Edison girls’ flag football outlasts rival Huntington Beach in first meeting
With a running clock for most of the game, a CIF Southern Section girls’ flag football contest goes quickly.
But the adrenaline rush that comes from playing a rival is still very much there.
Flag football is in its inaugural season as an official CIF sport, and Edison met rival Huntington Beach in the teams’ first Sunset League matchup on Wednesday afternoon.
It lived up to the hype.
Senior quarterback Mia Cassel threw three touchdown passes, including the deciding one to junior Riley Crooks in the closing minutes, as host Edison earned a 19-13 victory.
Edison coach Mike Walters said the team got a late start this year due to the girls’ other sports commitments, but there’s one very positive sign he’s seen from the Chargers.
“None of the girls are afraid to make a play,” he said. “They are all willing to go out and be aggressive and make a play. With the boys, you get kids that are like that, but not all of them.”
The Chargers (5-1, 2-1 in league) indeed made the plays on their final drive in a tie game. Cassel, a basketball player at Edison, unleashed a deep bomb to sophomore Taylor Savage that got Edison to the one-yard line.
After two incomplete passes, she then found Crooks in the right side of the end zone. The conversion try was intercepted by Huntington Beach’s Kendall Ciara, so Edison had to settle for a 19-13 lead.
Huntington Beach (3-3, 0-3) got the ball back with exactly two minutes left. The Oilers, led by freshman quarterback Roxie Shaia, got just past midfield but couldn’t find the end zone in the closing seconds.
“We’ve got a good team, and so does everybody else,” Oilers coach Zach Pannel said. “We started off the year 3-0 and faced some solid teams. Coming into league, it’s next-level stuff, and we realized that. It’s been an uphill battle. Every game we’ve had in league has been close, it’s just getting over the hump and making that push. That’s the biggest thing for us right now.”
Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar are both undefeated in the league in the early going and among the top teams in the county, but Edison and Huntington Beach are firmly part of that next group. Emma Valenzuela helped the Chargers’ cause Wednesday, catching a pair of first-half touchdown passes from Cassel.
Center Avea Niumata — the sister of Edison football starting quarterback Save Niumata — also played a series at quarterback. Walters noted that Edison also has sisters Preslee and Harlee Thomas on the team. They’re the daughters of longtime Servite football coach Troy Thomas, who has joined the Edison football staff this year as a defensive backs coach.
“We’ve got this whole football family thing going on,” Walters said. “It’s super-cool.”
Huntington Beach got a first-half touchdown pass from Shaia to senior girls’ soccer standout Jaiden Anderson, and Kelly Reid caught the conversion pass. Anderson, a USC commit for soccer, then tied the score at 13-13 in the second half with an electric defensive play.
She intercepted a deflected ball near the goal line and took it back nearly the whole way for a touchdown.
“It felt great,” Anderson said. “We were scared of them scoring again, and it just turned into our point.”
Anderson also had fun matching up with her Slammers FC club soccer teammate in Crooks. Crooks also had an interception on defense for Edison, and she batted away a long pass to Anderson in the closing moments of the game.
Both girls played safety on defense for their respective teams.
“I think the game plan was just ‘mark Jaiden,’” Crooks said with a laugh after the final whistle. “We’ve been really working on discipline, and I think that kind of showed in this game, but we definitely still have a lot to learn.”
Huntington Beach plays at Laguna Beach on Monday in continued league action, while Edison hosts Fountain Valley.
It’s a double-round format, and the Chargers and Oilers play for the second time in league at Huntington Beach on Oct. 9.
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