COSTA MESA — It wasn't the smoothest effort, but it was more than enough to keep the dream alive for the Edison High football team.
The Chargers overcame mistakes and the absence of a key player to take their first step forward in postseason play Friday at Orange Coast College, defeating visiting Esperanza, 27-3, in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division playoffs.
Edison, the top-ranked team in the division, won its 10th game and improved to 10-1. The victory sends the Chargers on to a second-round game at 7 p.m. next Friday at Valencia of Placentia. The Tigers on Friday defeated Sonora, 31-13, to advance.
The Chargers were stagnant and sloppy at times on offense against Esperanza, but their defense again proved formidable again.
By holding Esperanza to only a field goal, a 41-yarder in the second quarter by Robbie Dirks, the Edison defense has now held eight of 11 opponents to a field goal or less. The unit, which has a school-record five shutouts this season, has given up only six points in the last four games.
"Our defense continues to play really, really well but our offense didn't click tonight," Edison Coach Dave White said. "I don't feel as though we really got anything going all game. Every time we'd come up with a big play, we'd have a big penalty.
"It's funny, I don't feel like we played real well, and yet we won 27-3. Maybe this is a good wake-up call for us. But, it's a win, and we're moving on."
Esperanza and Edison are former longtime Sunset League rivals, and the game resembled past Aztec-Charger clashes. Both teams played well defensively — Edison led, 17-3, at the half, but only scored one offensive touchdown in the opening half, and the game had a grind-it-out feel to it. Penalties also affected both teams especially the Chargers who had numerous major infractions called against them.
Edison did a good job of containing Esperanza's top rusher, Troy Poole, and the Aztecs shored up an Edison run game that was minus leading ballcarrier Marquis Ross. The senior was injured in the first half of last week's Sunset League finale against Huntington, and wasn't available Friday. The loss of Ross gave the Chargers one less weapon.
His backfield counterparts, seniors Donald Rice and Elijah Herrera, filled in nicely, but both Rice and Herrera also played every down on defense.
"We missed him a lot out there," White said of Ross. "He gives us that explosive element out there. Donald [Rice] and Elijah [Herrera] both played well but both played both ways, all game, tonight."
Edison's offense didn't touch the ball for the first 8:13 of the game, yet the Chargers still enjoyed a 7-0 lead. They took it after Esperanza had taken the opening kickoff and marched down to the Edison 10-yard line, only to see Chargers cornerback Kiante Goudeau intercept quarterback Austin Steele and returned the theft 87 yards for a touchdown.
On their first possession, the Chargers went 80 yards in eight plays to score. Quarterback Aleksander Torgersen did the honors on a 36-yard run on an option keeper. It gave the Chargers a 14-0 lead with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged field goals in the second quarter. The Aztecs closed to within 14-3 on Dirks' field goal at the 9:22 mark, and nine minutes later, the Chargers countered with a 32-yard field goal by Hunter Kelley that led to a 17-3 lead at the half.
Steele, a senior, took a big hit on a first-down keeper with just over eight minutes left in the half, and didn't return. Sophomore Jacob Rodriguez quarterbacked the Aztecs the rest of the way.
Late in the third quarter, Torgersen found senior receiver Marcus Stepancich in the left corner of the end zone to stretch the lead to 24-3 with 3:30 left in the quarter. Stepancich beat Esperanza defensive back Nate Rodriguez and made a nice over-the-shoulder catch just inside the sideline for a 13-yard touchdown.
Kelley booted a 37-yard field goal to cap Edison's next possession, making it 27-3 with 10:56 left to play.
Torgersen threw for 196 yards and Rice led the Edison run game with 51 yards.
Esperanza, an at-large entry from the Century League, finished the year 6-5.
In other CIF Southern Section playoff action Friday:
Huntington Beach 34, Capistrano Valley 17: The Oilers, the No. 3 team from the Sunset League, cruised to road victory over the South Coast League co-champion Cougars in a first-round Southwest Division game.
Maurice Barber scored on a 24-yard interception return, Marco Valenzuela rushed for a touchdown and scored on a pass from quarterback Kai Ross, and Wyatt Marlow kicked two field goals for Huntington.
The Oilers, 6-5 overall, advance to a second-round game next Friday where the Oilers will play host to No. 2 seeded and defending division champion Tustin. The Tillers improved to 11-0 Friday by routing El Dorado, 35-6, in a first-round game Friday.
Saturday's playoff schedule
East Valley Division
Brethren Christian (6-4) at Big Bear (8-2)
(1 p.m., Big Bear Middle School)