HUNTINGTON BEACH — Because of what they did first and accomplished last, the Huntington Beach Oilers were able to record their first victory in Sunset League play.
The Oilers scored on the opening drive of Thursday's game against Fountain Valley but didn't score their next touchdown until there were just 17 seconds remaining in the game, but both scores were enough to pull out a 14-9 victory over the visiting Barons at Sheue Field. Quarterback Michael Chislock scored the game-winning touchdown on a six-yard run.
It was a strange game that was marred by penalties and seemed to take a long time to play without a lot of points lighting up the scoreboard.
For Huntington Coach Eric Lo, the outcome was all that mattered, even though his Oilers could just about forget everything that happened between their two touchdowns.
"We got our first league win against a good team, and that's what counts in the end," said Lo whose program is back in the Sunset League for the first time in five years. "We scored on that first drive and I thought we'd keep on rolling. But we didn't, but that last drive was great."
After Fountain Valley had taken its first lead, 9-7, on a 35-yard field goal by sophomore Derek Huynen with 7:06 remaining in the game, Huntington took over at its own 20 after the Barons' outstanding kickoff specialist, Christian Rodriguez, sent another kick through the end zone for an automatic touchback. To the Oilers, who had scored only one touchdown in each of their two previous Sunset League games, both losses, the Fountain Valley end zone might have seemed more than 80 yards away.
"I was really impressed with our final drive," Lo said. "We lined up in different formations and caught Fountain Valley off guard, and John Mata had some huge catches to get us down field. I was proud of the way we came back after they had taken the lead."
It was Mata, a senior receiver, who caught a pass over the middle from Chislock for a 16-yard gain on a second-and-15 call to get Huntington out to its own 45. It was Mata again on the next play, too, his nine-yard catch putting the ball at the Fountain Valley 46. On second down from the 43, Mata took in a sideline pass for another nine-yard gain to the 34 and on first down from the 33, he and Chislock again hooked up over the middle, this time for a 17-yard gain to the 16.
The two then teamed up two plays later for 12 yards to put the ball at the one. On second-and-goal, Chislock pushed his way into the end zone behind his line for an apparent go-ahead score with 21 seconds left, but the Oilers were flagged five yards for carrying Chislock into the end zone. Now at the six, and following a timeout, the Oilers went to the spread and Chislock, in shotgun formation, took a direct snap and burst up the wide-open middle and went untouched into the end zone. Max Talbert hit the point-after, and Huntington had a 14-9 lead with 17 seconds left.
Fountain Valley quarterback Ryan Balzer threw two incompletions on the ensuing drive, the final one on the final play of the game.
The outcome left both the Oilers and Barons with 1-2 league records. Huntington is now 5-3 overall and Fountain Valley 3-4-1.
The Oilers looked as though they'd have success throughout the night after taking the opening kickoff and scoring with ease. Runs by Austin Simpkins and Chris Ogilvie, followed by an eight-yard pass from Chislock to Mata, put Huntington at midfield. On the next play, Chislock delivered a nice pump fake and then laid out a perfectly-placed pass down field to junior receiver Ramon Vargas who caught the ball in stride at the 18 and raced to the end zone. Talbert's kick make it 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
But that was all the offense Huntington could seriously muster until its game-winning drive. The Oilers did have a golden opportunity to add to its 7-0 lead late in the second quarter when Simpkins smothered Rodriguez after he bobbled the snap on a punt attempt and couldn't get his kick off. The play set the Oilers up at the Fountain Valley seven-yard line. But three plays could only net one yard and Talbert's 23-yard field goal attempt was blocked by the Barons' Tyler Bell with 2:44 left in the half.
Penalties also punished the Oilers in the opening half, including dead-ball personal foul calls that kept a few Fountain Valley drives alive.
Fountain Valley went three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half but took advantage of consecutive turnovers by the Oilers to score on consecutive field goals.
The Barons flushed Chislock out of the pocket on third down and forced a fumble which they recovered at the Huntington 21. They moved backward on the drive however, after reaching the nine-yard line on a personal foul call against Huntington, a penalty that was wiped out on fthe next play by a holding call against the Barons. Huntington's defense stiffened but Huynen came on to boot a 42-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 6:48 to go in the third quarter.
On Huntington's next possession, Fountain Valley junior strong safety Mason Clevenger intercepted Chislock's wobbly pass at the Barons' 42. Fountain Valley reached the Huntington 31 but on third down, the Oilers' Luke Holler dropped running back Cristian Calvillo a yard short of a first down. Huynen came on to connect on a 47-yard field goal to make it a one-point game, 7-6, with 1:19 left in the quarter.
Huynen put the Barons ahead for the first time when his 35-yard field goal made it 9-7. The scoring drive started at midfield and was aided by an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Oilers.
Chislock threw for 146 yards with Mata getting 97 yards on eight receptions and Vargas 65 yards on four catches. Simpkins led the Oilers' rushing game with 56 yards on 14 carries.
Huntington also shut down Fountain Valley's run game, holding the Barons' top rusher, Montana Merhoff, to just 22 yards on 11 carries in the first half. Merhoff didn't rush once in the second half. Senior linebacker Brett Hornstein had a fumble recovery in the first quarter for the Oilers and sophomore linebacker Jeffrey Wiederkehr had a big sack and blew up a screen play for big defensive stops in the opening half.
Next Friday, Huntington hosts league-leading Los Alamitos and Fountain Valley meets archrival Edison in annual Bell Game between the schools.
Other Sunset League scores from Thursday:
Los Alamitos 41, Marina 7