at midfield by Herrera. The Chargers were able to run off all but 17 seconds on the clock. They kept possession when Torgersen teamed with fullback Robert Reyes on a 18-yard screen pass on third down that put the ball at the Los Al 27. The Chargers reached the one but a fumble on third down put the ball back at the five. Kelley came on to boot a 23-yard field goal for a 10-point cushion.
After going scoreless for two quarters, the teams combined for 38 second-half points.
Los Al had a chance to score early in the second quarter after the Griffins reached the Edison two. The Chargers defense stiffened there. Actually, they smothered the Griffins on three consecutive runs.
On first down, they dropped Molina for a two-yard loss. On second down, they stopped Marshall for no gain on a keeper. On third down, they chased down Molina for a seven-yard loss on a pitch play. Brett Mathis then clanked a 28-yard field goal attempt off the left upright, and the Chargers took over at their own 20 with 9:58 left in the half.
Edison also missed out on a scoring opportunity late in the half. The Chargers reached the Los Al 27 where Torgersen, who was flushed out of the pocket, overthrew receiver Trevor Borkowski at the 20. The pass was intercepted by the Griffins' Luke Pastell with 39 seconds left.
"It was a bad snap on the play and we had a guy open, but the ball sailed high," White said. "We decided in the second half that we were going to run, just run."
And run, they did. Ross (151 yards) and Rice combined to rush for 200 yards.
Edison returns home next Friday for its homecoming game. The Chargers host Marina at 7 p.m. at Huntington Beach High.
Huntington Beach 31, Marina 3: Kai Ross threw two touchdown passes to Wyatt Marlow and rushed for a third, as the Oilers defeated Marina to retain the Victory Trophy that goes to the winning team in a rivalry series that started in 1965.
Marlow also kicked a 30-yard field goal and Bowen "Bo" Breunig rushed for a score for Huntington which improved to 2-0 in league and 4-3 overall, and defeated the Vikings for the fourth straight year.
Marina slipped to 0-2 in league and 3-4 overall.
Newport Harbor 21, Fountain Valley 14: The Barons dropped their second straight close league game at Huntington Beach High, which left them 0-2 in league and 3-4 overall.
Golden West League
Segerstrom 44, Ocean View 7: The visiting Jaguars (7-0, 2-0), the top-ranked team in the Southern Division, ran past the Seahawks. The loss was the first in league play for the Seahawks (1-1) who are 3-4 overall.
Monte Vista (San Diego) 35, Brethren Christian 7
Next Week's Schedule
Thurs., Oct. 18
Sage Hill vs. Brethren Christian (7 p.m., Ocean View High)
Fri., Oct. 19
Marina vs. Edison (7 p.m., Huntington Beach High)
Los Alamitos vs. Fountain Valley (7 p.m., Westminster High)
Huntington Beach vs. Newport Harbor (7 p.m., Newport Harbor High)
Golden West League
Westminster vs. Ocean View (7 p.m., Ocean View High)