For five local prep football teams, the prelude is over. Now, it's onto the races.
Beginning today and continuing through the next month, six teams — Edison, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Marina, among them — will duke it out to determine supremacy in the Sunset League, and six other teams — including Ocean View — will clamor about to decide who's king of the Golden West League.
The weekend kicks off tonight with Marina facing Edison and Ocean View taking on Orange at 7 p.m. On Friday, Fountain Valley hosts Los Alamitos in its homecoming game and Huntington Beach travels to meet Newport Harbor, both games also at 7 p.m.
The following is a preview of this weekend's action:
Edison (3-2) vs. Marina (3-2), 7 p.m. tonight at Huntington Beach High: Edison is coming off a bye week and Marina is enjoying its best start to a season since 2003, as the teams collide tonight at Sheue Field. With three wins under its belt, Marina has already equaled its win total of the last two years.
The Vikings are seeking their first since against Edison since 1999.
The Chargers have won or shared the last five Sunset championships.
Marina concluded nonleague play last week with a 20-17 road win at Western. Alex Waked rambled for 224 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Nick Marshall hooked up with receiver Brayde Hill on a touchdown pass to account for the Vikings' scoring.
"We beat a good team in Western and the kids are ready to take the next step," Marina Coach George Pascoe said. "We must still eliminate mistakes in the red zone and learn to bear down when we get close. The (Western) game should not have been so close. Coach (Keith) Laszlo's defensive staff made some great adjustments at halftime and for the most part, shut them down in the second half.
"Playing Edison is always a big deal. They are one of the best programs in the Orange County and this year's team is no exception. All of their guys will be back healthy after a week off. We must play mistake-free football and try to control their offense."
Edison last played two weeks ago. The Chargers have dropped two straight games, including a 27-7 loss to Mater Dei in their last outing.
"We're not very consistent on either side of the ball right now, and Marina's playing very well," Edison Coach Dave White said. "They had a tailback (Waked) who is real good and a receiver (Hill) who is playing real well, and their defense if flying around.
"We both have the same record and we're both 0-0 in league. It's a fresh start for both teams."
Ocean View (4-1) vs. Orange (1-4), 7 p.m. tonight at El Modena High: Ocean View, which had last week off, comes into this Golden West League opener having posted its most successful nonleague campaign since "around 2001," Seahawks Coach Harold Eggers said. Ocean View is meeting an Orange team that last week posted its first win of the season, 36-0, against winless Bolsa Grande.
Three of the Panthers four losses have come by a combined 17 points.
"What has impressed me most is the team's ability to respond, step up and meet the challenge," Eggers said of his team's 4-1 start. "We seem to get behind early, the team doesn't seem to lose its composure and they find away to battle back. I expect Orange to have good size and be very physical. I expect them to run the ball. They have played some tough teams. This is the beginning of league, we all start over, the second season begins."
The Panthers will have to contend with Ocean View running back Timmy Robinson, who has been tearing up the opposition in recent weeks.
"Timmy is a load," Eggers said. "We knew he was going to be something special last year when we started him at running back and he rushed for over 1,000 yards in about 7 1/2 games. He runs hard, has deceptive speed. Noland Tippy will need to throw the ball well to keep the pressure off of him."
Huntington Beach (4-1) vs. Newport Harbor (3-2,) 7 p.m. Friday at Newport Harbor High: Huntington Beach returns to the Sunset League for the first time in five years, and the Oilers are doing so on a high note.
Last Friday, Huntington staged an epic comeback, rallying from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit against undefeated San Juan Hills to outscore the Stallions, 21-0, to pull out a 42-35 victory. Junior running back Nolan Biegel rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries and also was in on 25 tackles from his linebacker position. Junior quarterback Michael Chislock was nearly perfect on 15-of-17 passing for 265 yards and three touchdowns, and speedy junior receiver Ramon Vargas had 196 yards and two scores on seven receptions. Two of Vargas' touchdown receptions went for 50 and 56 yards. Chislock, who also rushed for a touchdown, threw another scoring pass to Cameron Trentini.
Huntington trailed in the second quarter, 18-0, and again at 35-21 in the fourth against a San Juan Hills team that was 5-0.
"It was a great victory," Huntington Coach Eric Lo said. "Our guys played 40 minutes of football. In that fourth quarter, we forced turnovers and outscored a team that had been controlling the ball with their running game, 21-0. We made some huge plays, some spectacular plays, both on offense and defense. Our guys never gave up. We now know that we can play with the tough teams."
The last time Huntington was a member of the Sunset League, the league didn't include Newport Harbor. The Sailors started the year 3-0 but are now 3-2 after close loses the past two weeks to San Clemente (21-20) and Mira Costa (17-6).
"All of our guys are really excited about playing Newport," Lo said. "It's been a long time since the schools have played each other. Newport's a well-coached team and they are really good. The San Juan Hills game gave us a good indication of where we are, but this game really will tell us where we stand."
Los Alamitos (3-2) vs. Fountain Valley (2-2-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Huntington Beach High: Fountain Valley's homecoming game features a Los Alamitos team that was considered the preseason favorite for the Sunset League crown. The Griffins still are one of the key teams to beat yet come into league play on a two-game losing skid, their most recent loss was a 31-7 setback to Santa Margarita on Oct. 2.
Fountain Valley is coming off a bye week. The Barons have gone 2-0-1 in their past three games after an 0-2 start. Running back Montana Merhoff is averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
"What impresses me about our turnaround is the fact that our young men continued to work hard and get better," Fountain Valley Coach John Shipp said. "They made a commitment to buy into the program and they're doing everything they can to get better.
"Los Alamitos is a top-10 team, so they are going to be prepared for Sunset League play. The keys for us having success are playing at a very high level in all phases of the game, taking care of the ball and controlling their run game is vital. Winning the battle of field position is key."
Idle: Brethren Christian (3-3): The Warriors have the week off and next play Oct. 22 in Palm Desert against Xavier Prep. The Warriors played last Friday and lost, 40-0, to host Chadwick.