Edison High football coach Jeff Grady said the calling card of his team was its toughness.
The Chargers could not climb all the way out of a 22-point hole on Friday night, but they did anything but fold.
Third-seeded La Habra held off a late rally from the Chargers, earning a 35-27 win at home in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
Kristopher Koontz made 14 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns to lead La Habra (10-2), which will travel to face No. 2 Simi Valley Grace Brethren (11-1) in the semifinals on Nov. 22. The Lancers beat Lawndale 33-31 in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“I’ve had dreams since I was little,” Koontz said of advancing. “I was watching La Habra. They’re my hometown, and I’ve been watching them for years. Advancing to the semis or even possibly the CIF championships is unbelievable.”
Koontz was unstoppable in the first half, reeling in 10 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. The senior wide receiver was on the other end of the first seven completions from Ryan Zanelli, who threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns.
Down 35-13 midway through the third quarter, Edison (8-4) mounted a furious rally. It began with a touchdown drive that ended with a three-yard sweep run to the right for Tanner Nelson.
The Chargers finally found a way to stop the Zanelli-to-Koontz connection when Gavin Chiavetta stepped in front of a pass and intercepted it on the Highlanders’ next drive at the Edison 14.
Edison trailed by two scores when it got the ball halfway through the fourth quarter. Quarterback Braeden Boyles decided to go deep on a fourth-and-five play from the Edison 41, and Nico Brown made a diving catch for a 36-yard gain.
Mike Walters’ second goal-line touchdown of the night cut the deficit to 35-27.
The Chargers never saw the ball again, as the Highlanders kept the ball on the ground for three first downs.
“I think we only really played one bad game all year,” Grady said. “Our kids battled. They played tough. I love them to death. I’m going to miss these seniors. I know that.”
Boyles exited midway through the second quarter after taking a hit trying to make a play in the pocket on a long third down deep in Edison territory. The pass was behind Brown.
La Habra took advantage of good field position on its next possession, going 52 yards in nine plays. Koontz came open over the middle on third and six from the Chargers 16 for his second receiving score of the evening.
Thrown into the fire, Jacob Hanlon executed the two-minute drill for Edison. He completed three of seven passes for 51 yards just before the half, including a 17-yard connection to Jack Kosick to set the Chargers up at the one-yard line.
Edison called its last timeout, and it took a risk in sending Walters out in the wildcat formation with 10 seconds remaining before halftime. Walters, who committed to Sacramento State on Thursday, was able to push the pile for a rushing touchdown, cutting the Highlanders’ lead to 21-13.
In the third quarter, the Highlanders’ lead grew to 35-13. Clark Phillips III sent electricity through the stadium with a 40-yard punt return. Four plays later, Ryan Loudon broke two tackles on his way to a six-yard rushing touchdown.
Phillips III, an Ohio State commit, also had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“Special kids,” Highlanders coach Frank Mazzotta said. “Clark is special. Kris is special. They’re athletic. They have speed. If we get the ball to them, we’ve got a chance.”
Boyles finished with 246 passing yards and one touchdown, a 56-yard strike to Cole Koffler. Kosick had a team-high 115 receiving yards on six catches.
Walters said that the game was reminiscent of two years ago, when Edison defeated La Habra 28-27 in double overtime in a first-round game of the Division 2 playoffs.
“Two years ago, that was another hard-fought, close game,” Walters said. “There were definitely some flashbacks from that game. That was a great game, and so was this one. I could not be happier with how my team played. I think we played hard, and it was a good season.”
CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs
La Habra 35, Edison 27
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Edison 0 – 13 – 7 – 7 — 27
La Habra 7 – 14 – 14 – 0 — 35
LH – Koontz 15 pass from Zanelli (Hart kick), 3:04.
E – Koffler 56 pass from Boyles (Morrell kick), 10:41.
LH – Phillips III 90 kickoff return (Hart kick), 10:26.
LH – Koontz 16 pass from Zanelli (Hart kick), 1:43.
E – Walters 1 run (Morrell kick failed), 0:05.
LH – Loudon 6 run (Hart kick), 9:01.
LH – West 26 pass from Zanelli (Hart kick), 5:32.
E – Nelson 3 run (Morrell kick), 2:48.
E – Walters 1 run (Morrell kick), 3:51.
E – Liau, 12-45.
LH – Loudon, 13-60.
E – Boyles, 15-28-0, 246, 1 TD.
LH – Zanelli, 21-31-1, 283, 3 TDs.
E – Kosick, 6-115.
LH – Koontz, 14-204, 2 TDs.
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