HUNTINGTON BEACH – Dave White could only shake his head as he crossed midfield at Huntington Beach High's Sheue Field late Thursday night.
But as the veteran Edison High football coach slowed his pace, he allowed himself to break into an uneasy smile.
"I've lost so many tough games to John Barnes and Los Al over the years, so I guess it's our turn tonight," White said moments after Edison withstood a frantic finish and a last-ditch drive by defending champion Los Alamitos, to come away with a key, 10-7 victory on the opening night of the Sunset League race.
"We tried to give the game away but thankfully, we didn't," White continued, the smile starting to fade as he rehashed what had just taken place. "We blew a lot of opportunities and had a lot of stupid penalties. But we won and that's what counts."
The Chargers, who were playing their homecoming game, nearly did give the game away in the final 2:13.
Edison (4-2) had taken a 10-7 lead on a 31-yard field goal by Aleksander Torgersen with 10:13 to play and got the ball back at its own 18-yard line with 7:12 left after forcing Los Al to punt. The Chargers converted their first two third-down situations during their drive and, aided by a pass interference call against the Griffins' Kyle Roberts, moved down to the Los Al 39 with 2:15 to play. On a third-and-six play from the 35, quarterback Chase Favreau took off around right end and scampered for 16 yards for an apparent first down at the 19. But the Chargers were called for holding and that put the ball back at the Los Al 45.
Facing third-and-long, Favreau then went back to pass and lost the ball when hit by a Los Al defender, but Chargers wide receiver Curren Provost hustled to the backfield and made the recovery at the Edison 48. The Chargers ran the clock down to 48 seconds before calling a timeout. They then punted the ball away but Torgersen's kick never traveled. That's because the Griffins' Daniel Tyler and Trevor Brand broke through the line to block Torgersen's kick. The ball rolled out of bounds at the Edison 33 and Los Al, with no timeouts left, had new life with 46 seconds remaining.
The Griffins (4-2) caught another break when the Chargers were called for defensive holding after quarterback Dylan Lagarde's first-down pass fell incomplete. Three incomplete passes later from the 20, Brett Breighton's 37-yard field goal attempt was low and sailed wide left, and Edison survived with 11 seconds to spare. Or so the Chargers thought.
On the play, Edison was whistled for roughing the kicker and again Los Al had new life, this time, at the Edison 10 with 11 seconds left. The Griffins shunned another field goal attempt and went for the touchdown. On first-and-goal, running back Cody Paul, who rushed for a game-high 141 yards, ran for three yards before being bottled up at the seven by a host of Chargers. This time, the Chargers did hold and the clock ran out.
No flags on the play, either.
"It's frustrating that we had this won and then nearly lost it at the end like that," White said. "We did a great job of stopping their offense, of stopping their screens all night, but our mistakes cost us.
"We had lost two-straight to Servite and Mater Dei and a third loss would have been deflating to our psyche, more so to the coaches' psyche, than the players'. Obviously, this is just one game, but it's a huge one."
Both offenses moved at will during the first half but had nothing to show for it.
Los Al took the opening kickoff and went from its own 20, to the Edison 16. On fourth down, the Griffins set up for a field goal but Breighton broke from formation and Lagarde took the snap from center. His pass to Kyle Roberts fell incomplete and Edison took over on downs. The Chargers then rode the running of Favreau and Elijah Herrera to move inside the Los Al two but on first-and-goal, Herrera coughed up the ball which was recovered by the Griffins' Kendall Holmes.
Los Al then went on another long march, moving from its own seven out to the Edison 26. On fourth down, Lagarde hit Roberts in the flat but Herrera stopped Roberts a yard shy of the first down. Edison responded by going from its own 21 out to the Los Al 46 but a personal foul against the Chargers put them back at their own 46. On third down, Favreau escaped from a heavy blitz but lost the ball to the Griffins on a fumble at the Edison 43 with 3:46 left in the half. Two plays later, the game changed.
Lagarde threw deep toward the end zone for Roberts but Edison senior cornerback Sedric Hill managed to step in front of Roberts and steal the pass. Hill came down just outside the goal line, pivoted, turned and then followed a wall of teammates and headed up field along the Los Al sideline. He shifted gears and made a great cut just past midfield and then split between three Los Al players and sprinted to the end zone and scored on a school-record 100-yard return.
The remarkable play gave Edison a 7-0 halftime lead.
"Once I had the ball, the receiver (Roberts) sort of knocked it out of my hands, but I was able to hold on to it," Hill said. "Once I had it, I just ran for my life."
It was the only turnover of the game by the Griffins.
"It was a major momentum swing for us, and we were really fired up after that," Hill said.
Paul scored on a five-yard burst up the middle with 2:10 left in the third quarter to tie the score. He ran nine times during a 13-play, 68-yard drive as Los Al cashed in on its first possession of the second half. But that was it offensively for a Los Al team that came in averaging 46 points per game.
"That play by Sedric was amazing and gave us the boost we needed," White said. "In that first half, both teams moved the ball between the 20s pretty easily. There was a lot of offense but no points to show for any of it. Sedric's play really got us going. That was huge."
Favreau (80 yards) and Herrera combined for 156 rushing yards. Hill also had 50 yards receiving.
Edison also got a boost from the return of running back/defensive back Nick Masaniai, running back Marquis Ross and defensive end Derek Baljeu. The trio, which had been sidelined with injuries and didn't play against Servite or Mater Dei, saw several minutes of playing time Thursday.
The Chargers still are without all-league kicker/wide receiver/kick returner Gavin Perdomo, who also is injured.
Edison takes on Marina in Sunset League play Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at Westminster High.