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Newport Beach fire chief and son each have their own battles to win

Edison senior quarterback Braeden Boyles, stands with his dad, Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles.
Edison senior quarterback Braeden Boyles, stands with his dad, Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles, at the Corona del Mar station on Tuesday. Both strong programs, Edison plays Corona del Mar in football this week.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles fondly recalls nights spent watching the high school football programs in the city while a member of the department.

On Friday night, however, his rooting interest will lie elsewhere, perhaps for the last time.

His older son Braeden is a senior quarterback for Edison, which will play host to Corona del Mar at 7 p.m. at Huntington Beach High School.

After the coronavirus pandemic threatened to eliminate the season outright, the six-game schedule that came about more than beat the alternative, each game precious to both father and son.

Various efforts went into trying to bring back school-based athletics. There were rallies as part of the “Let Them Play” movement held at both CdM and Edison on Jan. 15.

Helping to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine was the way that Jeff knew he could help with that process. Jeff tried to keep Braeden’s spirits up, but he said that the time that coincided with the Let Them Play rallies coming to local schools was when it looked most bleak for a season.

Edison's Braeden Boyles, stands with his dad, Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles, at the Corona del Mar station Tuesday.
Edison’s Braeden Boyles, stands with his dad, Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles, at the Corona del Mar station on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“In about mid-January when we hit that real high peak [in coronavirus case rates], even I went into a funk,” said Jeff, a 27-year firefighter who became Newport Beach’s fire chief in 2019. “I couldn’t even really look [Braeden] in the face anymore and say, ‘I think it’s going to happen,’ because I was thinking, ‘This isn’t going to happen anymore.’

“Then all of the sudden, it just started dropping off, and the Super PODs opened, and we were pushing them and pushing them, and we were cranking. I mean it was seven days a week, sunup to sundown, and then I kind of circled back with him, like, ‘Hey, I think we’re going to get there.’”

Jeff said he pulls for the Newport Beach schools when his son is not playing against them, and the opposite is true for Newport Beach Councilman Will O’Neill. Jeff added that O’Neill made mention of his son as ‘The Fire Chief’s son,’ recently on Poorman’s Morning Rush, a radio show hosted by Jim ‘Poorman’ Trenton on KOCI 101.5.

Make no mistake, O’Neill said he will be keeping his loyalties with the city by rooting for Corona del Mar on Friday night.

With respect to the pandemic and the return of sports, O’Neill said that youth sports are important because they provide structure and team-building exercises, and they equip one with the understanding of how to handle loss.

“There are so many people who experienced what I would call real loss this past year,” O’Neill said. “My guess is that a lot of people learned how to cope with what they’ve been experiencing this past year when they were going through adolescence and when they were learning how to lose on a much smaller scale.”

Edison's Braeden Boyles became the team's starting quarterback midway through his sophomore season.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Braeden became the starting quarterback at Edison midway through his sophomore year. Since suffering a playoff defeat to San Juan Hills that season, he said he has always looked forward to big games and chances at redemption.

In facing the Sea Kings on Friday, the Chargers quarterback will have his last opportunity to earn a victory against every team in the Sunset League during his prep career.

A loss at Los Alamitos likely took Edison out of the league championship hunt in a year without a postseason. Nevertheless, marquee matchups like those against CdM and Los Alamitos have always been special to Braeden.

“It’s pretty cool because the feel of the game is just rivalry,” he said. “I know it’s not our rivalry game, it’s not [CdM’s] rivalry game, but the close league games, the big matchups in league — Los Al, CdM — obviously Fountain Valley is our rivalry game, but those two games, it’s always really intense, and you can feel it.”

Protocols for youth sports resulted in practices being held in pods, which made for some interesting happenings once football was on the path to starting the season.

“Once the season got confirmed and we started playing, there were incoming sophomores that I hadn’t even met yet, and we were about to start our season in two weeks, and I hadn’t even met some of these kids,” Braeden added. “That was just so weird because usually by a few days into spring ball, these younger kids come in, and it’s like a family [and] we all know each other by name.”

Eleven players have made at least one catch for the Chargers this season, but junior Nico Brown has as distinguished himself as the Chargers’ number one receiving threat.

“I remember Nico Brown coming to lift at my house every day, even when I wasn’t,” Braeden said of Brown, who has received a couple of college offers (from Dartmouth and Pennsylvania) in the past two weeks. “I’d walk downstairs, and he’s lifting in my garage. He knows the code to my front door now.”

Edison's Nico Brown breaks free of a tackle by Los Alamitos' Makai Lemon during a Sunset League game on March 26.
Edison’s Nico Brown breaks free of a tackle by Los Alamitos’ Makai Lemon during a Sunset League game on March 26.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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