The 22nd annual Battle at the Beach proved to be just as contentious as one might expect a tournament between elite football programs to be.
For the fourth straight year, Mater Dei won the seven-on-seven passing tournament at Edison High, but the manner in which it did so was a story to behold.
With USC-committed quarterback Bryce Young at the Elite 11 showcase, the Monarchs showed up to the tournament with third-string option Tobey Schmidt taking the snaps.
In a rematch of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game from last year, Mater Dei defeated Bellflower St. John Bosco 24-12.
The way in which Mater Dei won calls further attention to the depth that it possesses, and Monarchs coach Bruce Rollinson was asked how he keeps his team on the same page when all of his players are looking for playing time.
“You depend on your senior leadership, and you depend on your experienced players’ leadership to keep it in perspective,” Rollinson said. “Every day that we go to work on our practice field, it has to be competitive. That’s what you see on a Saturday.
“Our receivers going against our secondary every day is as hard as any game we had here, and vice-versa. Our secondary gets challenged every day, so this becomes second-nature to them.”
Edison got ample opportunity to work out Braeden Boyles and Jacob Hanlon, who are battling for the starting quarterback job. Boyles, a dual-threat quarterback, and Hanlon, a pocket passer, are both headed into their junior seasons.
Boyles got extensive playing time as a sophomore after a collarbone injury ended Patrick Angelovic’s season. Hanlon, who started at Huntington Beach as a freshman, is the challenger.
“They both did some really good things,” Chargers coach Jeff Grady said. “Obviously, there are some things to clean up, but I’m proud of both of them. They both competed. They’re both great kids.
“If you watch them, they root for one another. That’s a cool thing. You don’t always get that. They’re pulling for one another.”
Senior-to-be Cole Koffler will be a primary option in the Chargers’ passing game. He set a school record for receiving yards against Canyon last season, posting a line of nine catches for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan Rivituso, who starred as a 200- and 400-meter runner as a sophomore, showed that his speed will play on the football field. He made a number of catches when the Chargers decided to throw the ball deep.
Rising sophomore Nico Brown was effective in the middle of the field as a slot receiver.
“He’s real shifty when it comes to those tight areas,” Koffler said of Brown. “It kind of reminds me of Nathan Nabal last year.
“He’s been such a great weapon on the inside, especially on those dig routes and those little delay routes that he has. He’s a great weapon, competes hard, and he’s an awesome person to have on the field.”
Several players to have recently played for the Chargers were out in support, including quarterback Griffin O’Connor and wide receivers David Atencio and Nabal.
Linebacker Mike Walters and cornerback Dane Despars had interceptions for the Chargers in their final game against Norco.
Tanner Nelson, Jack Kosick and Brayden Johnson also stood out in the Edison secondary.
“We challenged for the ball,” Grady said. “The kids rallied to the ball. We were flying around on defense.”
Grady added that he felt that his team’s performance on defense improved as the day went on.
For the tournament, Edison went 3-3, notching victories over San Diego Cathedral Catholic (19-13), Westlake Village Oaks Christian (20-13) and Gardena Serra (13-12 in overtime).
The Chargers lost to Norco 18-16 in the semifinals of the Silver Bracket.
A fight between La Habra and Los Angeles Cathedral during their pool play game resulted in the ejection of both teams from the tournament.
“It’s just sad,” former Chargers coach Dave White said. “This has been really a quality tournament, teams from all over Southern California, and everybody loves it. It kind of puts a damper on things.”
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