Huntington Beach Coach Eric Lo said during the preseason that the first three games of the season would tell him a lot about his 2011 football team. Games against El Toro, Corona del Mar and Foothill, two of whom were rivals when the Oilers belonged to the Sea View League, figured to test Huntington right out of the gate.
Lo did learn something last Friday at Cap Sheue Field: his team can win the close one.
Huntington never trailed against El Toro, but the Oilers had to withstand a barrage of passes — 55 of them from Chargers quarterback Conner Manning — and a late comeback attempt to post a 23-21 season-opening victory.
"It's the first game of the season and it was sloppy at times and we made some mistakes," said Lo, whose team hosts Corona del Mar at 7 p.m. Friday. "But, we won a game against a very good team that I think will win the Sea View League, and getting a win is the bottom line.
"I thought we made some key plays when we needed to and that allowed us to take the lead in the second half and were able to hang on."
The turning point in the game came midway in the third quarter with the teams deadlocked at 14. On second down from his own seven, Manning went back to pass from his own end zone where he was drilled by Huntington's John Vis, who jarred the ball loose. The ball rolled through the back of the end zone, resulting in a safety to give the Oilers a 16-14 lead midway through the quarter.
Four minutes later, Huntington went up 23-14 when Nolan Biegel rambled his way to the end zone on a 36-yard run. It was the first carry of the game for Biegel, who sat out the last half of the 2010 season with an arm injury.
"He's a freaking man out there," Lo said of Biegel. "He gave a phenomenal effort. He plays defense and some at tight end, too, and he gave us that big run to help us establish the lead. He played a great game."
The Oilers defense was tested by Manning (31-55, 227 yards) but came up with a pair of interceptions, one by Ramon Vargas and the other at the goal line by Chris Ogilvie that thwarted an El Toro drive in the first half.
"I thought our defense did a nice job of calming down in the second half," Lo said. "We knew that quarterback (Manning) was pretty good. We gave up a few big plays, but again, we made key plays when we had to."
Huntington's first offensive possession of the season resulted in a touchdown. A 38-yard gain on a pass from quarterback Michael Chislock to Austin Simpkins on the first play from scrimmage keyed the 80-yard drive that ended on a nine-yard scoring run by Ogilvie. Chislock also threw a 15-yard scoring pass in the opening half to Zach Hadlock, who was wide open in the end zone.
Chislock threw for 135 yards on 10 of 21 passing. Manning was 31 for 55 for 227 yards.
Huntington faces another stiff test Friday against a Corona del Mar team that also opened its season Friday. The Sea Kings were impressive in cruising to a 40-7 win over Savanna. Brent Lawson threw for 199 yards and three touchdowns, Matt English had six receptions for 98 yards and one score and Erik Fisher rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and also scored on a 92-yard kickoff return.
CdM opened the season with a No. 4 ranking in CIF Southern Section Southern Division.
"It's another big one for us," Lo said. "They're a tough ball club and we need to fix some mistakes, if we hope to beat them."
Garfield (0-1) vs. Edison (1-0), 7 p.m., Huntington Beach High: Edison is coming off a bye week and Garfield suffered a season-opening 14-0 loss last Friday at Bishop Amat.
Edison started its season Aug. 26 and recorded a 48-10 win over Baldwin at Maui, Hawaii. Quarterback Chase Favreau threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers. He also rushed for another score. Running back Marquis Ross ran for 78 yards and two scores.
Garfield returns 12 players from a team that went 7-5 last year and won the Eastern League championship. Quarterback Nicky Peralta and tailback Lance Fernandez are two of six returning starters on offense. In Friday's loss at Amat, Fernandez ran for 101 yards on 22 carries and Peralta was only five of nine through the air for 20 yards. Receiver Jose Fuentes and tight end Jaime Leija also are two key offensive threats. The defense is led by All-City linebacker Johnathan Valles.
Bulldogs Coach Lorenzo Hernandez was one of 13 prep coaches recognized during the 2010-11 school year as a recipient of the CIF Model Coach Award. The award is presented to coaches who have served as a positive role model at their schools and in their communities.
San Clemente (1-0) vs. Fountain Valley (1-0), 7 p.m., Westminster High: An intriguing matchup takes place at Westminster High between the Tritons and Barons, who both used prolific offenses to win their openers.
Fountain Valley got its season off to a great start Aug. 26 in Nevada, where it defeated Green Valley, 52-49. The Barons stormed to a 42-14 lead and held on for the win. Quarterback Kai Fernandez threw touchdown passes to Brian Brown (61 yards) and Jacob Church (11 yards) and also rushed for two other scores. Mason Clevenger and Sean Myers both scored rushing touchdowns, Derek Huynen hit a 47-yard field goal and Jordan Platt scored on fumble return.
"We had that big lead but let them get back in the ballgame," Fountain Valley Coach John Shipp said. "There are a few things we need to work on to get ready for San Clemente. We need play at a higher level and take care of some of the mistakes from our last game. We need to bring our A-game because they (San Clemente) are a very good football team. If we do that, I think we'll be fine."
San Clemente overcame a tumultuous start to the season — the removal of Eric Patton as head coach — to score a 35-6 season-opening win Friday over Cabrillo of Long Beach. Quarterback Travis Wilson (6 feet 6, Sr.), a Utah commit, threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score in the easy win.
Calvary Chapel/Santa Ana (1-0) vs. Ocean View (0-1), 7 p.m., Ocean View High: Ocean View, which found the going tough in its opener Friday against Western, will try to bounce back against Calvary Chapel. The Seahawks were dealt a 40-7 setback by Western. Quarterback Timmy Robinson rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown and passed for 118 yards in the loss.
Calvary Chapel opened its season Friday, as well, and used two rushing touchdowns by All-Orange Coast League quarterback J.T. McLuckey to score a 32-13 win over Century.
Brethren Christian (0-1) vs. Arrowhead Christian (0-1), 7 p.m., Arrowhead Christian High: Brethren Christian started its season Sept. 1 when the Warriors had a second-half rally fall short in a 20-13 loss to Pasadena Poly in Pat McInally's first game as BC head coach. Quarterback Sam Franklin threw for 107 yards and rushed for both Warriors touchdowns.
Arrowhead Christian of Redlands also fell in its opener Saturday, losing, 48-21, to L.A. Baptist. The Eagles, who won just three games a year ago, are led offensively by halfback Josh Richardson.
Marina (0-1) vs. Kennedy (0-1), 7 p.m., Western High: Both Marina and Kennedy are looking for their first wins of the season. The Vikings went to San Diego County last Friday and were dealt a 48-0 loss by La Costa Canyon. The Fighting Irish also opened on the road and were defeated by Claremont, 24-20.
Kennedy held a 20-12 halftime lead but failed to score in the final 24 minutes. Wide receiver Eli Pleasant scored all three Kennedy touchdowns and had 114 receiving yards. One of his scores came on a pass from quarterback Taylor Elliott, who threw for 164 yards.