It has come down to this: two nights of action will determine which prep football teams will win or tie for a league championship, and stay in the running for a CIF playoff berth.
The chase for the 2013 Sunset League title continues Thursday and ends Friday with the final three games of the league and regular season. Thursday in Long Beach, Fountain Valley takes on Los Alamitos in a game with big implications, both title-wise and postseason, alike. On Friday, Edison goes after no worse than a portion of the title when it faces Marina, and Huntington Beach gets the chance to improve its playoff chances when it plays host to a Newport Harbor team looking to take home the top prize.
In another Thursday game, playoff-bound Brethren Christian completes its regular season with a nonleague game against Firebaugh. Also Friday, Ocean View has one final shot at a possible postseason bid when it plays host to Orange.
Fountain Valley (6-3) vs. Los Alamitos (8-1)
(7 p.m., Veterans Stadium)
The Barons, who have an outside shot at a share of the Sunset League championship, face a Los Alamitos squad that can win at least a share of the title with a win Friday.
Fountain Valley went to 2-2 in league after last week's 24-0 loss to rival Edison in the Battle for the Bell Game. Turnovers, and a strong Edison defense, denied the Barons who were shutout for the first time this year.
In order to move into a tie for the league title, Fountain Valley must win Thursday and also needs both Edison and Newport Harbor to lose their games Friday.
The Barons, who fell out of the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division rankings following their loss to Edison, are very much alive in postseason consideration.
"We still have a lot to play for," Fountain Valley Coach Ray Fenton said after the Edison game. "We still control our own destiny."
Los Alamitos, ranked third in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division, has won three straight league games after an opening loss to Newport Harbor. Friday at Veterans Stadium, the Griffins (8-1) overcame a 14-0 deficit to Huntington Beach by scoring the game's final 21 points, to come away with a 21-14 victory. Quarterback Nick Wendell threw for 156 yards with a touchdown pass, and Damonte King scored on two short runs for the Griffins.
Firebaugh (3-6) vs. Brethren Christian (7-2)
(7 p.m., Ocean View High)
Brethren Christian closes out its regular season with a nonleague game against Lynwood Firebaugh.
The Warriors completed Academy League play Friday and clinched a CIF Southern Section playoff berth by virtue of a 35-16 victory over Crean Lutheran. Senior running back Jared Fuga rushed for a game-high 128 yards with touchdown runs of five and 44 yards, and senior quarterback Jack McInally scored on a 10-yard run and threw touchdown passes to junior Andrew Assaf (12 yards) and senior Austin Gorrell (29 yards).
BC finished league play 3-1, losing only to St. Margaret's.
The Warriors qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs for a third straight year.
"Our defense continues to grow and it did a good job against Crean," BC Coach Pat McInally said. "On offense, we left three touchdowns on the field, and we could have played better. But, they always play us tough.
"Our program has come a long way, though. We are winning games and have qualified again for the playoffs."
Firebaugh, which is coming off a bye week, is led by sophomore quarterback Jordan Cardenas and junior running back Marvell Carruthers. Cardenas has thrown for 1,462 yards with 15 touchdowns but has been intercepted nine times. He threw two scoring passes and was intercepted twice in the Falcons' 62-29 loss last week to Rio Hondo Prep.
Carruthers, who also plays defensive back and returns kicks, has rushed for 836 yards (two touchdowns) in eight games, and is averaging 10.32 yards per carry.
"They're a big school and they have a lot of athletes on this team," McInally said of Firebaugh. "They have a real good quarterback (Cardenas) and a running back (Carruthers) who also is very good. It will be an interesting game."
Edison (6-3) vs. Marina (1-8)
(at Westminster High, 7 p.m.)
Marina ends its season at home against an Edison team that has its sights on winning no less than a share of the Sunset League title.
The Vikings fell to 0-4 in league last week following a 49-17 loss to Newport Harbor. Senior quarterback Daylan Harmeyer was 21 of 33 for 198 yards and a touchdown, junior running back Steve Hernandez rushed for 133 yards and a score on 15 carries, and senior Landon Marshall hit a 40-yard field goal for the Vikings.
Marina had jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the game.
The Vikings have lost their last seven games.
Edison, ranked fourth in the Southwest Division, won its third league game Friday with a 24-0 shutout of Fountain Valley in the Battle for the Bell game. Senior Marcus Swanigan, in his first game appearance since suffering a shoulder injury in a Sept. 27 nonleague game at Mater Dei, rushed for a game-high 113 yards with a touchdown on only eight carries.
Senior receiver Diego Velez scored the game's first touchdown on a 51-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback Christian Heffelman on Edison's opening possession. Senior Hunter Kelley kicked a career-long, 50-yard field goal late in the first half, and junior quarterback Matt Gane scored on a one-yard keeper in the fourth quarter.
Edison won the Bell Game for the ninth consecutive year, the longest streak by either team in the series.
"Nine years in a row is hard to do," White said of the win streak. "The kids worked really hard to get ready for this game."
The shutout was the second of the season, and first since a 14-0 win over Los Angeles Garfield on Sept. 5, for the Edison defense, which has held five opponents to a touchdown or less.
Against Fountain Valley, Swanigan, who also starts at defensive end, was in on five tackles (four solo) and had three sacks.
"Our defense has been pretty good all year," White said. "To get a shutout in this game, is pretty special.
"Marcus has been out five weeks and he was ready to play. He gives us some juice, some spark. He's pretty special."
The Chargers have won or shared seven of the last Sunset titles.
"We now have a shot to win league," White said. "A win Friday, and we have at least a share of it."
Edison did suffer a big loss in the Fountain Valley game. Heffelman, who started at quarterback, was sacked on a first-quarter play and was seen after halftime on the Edison sideline with his right (throwing) arm in a sling. White said the senior suffered a broken collarbone.
The Chargers also lost senior two-way lineman, senior Michael Olivé to a knee injury during the first quarter. Junior Braydon Wilson, a starter at defensive end, went out with an ankle injury.
Senior receiver/defensive back Jeremy Maxwell (ankle) had not played in Edison's last two games. White said he is questionable for Friday's game.
Newport Harbor (5-4) vs. Huntington Beach (4-5)
(7 p.m., Huntington Beach High)
Huntington plays the role of spoiler and can bolster its playoff hopes when it takes on Newport Harbor on Senior Night for the Oilers.
A win by the Oilers (1-3 league) Friday would square their overall record, and Coach Eric Lo said he would petition the CIF Southern Section office for an at-large berth to the Southwest Division playoffs which start Nov. 15.
A Huntington victory also would deny Newport Harbor, 3-1 in league and ranked seventh in the Southwest Division, a share or possible outright league title.
"This is a big game for us, and we need a win to keep our season alive," Lo said. "Newport's a really good team on both sides of the ball. Their quarterback throws well and is a competitive, tough guy, and they have two really good receivers. Defensively, they're always tough."
Huntington took a 14-0 lead at Los Alamitos last week but ended up with a 21-14 loss to the Griffins. The Oilers had a shot at a potential tying score when they reached the Los Al 15-yard line in the final seconds, but a pass fell incomplete as time expired.
A five-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Kai Ross to senior receiver Maurice Barber, and a five-yard scoring run by sophomore Hunter Simmons, had given Huntington its 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
"I thought we played really good defense pretty much all game," Lo said. "We had the ball and were leading, 14-0, but we fumbled at our own 20 and they went in to score. We had our chances, even on the last play of the game."
Newport Harbor has won its last two league games, most recently, taking a 49-17 win from Marina. Junior running back Chance Siemonsma ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns, junior quarterback Cole Norris threw for 186 yards and two scores, both TD passes going to senior receiver Quest Truxton, for the Sailors.
Orange (6-3) vs. Ocean View (1-8)
(at Ocean View High, 7 p.m.)
The Seahawks are still in the running for postseason play but need a victory over the Panthers on the final night of the regular season to stay in contention.
Ocean View dropped to 1-3 in Golden West League after a 49-14 loss last Friday to Westminster which clinched a share for the league title with the win. Senior running back Daniel Valencia rushed 25 times for 196 yards and a touchdown, and junior running back David Alani also scored for the Seahawks.
Ocean View Coach Luis Nunez said Valencia "ran tough all night and showed grit."
Nunez called it a "tough loss."
"I thought we played tough in the first half and didn't capitalize on three drives inside the (Westminster) 35 but ultimately, Westminster imposed their will," he said. "Their veteran leadership and backfield combo was too much for us.
Orange is 2-2 in league play and tied for third place in the GWL standings with Loara. The Panthers are coming off a 35-14 loss to Segerstrom.
Running back Aaron Aguilar has rushed for more than 220 yards in six of nine games, and three times has surpassed 260 yards in a game.
"We've got plenty to work on for Week 10," Nunez said. "A win over Orange, and a Westminster win over Loara, we are in a coin toss for the [league's] third [CIF Southern Section playoff] seed.
"Orange is no different than last year as they rely on their running back [Aguilar] and play physical football. We will be ready as we will scratch and claw to try to extend this season for our 11 seniors."