High School Football Preview: Huntington Beach wants to bring the hits and the dunks

Christian Moore, left, Joshua Toafa, Michael McCormick and Brandon Bova are returning seniors for Huntington Beach. All four earned All-Sunset League honors in 2018.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach High football team had just wrapped up a practice that had not particularly met the standards of coach Brett Brown.

That was until the end of the day, when the energy and intensity ramped up during a team period that featured third-and-short scenarios.

“The whole culture that we have over here is that it is a privilege to play football,” Brown said. “It has got to be something that you love doing and want to do every single day. I didn’t feel that at the start of practice.

“At the end of practice, guys were getting exciting. It was getting a little chippy and all that kind of stuff.”


Defense appeared to have the advantage, especially up front. The defensive front should be the heart and soul of the Oilers this season, with all of the team’s returning All-Sunset League performers lining up on that side of the ball.

Senior outside linebacker Christian Moore and senior nose guard Michael McCormick earned first-team all-league selections for Huntington Beach last season. Senior defensive ends Brandon Bova and Joshua Toafa received second-team honors.

Christian Moore, right, shown working on drills during Huntington Beach’s practice on Aug. 7, is a 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker and tight end committed to Kansas State.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach needs a new identity. The Oilers lost their top two receivers in Jeremiah Flanagan and Isaac Bryant, their leading rusher in Arick McLawyer, and their leading tackler in Sunset League Linebacker of the Year John Gosney.


Brown admits that his team lost some “big-play guys,” but he likes the senior leadership of the team for the upcoming season. Speaking of playing football as a privilege, time is running out for the latest group of seniors to make their mark.

“We talk about statistics on how many high school athletes really go on to play in college,” Brown said. “The majority of [them], or the majority of our team, will never play football after high school. That’s just the reality. Especially when they become seniors, we talk about that. You only have 10 more guaranteed opportunities to play and to leave your legacy as an Oiler football player.

“It kind of means something to them, I think, and it builds some motivation, as well.”

The Oilers had former quarterback and cornerback Kai Ross around practices. He led Huntington Beach past Newport Harbor 42-28 for the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division crown in 2013. He will be resuming his football career at Saddleback College this fall, but his presence at training camp was invaluable.

“I love him being there and try to chip off of his brain, be a sponge whenever he is here because he is a smart football player,” Moore said. “It’s obviously huge to have an alumnus come back who was on a winning team and won CIF, who knows what it takes.

“[We] get as much as we can to learn from him while he is here. I know that he is leaving, but it is awesome to have him back.”

Moore, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound tight end, is committed to Kansas State, but he considers his work at Huntington Beach far from finished. He said he wants to lead by example and be remembered for doing things the right way.

A playoff win would also be nice. Huntington Beach lost to Tustin 42-27 in the first round of the Division 7 playoffs his freshman year, and the Oilers fell 28-17 at St. Margaret’s to open the Division 6 playoffs last season.


The Oilers’ defensive front seems to be on the same page when they think about what it will take.

“You have to have a different type of edge,” Moore said. “Football is not made for nice people. You have to be a little crazy to want to go hit people, so we all have that. We have to be bought in and just love to hit people.”

Huntington Beach’s Jacob Sanden, left, and Brandon Bova work on drills during a practice at Cap Sheue Field on Aug. 7.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

McCormick thinks that the key will be getting pressure on the quarterback. The Oilers’ defense did so in drills, but McCormick still said he has been impressed with the play of first-year center Brandon Traut and returning left guard Jacob Sanden in training camp.

Bova emphasized the need for intensity, and his demeanor was the embodiment of it until the mention of the “Turnover Trash Can,” at which Bova grinned and chuckled.

“Whenever we turn over the ball [on defense], we just run over to the trash can [and] dunk it in some creative way,” Bova said, adding that he hopes that multiple contestants will get to partake in the dunk contest each game.

Brown said the “Turnover Trash Can” was introduced by defensive coordinator Diego Segura last year.

“Whoever gets the turnover gets to dunk it,” Brown added. “We’ve had guys throw it off the trash can and grab it through the legs and reverse. It’s fun, like the [University of] Miami thing with the chain.”


Senior Brady Gardner is expected to start the season as the quarterback, but Brown said he would also feel comfortable with Brandon Cannella after the rising senior filled in for Gardner when he was injured last season.

Brandon Ferrin returned to practice last week after an ACL injury ended his junior season. Jonah Del Rosario and Ferrin are among those expected to play in the secondary and see time at running back.

Moore had 27 catches for 338 yards and five touchdowns last season. He will be a primary target in the passing game, but Brown said the Oilers also have strong depth in possession receivers.

Brady Gardner, left, and Brandon Cannella run through passing drills during Huntington Beach’s practice at Cap Sheue Field on Aug. 7.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)


CIF Southern Section Division: 7

Coach: Brett Brown (fourth year)

Staff: Diego Segura (defensive coordinator), Greg Olquin (offensive line), Gary Guyll (running backs), Jarid Allchin (receivers), Josh Jordan (receivers), Alex Alagata (defensive line), Harley Shoffner (outside linebackers), Dean Eddy (inside linebackers), Chucky Vega (secondary)

2018 season: 6-5 overall, 2-3 in the Sunset League (fourth place), lost 28-17 at St. Margaret’s in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs

Offensive scheme: Multiple, spread, pro, slot, pistol, shotgun

Defensive scheme: 3-3, 3-4

Returning offensive starters: Seven

Returning defensive starters: Six

Returning with honors: Sr. TE/OLB Christian Moore, Sr. DT Michael McCormick, Sr. DE Brandon Bova, Sr. DE/DT Joshua Toafa



23 — vs. Henderson (Nev.) Green Valley

30 — vs. Western


6 — at Long Beach Wilson

13 — at Irvine

20 — vs. Marina at Westminster High

27 — Bye


3 — vs. Corona del Mar*

11 — vs. Newport Harbor*

18 — vs. Edison*

25 — vs. Los Alamitos* at Cerritos College


1 — vs. Fountain Valley* at Westminster High

*denotes league game

All games 7 p.m.