The start to the 2011 Sunset League football race doesn't get any bigger than this.
Edison and Los Alamitos, two teams considered to be front-runners for the league title, clash Thursday when the Chargers host the defending champion Griffins at 7 p.m. at Huntington Beach High's Sheue Field.
It's also Edison's homecoming game.
"Obviously, it's a huge game," Edison Coach Dave White said. "We've had 13 days to prepare for this and right now, this is the most important part of the season for everyone. League play begins and it's a new start for everyone.
"I think Los Al is the favorite (for the title), but I also think there's a lot of parity in the league and anyone can beat anyone on a given night. Edison or Los Al pretty much has been league champ for the last 10 years and this game, again, is really big. It's big for our pysche, especially after losing tough games to Mater Dei and Servite."
Edison and Los Alamitos have had two weeks to work out gameplans for Thursday's league opener, as both are coming off a bye week. The Chargers are 3-2 and dropped consecutive games to top-ranked Servite and Mater Dei to close out nonleague play. The Griffins enter the game at 4-1. They won their first four games before ending nonleague play Sept. 29 with a 38-27 loss to undefeated and third-ranked Santa Margarita.
Los Alamitos is averaging 46 points per game and has scored no fewer than 21 in a game (21-8 win over West Adams Prep of Los Angeles). The Griffins scored 70 points in a season-opening win over Norwalk (70-14) and twice have scored 56 points in a game.
Edison last played Sept. 30 and lost on the final play to Mater Dei.
"I thought our defense played pretty good throughout the game but our offense did not play well in the first half," White said of the 22-20 loss to the Monarchs. "I was pretty pleased with the way we came back in the second half and took the lead. That showed character, but it was a real tough way to lose.
"I think the key for us against Los Al is to keep turnovers to a minimum and limit the big play. Los Al is a big-play team. Their quarterback (Dylan Lagarde) and a few receivers (Kyle Roberts, Josh Caiquo, Kendall Holmes) are playing real well and No. 5 (Cody Paul) is getting a ton of yards. Defensively, they aren't super big, but they have a lot of speed and like to mix things up and do a lot of attacking. It's definitely a challenge for us."
The Chargers and Griffins are meeting in the first week of league play for the first time since 2007 and only the third time since Los Alamitos joined the Sunset League in 1994. The Griffins lead the league series, 14-2-1, and overall series, 14-4-1. The schools first met in Edison's first varsity season in 1975, but not again until the second round of the CIF playoffs in 1993.
Edison had won or shared five straight Sunset titles before Los Alamitos wrestled away the crown last year.
"The league title was decided on the final night of the regular season when we played them last year," White said. "Like I said, this is a huge one for us, but we still have several other big league games ahead of us to play. This is a great start, though, and it should be a great (league) race."
Marina (1-3-1) vs. Huntington Beach (4-1), 7 p.m., Huntington Beach High: Another Sunset League opener pits longtime city rivals Marina and Huntington Beach against one another in rivalry that started in 1965. The series went on brief hiatus when Huntington was re-leagued to the Sea View League in 2005-06, but the schools will meet Friday for a fourth consecutive year. The Oilers have won two straight against the Vikings.
To the winner of the game goes a coveted prize: the Victory Trophy.
Like Edison and Fountain Valley, both Marina and Huntington, are coming off a bye week.
"We're focused and our kids how what's at stake and have high expectations," Huntington Coach Eric Lo said of the rivalry game and the opening of league play. "It was nice to have that bye week. We got to rest some guys and gear up for league. At the same time, I'm a little worried coming off a bye week because we were playing really well before it."
Marina and Huntington have both played Westminster and Aliso Viejo this year. The Vikings defeated Westminster (21-14) in the Black and Blue rivalry game Sept. 16. Two weeks ago, they lost to Aliso Niguel (35-7). Huntington defeated Aliso Niguel (36-6) on Sept. 23 and two weeks ago routed Westminster (49-7).
"It was always a big game," said Marina Coach George Pascoe, who used to be on the other side of the field coaching Huntington (1983-95) in this rivalry game. "Whoever wins (Friday), will have to play the entire game."
Huntington, which is playing its homecoming game Friday, is 4-1 for the second straight year heading into league play.
Fountain Valley (3-2) vs. Newport Harbor (2-3), 7 p.m., Newport Harbor High: Fountain Valley was idle ast week and has had two weeks to tune up for its Sunset League opener with Newport Harbor. The Sailors averted their first 1-4 start to a season since 1988 by routing visiting Mira Costa last week, 33-3. Titus Hasson rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Cole Blower threw for 178 yards and two scores to lead Newport.
Fountain Valley and Newport Harbor played two common opponents in nonleague play, San Clemente and Trabuco Hills. The Barons lost to San Clemente (43-10) and lost starting quarterback Kai Fernandez to injury in the second half of the Sept. 8 game. Two weeks ago, they ended nonleague play with a 27-7 loss to Trabuco Hills. The Sailors fell in their Sept. 8 opener to Trabuco Hills (35-14) and two weeks ago lost to San Clemente (24-12).
Ocean View (2-3) vs. Westminster (1-4), 7 p.m., Westminster High: Ocean View kick-starts its Golden West League campaign by taking on the Lions at Boswell Field. The Seahawks are coming off a bye week. In their last outing, they rolled past Saddleback, 50-8.
Westmisnter slipped to an uncustomary 1-4 last week by losing, 19-7, to Pacifica. The Lions have struggled offensively this year and have scored just one touchdown in three of their five games. They've been outscored, 68-14, in their last two games.
The Warriors are idle this week. Last week, Brethren Christian traveled north to face Los Angeles Baptist and lost, 31-20. The Warriors trailed, 15-0, at the half but rallied during the final two quarters. They pulled to within, 23-20, early in the fourth quarter on a 76-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Brandon White only to have the Knights return the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a retaliating touchdown.
White also scored BC's first touchdown on a three-yard run in a third quarter that included a 19-yard TD run by quarterback Sam Franklin. The senior threw for 115 yards and ran for another 46.
The Warriors outgained the Knights in total yardage, 365-344.
BC (3-3) plays its final nonleague game Oct. 22 (7 p.m.) at Ocean View High against Xavier College Preparatory of Palm Desert.