High School Football: Oilers, Chargers clash

They started playing one another in 1970, but in the 43 years since, the Edison High and Huntington Beach football teams are about to do something in the series between the local rivals, that hasn't been done before.

At 7 p.m. Friday, the Chargers and Oilers will meet for the second time in a season, for the first time. This showdown has major implications, too, as the winner will move on to contend for the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division championship Dec. 7 at Anaheim Stadium.

The teams opened Sunset League play against each other Oct. 11. Eight weeks later, both are on a roll heading into Friday's semifinal game at Orange Coast College's LeBard Stadium.

"We're excited for the opportunity to play them again," Huntington Coach Eric Lo said. "From where we were a month ago, with a chance to have our season be over, to where we are now, shows the resiliency and character of our team.

"We're happy to be here, but we want to play beyond Friday."

Edison was in this same spot last year, the semifinal round, and used a 22-16 victory over Foothill to advance to the division title game.

"It's great to be in the position to get to the final again," Edison Coach Dave White said.

Edison, champion of the Sunset League and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, is the defending Southwest Division champion. The Chargers (9-3) have won four straight games and have outscored the opposition, 118-29, in the process. Their defense, which has held six of 12 offenses it has faced to a touchdown or less, has registered three shutouts. Two of those shutouts have come during the four-game win streak including last week when they knocked off Villa Park, 10-0, in the quarterfinals.

Junior quarterback Matt Gane ran for 155 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run, and senior Hunter Kelley kicked a 23-yard field goal, as the Chargers scored all 10 of the game's points in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers shut out a Villa Park team that a week earlier, had put up 66 points in a 66-40 first-round win over Buena Park.

It is a year ago this Saturday, that Edison defeated the Spartans, 28-10, in the Southwest Division title game at Anaheim Stadium.

"Our defense played a great game, once again,' White said. "We did some nice things on offense but twice we went for it on fourth-and-one in the red zone, and couldn't convert. We had turned the ball over on our first drive, and later missed a field goal. But we turned it on in the fourth quarter. We did that too, last year, when we wore teams out in the fourth quarter.

"Overall, though, I think we are playing pretty well right now and the second game with Huntington should be pretty fun. Huntington is red-hot right now, and is playing really well. I think both teams are improved since we played them."

Huntington (7-5) is peaking at the right time. For the second consecutive week in the postseason, the Oilers jumped all over an opponent early and the end result, once again, was a one-sided victory. This time, Friday's 42-12 quarterfinal romp past visiting San Juan Hills put the Oilers into a rare spot, the semifinals.

Huntington, which received an at-large berth to the playoffs, has eliminated two league champions in its first two postseason games. Previous to ending San Juan Hills' season, the Oilers went on the road Nov. 15 and upended then-undefeated and No. 2-seeded Yorba Linda, 31-14.

In a two-week span of the playoffs, the Oilers have defeated teams that were 10-0, and 10-1. They have done so behind an opportunistic defense that has created turnovers on which the offense has capitalized.

Yes, this looks like a revitalized Huntington team, different from the one that was overwhelmed in its Sunset League opener, 48-6, by Edison on Oct. 11, and one that had lost five of seven games between Sept. 13-Nov. 1. The Oilers may have left a clue as to their turnaround when, in their league and regular season finale Nov. 8, they whipped Newport Harbor, 40-14, to deny the Sailors a share of the Sunset League championship. The Oilers have scored 113 points during their current, three-game win streak.

"It's just a different vibe we've had at practice the past few weeks," said two-way Huntington starter, senior Sean Mastro, after the San Juan Hills win. "Ever since the Fountain Valley game, we kind of came together. We're excited to be playing. We're hitting our stride these past few weeks."

Much like the Yorba Linda game, Huntington jumped all over San Juan Hills early. The Oilers led, 21-0, with four minutes still to play in the opening quarter, and were in complete command by the half, leading, 34-0. They went up, 42-0, late in the third quarter, and still leading by the same score heading into the fourth quarter, the game turned to a running clock.

Senior quarterback Kai Ross rushed for 101 yards including a 77-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play from scrimmage. He also threw for 125 yards with four touchdown passes, all four going to senior receiver Maurice Barber, who had five receptions for 108 yards. Sophomore running back Travis Heer also had a big game, rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

"We just came out and got on them early. We've been doing that lately," Lo said. "I thought our defense played great all night long. We are playing our best football of the season."

Huntington hasn't played in a CIF Southern Section championship game since the 1993 season, when that Oiler team, which included a future NFL star tight end named Tony Gonzalez, won its semifinal game to reach the Division II final. The Oilers, then coached by George Pascoe who earlier this month resigned as head coach at Marina, lost in the final to Los Alamitos.

That 1993 season also marks the last year that Huntington has defeated Edison. The teams didn't play during the 2006-09 seasons when Huntington was a member of the Sea View League. They resumed their rivalry when the Oilers moved back into the Sunset League in 2010.

"It's been a long time," Lo said of the semifinal drought. "This is a great opportunity for our team and we're all just really excited to be playing Friday. We're looking forward to a second matchup with Edison."

Unlike the first meeting in October between the teams, Edison will be without the services of two key players. Senior Christian Heffelman, who was part of the Chargers' two-platoon quarterback rotation with Gane, suffered a season-ending injury (broken collar bone) during a 24-0 win Nov. 1 against Fountain Valley. Two-way lineman Tico Fuga was injured (ACL/MCL) in the Nov. 15 playoff opener against Cypress and didn't play last week against Villa Park. White said Fuga is out for the remainder of the year.

Lo said that his Oilers are "as healthy as we have been in the last two or three weeks."

The Huntington-Edison winner will take on the winner of Friday's other semifinal game between Fullerton (Freeway League No. 2) and Newport Harbor, a Sunset League rival of both Huntington and Edison, in the division championship game at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at Anaheim Stadium.

Edison Chargers (9-3)

27....Compton Centennial...18

14...Los Angeles Garfield...0

14…Servite…31

7…Mater Dei…21

35…San Clemente…7

48…*Huntington Beach…6

28…*Newport Harbor…16

10…*Los Alamitos…16

24…*Fountain Valley…0

49…*Marina…15

35…^Cypress…14

10…^Villa Park…0

Huntington Beach Oilers (7-5)

32...Bakersfield Christian...10

49…at Magnolia…14

31...at JSerra…49

17…Trabuco Hills…27

37…Downey…29

6…*Edison…48

14…*Fountain Valley…19

50…*Marina…12

14…*Los Alamitos…21

40…*Newport Harbor…14

31…^Yorba Linda...14

42…^San Juan Hills…12

(*denotes Sunset League game; ^denotes CIF playoff game)

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