Los Alamitos High football coach Ray Fenton likes to talk about sudden change, and one occurred early in the first quarter of Friday night’s Sunset League finale against Edison.
Chargers junior Trent Fletcher took a deflected pass back 90 yards for a touchdown, giving Edison an early lead at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
“It looked like we were going to score the touchdown, and they scored the touchdown,” Fenton said. “Redemption is a big word in our program. We know we’re going to make mistakes, but how can you redeem yourself? How can you make up for it?”
A shutdown defense can cover for a lot of mistakes.
The Griffins allowed just a field goal the rest of the way, earning a hard-fought 17-10 victory that enabled them to clinch a share of the league title. Los Alamitos won the league crown for the second straight year, but this year it split it with Corona del Mar, which beat Huntington Beach 41-7 on Friday.
The Griffins and Sea Kings each finished 4-0-1 in the league after an agreement could not be reached to resume their league showdown, which was postponed with the score tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter due to lightning on Oct. 12.
“I still feel sick about that,” Fenton said. “As bad as that is, we feel good about where we are right now going into the [CIF Southern Section Division 2] playoffs.”
Edison (5-5, 3-2 in league) also expects to make the Division 2 playoffs when brackets are released Sunday after finishing third in the league.
Los Alamitos, which is 8-1-1 overall and ranked No. 6 in Division 2, finished the regular season allowing just 11.1 points per game.
A late takeaway by senior linebacker Nick Valenzuela helped the Griffins seal the win against the Chargers. Valenzuela got to Edison quarterback Braeden Boyles just as he was about to hand the ball to running back Kobe Lopez, and Valenzuela grabbed it at about midfield with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“It looked like the quarterback tried to do a read-option, and it just kind of popped the ball up,” Valenzuela said “I saw it, and I just went for the ball and grabbed it and came up with it.”
Moments earlier, Valenzuela made a line-drive 40-yard field goal that hit off the crossbar and went through.
Edison took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter on a 30-yard field goal by Kieren Spradlin, before the Griffins made a big special teams play late in the half. Demario King’s 60-yard punt return set Los Alamitos up with first-and-goal at the Edison one.
“He’s not normally on the punt return, but because of the way their punter punts — they do the rugby-style punt and it’s a low kick — we decided to put two guys back there,” Fenton said. “It put Demario in a situation where he could make a big play, and he’s that type of athlete.”
Two plays later, senior running back Oscar Brown pounded it in. Brown finished with 31 carries for 146 yards and the touchdown.
King would later be ejected from the game early in the third quarter due to what was ruled as a helmet-to-helmet hit on Edison receiver Nathan Nabal. If the decision held, King would miss next week’s first-round playoff game. Fenton said the Griffins would review the film and possibly appeal.
Los Alamitos senior receiver Kenui Huey and Edison cornerback Christian Soliz also were ejected after getting into a tussle in the third quarter.
The Griffins took their first lead later in the quarter, on a 20-yard quick inside pass from Cade McConnell to Zack Wagoner with 1:47 remaining.
Senior linebackers Luke Hoggard and Cameron Eden were leaders for an Edison defense that held Los Alamitos to a season-low point total, not counting the tie against CdM. Senior captain Isaiah Palmer had an interception and Payton Valentine had a blocked punt.
“It was an old-school, physical football game,” Edison coach Jeff Grady said. “We just didn’t make the plays in the end. We need to be better on offense.”
Los Alamitos 17, Edison 10
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Edison 7 – 3 – 0 – 0 — 10
Los Alamitos 0 – 7 –7 – 3 — 17
E – Fletcher 90 INT return (Spradlin kick), 8:56.
E – Spradlin 30 FG, 4:54.
LA – Brown 1 run (Valenzuela kick), 1:24.
LA – Wagner 20 pass from McConnell (Valenzuela kick), 1:47.
LA – Valenzuela 40 FG, 3:17.
E – Lopez, 24-73.
LA – Brown, 31-146, 1 TD.
E – Boyles, 5-13-0, 38.
LA – McConnell, 5-11-2, 49, 1 TD.
E – Palmer, 1-21.