For much of the 2012 prep football season, Edison has held down the top ranking in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division poll. On Friday night, the Chargers will get to actually play for that coveted position.
At 7:30 p.m., Edison will go up against third-seeded Villa Park in the division final at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. It will be the second meeting of the season between the two schools who first locked horns back in September. For Edison, the trip to Anaheim will mark the eighth time the program has played for a Southern Section title.
Edison has won outright CIF titles in 1970 (AAA Division) and back-to-back in the Big-Five Division, 1979-80, and shared the 1985 Big-Five title with Long Beach Poly.
"It's always exciting, any time your team gets the chance to play for a CIF championship," Edison Coach Dave White said.
White, in his 27th year at his alma mater, will be taking the program to its fourth title game appearance in the last 12 years on Friday. His teams finished as runners-up in 2001 (Division 1), 2006 (Pac-5) and 2009 (Pac-5).
White was on the 9-0 freshman football team at Edison when the school won its first CIF Southern Section football title in 1970.
"We've been talking about this all year," White said of his team's reaching the division final. "Being ranked No. 1 doesn't mean much. They kids set goals early in the year and after we won league, we didn't celebrate much. These kids had one more goal to achieve. If they can do it Friday, then, mission accomplished. Maybe the fourth time will be the charm."
Sunset League champion Edison, in its first year in the Southwest Division, brings a nine-game win streak into Friday's final. The ninth win in that streak didn't come easy, as the Chargers had to come from behind late in the fourth quarter last week to defeat No. 4-seed Foothill, 22-16, in the semifinals.
The Chargers turned to their run game in the final two minutes to pull out the win. Consecutive runs covering a combined 37 yards by Elijah Herrera was followed by the winning scores, a four-yard run and two-point conversion run by Donald Rice with 1:40 remaining. Senior linebacker Robert Reyes came up with an interception on Foothill's ensuing possession to seal the victory.
"We did what we had to do and moved on," White said. "We didn't play real well and made too many mistakes. We threw two interceptions in the first quarter and fumbled the ball away. We had penalties that cost us but we still got the job done. On the flip side, our defense played pretty good all night. We shut down their run game and we had two fumble recoveries and intercepted a pass."
Junior cornerback Kiante Goudeau returned a fumble 20 yards for Edison's first touchdown and tied the score, 7-7, five minutes into the second quarter. That score stood at the half but the Chargers took their first lead in the third quarter on a one-yard run by senior quarterback Aleksander Torgersen. Three consecutive field goals by Foothill's Sean Pihl, the last coming midway through the fourth quarter, put the Knights in front, 16-14.
Goudeau has come up with three key plays in postseason action. He scored on a kickoff return in the quarterfinal win over Valencia, and came up with a big, first quarter interception return in the first-round win against Esperanza.
Edison's leading rusher Marquis Ross, hasn't played in a month. The senior suffered a knee strain in the Chargers' regular season finale on Nov. 2 against Huntington Beach, and has missed all three postseason games. White said that Ross' playing status Friday will be a game-time decision.
Edison's defense has been stellar. It has posted a school record five shutouts and has yielded only 80 points in its first 13 games.
Torgersen has thrown for 2,125 yards with 17 touchdowns. On defense, Herrera, a linebacker, and senior defensive back Dylan Luther, both have four interceptions.
"Our defense has been unbelievable all year," White said. "They have played so well week in, and week out, throughout the season, and we've played some very tough teams.
"On offense, we need to be a little more consistent and cut down on our mistakes. We need to limit those mistakes because we'll be going up against a very good Villa Park team that is well-coached and has improved tremendously over the past few weeks. Their strength is running the ball, and our strength all year, has been stopping the run."
Villa Park, which owns one (1977) Southern Section title in football, is on a 10-game win streak heading into the final. The Spartans' lone blemish is a 27-7 setback on Sept. 6 at Edison. Fourth-year Coach Dusan Ancich, whose father, Marijon Ancich, is a legendary football coach at St. Paul High in Santa Fe Springs, has guided the program to three straight Century League championships.
The Spartans have been a banged up bunch this year, missing key players at different stages of the season.
"I don't think we've ever had our entire top 22 (players) out on the field at one time," Ancich said. "This team, however, has come a long way since the start of the season. We went up north to Righetti and won the game in the fourth quarter. After that, though, we struggled on offense the first month of the season. We've come back from that slump and are hitting our stride."
The Spartans have survived three straight close games in postseason play, to earn a trip to the championship game. They started with a 21-12 win Nov. 9 over Yorba Linda, then rallied a week later for a 26-21 quarterfinal win over Newport Harbor. Last week, they overcame a 14-point deficit to upset No. 2-seed and defending Southwest Division champion Tustin, 35-34.
Meki Tafuna, Villa Park's rushing leader, gained 171 yards on 33 carries and scored four touchdowns, and junior quarterback Dylan Osborne threw for 127 yards and a score as the Spartans snapped Tustin's 20-game win streak.
Tafuna has rushed for 1,396 yards and 27 touchdowns, and Osborne has thrown for 1,975 yards and 18 touchdowns, this year.
Villa Park last reached the CIF final in 1977 when it won the Southern Division title. The Spartans were the AAA Division runner-up in both 1975 and 1976.
"To reach the title game is a tremendous accomplishment for our team and coaches," Ancich said. "Everyone's excited and our whole school is really into it."
Edison and Villa Park faced four common opponents, Newport Harbor, Esperanza, Valencia of Placentia, and Foothill, this year and both went 4-0 in those games.
14...Mater Dei 20
Season scoring averages
Offense: 30.3 ppg.
Defense: 6.1 ppg.
(*denotes Sunset League game; ^denotes CIF playoff game)
Villa Park (12-1)
Offense: 32.6 ppg.
Defense: 20.5 ppg.
(*denotes Century League game; ^denotes CIF playoff game)