A year ago, Edison High handed Fountain Valley its worst loss in the Battle for the Bell football rivalry game.
The Barons had been waiting a year to get back at the Chargers. They wasted little time — 12 seconds — to strike first on Friday night.
The start to the 50th meeting between the two schools was electric, as Nick Welch threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Kishaun Sykes on the game’s first play. The big play brought the Barons’ fans to their feet and silenced Edison’s home fans at Orange Coast College.
“I tried to cancel the game right after that, but they wouldn’t let me,” Fountain Valley coach Jimmy Nolan said jokingly.
No kidding aside, it seemed as though this might be the year Fountain Valley finally challenged Edison. The Barons stayed even with Edison early in the second quarter, but the Chargers pulled away before halftime.
Edison closed out the first half with three touchdowns, and it went on to win 51-14, beating the Barons for the 13th straight season.
The result most likely secured the Chargers’ berth into the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. They moved into sole possession of second place in the Sunset League at 3-1, and dropped Fountain Valley into a tie for third place with Huntington Beach at 2-2. The Chargers, who share the No. 10 spot in the Division 2 poll, also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Barons and Oilers.
One game remains in league, and for Edison, which is one game back of first-place Los Alamitos, it should win easily next week against 0-4 Marina at Westminster High.
The Chargers, the Division 3 champions last year, plan to go into the postseason with some momentum. Edison coach Jeff Grady said he hopes he can get back two key starters — running back Jack Carmichael (ankle) and wide receiver McCade Barrett (collarbone) — for the postseason.
Griffin O’Connor and David Atencio helped Edison bounce back from last week’s 24-16 setback to Los Alamitos. The loss most likely ended the Chargers’ attempt at a third straight league crown, as the Griffins just have to defeat Fountain Valley next week to take first outright.
The Chargers get to keep the Battle for the Bell trophy, though. They lead the series with the Barons 35-14-1.
“This is huge. It means a lot to me,” said Grady, a 1998 graduate from Edison who lost the Battle for the Bell during his three varsity years as a player. “It’s big for our school. It’s big for our community. It’s just so cool to pack the house [with 7,600 fans] like this and have all this energy.
“We threw punches at each other, [and it went] back and forth [early on]. Last week’s loss shook us a little bit. We were down. But I was really proud of how they responded [against the Barons].”
O’Connor and Atencio led the way for the Chargers, who improved to 6-3 overall.
O’Connor, the Yale-bound quarterback, completed 18 of 23 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, all to Atencio, who finished with eight catches for 151 yards. The first two touchdowns gave Edison a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.
There was a bizarre turn of events before the first O’Connor-to-Atencio score.
Following an Edison fumble on the Barons’ 10-yard line, Fountain Valley gambled. After losing five yards on second down and two yards on third down, Fountain Valley decided to try to trick the Chargers on fourth-and-14.
No one was fooled by Fountain Valley’s fake punt.
There wasn’t even a Baron near Welch’s pass over the middle, where Edison’s Brandon Moradian intercepted it on the 15-yard line. Moradian ran to his right, and before he went out of bounds, he pitched the ball back to Isaiah Palmer.
Then things got a little out of control. Palmer ran toward the visiting sideline, only to go down on the 27, losing yards and the Chargers also lost Tanner Nelson for the game. Nelson was ejected.
It took a few minutes for the referees to settle things down on the field. It didn’t take long for Edison to even things up.
O’Connor went to a wide-open Atencio on first down, throwing a 47-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter. The two would connect again late in the quarter. This time, O’Connor rolled to his right to hit Atencio for an 11-yard touchdown.
“We were in the locker room for like 30 minutes [before the game], so we came out pretty cold,” Atencio said was the reason why the Chargers fell behind so fast. “We came back and we powered through.”
The Barons managed to tie the game at 14-14 almost 1½ minutes into the second quarter, thanks to Welch. He somehow wouldn’t go down when Edison looked like it had sacked him.
Welch, who completed 17 of 32 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns and ran 15 times for 64 yards, kept plays alive. The senior fought off would-be tacklers and scrambled to make something happen.
One of those times led to a 54-yard pass to Sykes, who had two catches for 134 yards. The play got the offensive inside Edison’s 10-yard line, and three plays later, Welch found Andrew Ross for a seven-yard touchdown.
The Barons wouldn’t be heard from again.
The Chargers picked off Welch three times, two of those led to scores, and they stopped Fountain Valley on downs three times and blocked a punt. Mateo Gallego’s blocked punt helped break a 14-14 tie in the second quarter.
Edison running back Mikey Walters scored from a yard out midway through the second quarter. O’Connor would rush for a one-yard touchdown in the same quarter, and Kobe Lopez ran in a score from eight yards out to give the Chargers a 35-14 lead by halftime.
The deficit was too much for Fountain Valley to overcome. In their previous eight games, the Barons had not allowed that many points in four quarters.
Despite the loss, Nolan believes Fountain Valley, which went 1-9 last year, will still make the Division 6 playoffs as an at-large team. The Barons, who are 6-3 overall, went into this week ranked No. 6 in Division 6.
“I don’t think it’s a must-win game,” Nolan said of next week’s regular-season finale with Los Alamitos at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach. “I think we’re going to get in the playoffs. I don’t see how we wouldn’t. There [are] only 22 teams in our division [and 16 make the postseason]. We’re definitely one of the top ones.”
Edison 51, Fountain Valley 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Fountain Valley 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 — 14
Edison 14 – 21 – 13 – 3 — 51
FV – Sykes 80 pass from Welch (Swain kick), 11:48.
E – Atencio 47 pass from O’Connor (J. Morrell kick), 6:01.
E – Atencio 11 pass from O’Connor (J. Morrell kick), :39.
FV – Ross 7 pass from Welch (Swain kick), 10:28.
E – Walters 1 run (J. Morrell kick), 5:53.
E – O’Connor 1 run (J. Morrell kick), 2:35.
E – Lopez 8 run (J. Morrell kick), 1:26.
E – Atencio 32 pass from O’Connor (J. Morrell kick), 10:09.
E – Lopez 16 run (kick failed), 1:28.
E – J. Morrell 34 FG, 2:43.
FV – Welch, 15-64.
E – Lopez, 7-56, 2 TDs.
FV – Welch, 17-32-3, 296, 2 TDs.
E – O’Connor, 18-23-0, 262, 3 TDs.
FV – Sykes, 2-134, 1 TD.
E – Atencio, 8-151, 3 TDs.