Braeden Boyles’ evolution as a quarterback has come in starts and stops, naturally, but when he finally wrapped his head around one of the position’s key tenets, everything seemed to fall into place.
Boyles has been superbly efficient as the Edison High football team has gone on a four-game winning streak to reach the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs, using his savvy to take advantage of opponents’ defensive coverage while completing 71% of his throws for nearly 1,000 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
The 5-foot-9, 140-pound junior was spectacular in last weekend’s 42-27 first-round victory over Romoland Heritage, throwing for a career-best 337 yards and four touchdowns and — even bigger — making a touchdown-saving tackle that sent the Chargers into halftime with an eight-point edge and expanding momentum.
Boyles is a huge part of why Edison (8-3) has a shot at its first semifinal, with a victory Friday night at No. 3-seeded La Habra (9-2), since winning the Division 3 title three years ago. He won the starting job last season when Patrick Angelovic suffered a broken collarbone in the Chargers’ fourth game, did some fine work while growing as a quarterback over the next year, then took it to a different level as Sunset League play arrived this October.
“He’s become more and more consistent,” Edison coach Jeff Grady said of Boyles, who helped the Chargers finish second in the league at 4-1. “We talk a lot about taking what the defense gives you, which is not always easy to do. Sometimes you want to try to fit a ball into a tight window, and he’s kind of stayed away from that [the past month or so]. He’s been consistent in taking what the defense gives him.”
Boyles completed just 47% of his passes last year — 74 of 157 for 1,050 yards and as many interceptions (7) as touchdowns — and his numbers through a tough nonleague schedule this year weren’t all that better. Through the first five games, Boyles was 38 of 80 for 576 yards, five touchdowns and four picks. Now he’s “sticking to the game plan.”
“Last year I never really stuck to the game plan, tried to do too much,” said Boyles, who started playing quarterback when he joined Huntington Beach Pop Warner as a 7-year-old. “And then this year, early on, I tried to do too much. Coach Grady told me all season to just take what the defense gave me, and once I started doing that, it really clicked.”
It was a big step in his development and a corner-turning moment for the Chargers. Boyles has become a smarter quarterback, studying film to learn opponents’ schemes and tendencies, working to improve his footwork, and then looking for the sure gain rather than the spectacular maybe.
“Pretty much the whole time I’ve played quarterback, I’ve always liked to hit the deep balls and go for the big plays,” he said. “That carried on until a couple games into [this] season. I realized that we win off the run game and completions, and just making long drives. We don’t have to score on one play all the time.”
Boyles used a big play to start the victory over Heritage — a 67-yard touchdown bomb to senior Cole Koffler on the first play from scrimmage — and another on the big tackle just before halftime. Other than that, it was smart throws to open receivers.
“The first play of the game was big,” said Grady, who saw Boyles complete 15 of 20 passes last week. “And we made some big third-down conversions to keep drives alive, we made a big fourth-down conversion to keep a drive alive, and who knows, those could have been the difference in the game.”
Boyles’ eyes lit up when he surveyed Heritage’s defense before the first snap.
“I remember looking over and seeing my three [receivers] covered by two Heritage guys, and I just knew one of them was going to get open,” he said. “Then I saw Koffler running free down the field, got pretty excited, and threw it to him.”
Boyles connected with PJ Campbell on an eight-yard scoring pass in the second quarter to restore Edison’s lead to 14-13 and ran for a 13-yard touchdown for a 21-20 lead three minutes later. He then extended the lead to 28-20 on a 63-yard pass play with Jack Kosick, who cut inside between the linebackers and the covering cornerback — a play Heritage was giving up all night — took a 20-yard throw, spun out of a tackle and, as Boyles put it, “took it to the house.”
The play before halftime might have been the biggest. With no time on the clock but one play to go following a penalty, Boyles was picked off by Kenny Teter in the end zone.
“That [interception] was on me more than it was on him,” Grady said. “We wanted to force it a little bit and throw to the end zone and get a late touchdown.”
Teter, who rushed 23 times for 251 yards to push his season total past 1,700 and career mark past 2,700, weaved in and out of traffic as he raced down the field.
“We had 11 guys chasing him, and we had a couple players kind of slow him down enough,” Grady said. “Braeden had a shot at him earlier on the play and missed him and caught up eventually.”
Boyles had little experience as a defender. He got on the field as a defensive tackle for one snap with Edison’s freshman team two years ago, “and the coaches got pretty mad about it, so I never played [defense] again.”
He got to Teter around the 15 and brought him down.
“I was kind of hoping somebody else would get him before then, but I wasn’t going to stop trying to take him down,” Boyles said. “That was a massive play in the game. That could have been a huge momentum shift in their favor. We just could not let that happen.”
Born: Aug. 5, 2002
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 5 feet 9
Weight: 140 pounds
Coach: Jeff Grady
Favorite food: Hamburger
Favorite movie: “Step Brothers”
Favorite athletic moment: Scoring on a 35-yard run to give the Chargers a three-touchdown, third-quarter lead in a 42-20 victory over archrival Fountain Valley in the 2018 Battle for the Bell rivalry game. Boyles quarterbacked Edison to its 15th successive win in the series this year.
Week in review: Boyles completed 15 of 20 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns to lead Edison to a 42-27 victory over Heritage in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs on Nov. 8 at Huntington Beach High. His biggest play was making a touchdown-saving tackle on Kenny Teter’s 88-yard interception return on the final play of the first half, preserving a 28-20 lead.
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