The Fountain Valley High Barons got a jump on the rest of the local schools by opening the 2010 prep football season Friday.
The Barons traveled to South Hualapai, Nevada, to take on the Faith Baptist Crusaders in a nonleague game, which was won in the final moments by the host team, 26-23. Crusaders quarterback Joe Portaro got 22 of his 296 passing yards (21 of 54) when he connected with Brett Lubbe for the winning touchdown with 23 seconds remaining in the game. It was the third touchdown pass thrown by Portaro.
The winning drive was set up by a Fountain Valley turnover.
The Barons rallied from deficits of 6-0 after one quarter, 12-10 at halftime and 19-10 in the third quarter, to take a 23-19 lead in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Josiah Fernandez and Montana Merhoff, who rushed for 161 yards and a pair of scores on 16 carries, both rushed for second-half touchdowns.
Fountain Valley is idle this week. The Barons return to action Sept. 10 at San Clemente. Huntington Beach (at Corona del Mar) and Marina (vs. Capistrano Valley) also will open their respective seasons that day.
Three other local prep teams — Brethren Christian, Edison and Ocean View — launch their season's this week.
Brethren Christian at Pasadena Poly, 3 p.m. today, Pasadena Poly High: Brethren Christian enters the opener a bit banged up. Coach Bruce Eien said that senior all-league lineman Bob Frisch has a strained knee and is a "day-to-day" decision. The Warriors' top two linebackers, Bryant Freese and Jon Vazquez, didn't play in Friday's scrimmage because to injuries, but even though they're not 100%, Eien says the pair are expected to play today.
Pasadena Poly is a senior-laden team that returns 18 starters from a 2009 squad that reached the second round of the CIF Northeast Conference playoffs. Among the key returners for the Panthers are senior quarterback Hunter Merryman (6-5, 225) and senior All-CIF defensive back Blake Edwards, who also starts at running back and wide receiver. Merryman threw for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns and was intercepted just twice last season. Edwards was his top receiver with 575 yards on 27 receptions. He also was the team's top rusher with 637 yards and nine touchdowns.
Poly is coming off a 6-4 season.
"They are a very good team with lots of experience," Eien said of the Panthers. "They have a very good running back in Blake Edwards and a tall, big quarterback in Hunter Merryman.
"We are confident we can make a run in this game if our defense comes to play and stops Edwards, as he is their playmaker. If our line comes together and opens the holes for Sam Franklin and Brandon White and Alex Debardelaben catches some big passes, we should be able to score points and have a positive outcome."
Edison at Artesia, 7 p.m. Friday, Artesia High: Two teams that experienced seasons on the opposite end of the spectrum a year ago clash at Artesia High.
While Edison compiled a 13-1 record en route to an appearance in the CIF Pac 5 Championship game, Artesia struggled through a 1-9 season where the Pioneers gave up an average of nearly 40 points per game. Last September, Edison pinned 36 points on the Pioneers in the season opener.
The Pioneers — who have nine players back, including five on offense — are young and athletic, but inexperienced. Key players for the Pioneers are senior receiver Deveron Isreal (6-0, 190), two-way senior linemen Josh Garcia (6-0, 270) and senior offensive lineman Troy Sexton (6-0, 245).
Ocean View at Western, 7 p.m. Friday, Western High: An Ocean View squad with 16 starters back from a team that last year just missing the playoffs takes on a Western team lost several close games and finished 2-8.
The Pioneers have 11 starters back from 2009, including six on offense. Junior quarterback DeAngelo MacDonald directs the offense and second-team All-Orange League running back Marcus Hays, who also starts at safety, is the team's leading returning rusher.
"They run a lot of misdirection and a double-tight, double-T wing," Ocean View Coach Harold Eggers said of the Pioneers. "They always have a good program but struggled a bit last year. I think this will be a good opener for us."