Huntington Beach shocks Edison

COSTA MESA — Eric Lo was at a loss for words late Friday. Not once, but twice.

"I don't know what to say," the Huntington Beach head coach finally managed to get out, repeating the phrase a few minutes apart, before walking over to join in the celebration with his ecstatic team and coaching staff near one end of the field at LeBard Stadium.

You can't blame Lo for not being able to find the right words to describe what had just transpired at Orange Coast College. His Oilers had just upset defending champion and Sunset League rival Edison, 28-21, to continue an amazing journey in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division playoffs.

The triumph thrust Huntington, an at-large entry to the playoffs, into the Southwest Division championship game at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 at Angel Stadium. The Oilers (8-5) will face another Sunset League foe, Newport Harbor, in the title match.

The Sailors (9-4), who tied for second place in the Sunset, won Friday's other division semifina1, 28-17, over visiting Fullerton (Freeway League No. 2).

After slugging it out for four quarters with the Chargers, 48-6 became a distant memory for the Oilers.

That was the score Edison had ran up on Huntington when the teams met in a Sunset League opener Oct. 11.

Friday's victory also ended a couple of 20-year droughts. First, it marked Huntington's first win against Edison since 1993. It was at the end of that same season, that a Huntington team last reached a Southern Section championship game.

Again, numbers that faded to distant memory because this emotional night, belonged to Huntington.

"We just played well and made plays when he had to," Lo went on to say. "Our guys are tough and resilient.

"I'm kind of overwhelmed right now. At an earlier point of the season, it didn't look very good that we were going to make the playoffs. Now, we're in the finals."

Huntington's improbable run to the division final started with a 31-17 win at previously undefeated and No. 2-seeded Yorba Linda. Last week, the Oilers bounced a 10-1 San Juan Hills team from the postseason following a 42-12 win over the Stallions. In both wins, the Oilers jumped out to big leads early and never trailed.

Against Edison, they did the same with another jolting start. But, they did fall behind in the second half only to regroup, score the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter, and then kept the No. 3-seeded Chargers (9-4) from scoring the remainder of the way.

Huntington took the opening kickoff and proceeded to march 75 yards for the game's first score. Twice the Oilers converted third-down attempts during the eight-play drive, which ended on a 43-yard touchdown run by running back Travis Heer. The sophomore ran four times for 56 yards, and caught a five-yard pass during the drive. His found a hole on the left side of the Edison line and went untouched to the end zone. Malik Miller's conversion made it 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.

The Huntington defense then came up with two big plays on Edison's first two possessions.

After forcing the Chargers to punt in four plays on their initial possession, senior strong safety DrewBecker broke through to block Hunter Kelley's punt, and the Oilers recovered and were in business at the Edison 20-yard line. An 11-yard pass from senior quarterback Kai Ross to senior tight end Connor Kotchnik put the ball at the nine and three plays later, Ross found a senior receiver Maurice Barber in the front of the end zone for the score. It put Huntington up, 14-0, with 5:29 still left in the first quarter.

Barber also set up Huntington's next score. He stepped in front of quarterback Luke Gane's pass intended for receiver Jake Favreau to make an interception at the Huntington 31 near the Edison sideline. Barber then took off across the field and weaved his way to a 36-yard return before being dragged down at the Edison 33. The Oilers marched down to the four where Ross faked a handoff to Heer, then hit sophomore tight end Liam Jimmons on a four-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter.

The Oilers suddenly held a stunning, 20-0 lead.

"You can't spot them 20 points," Edison Coach Dave White said. "They came out and went 75 yards to score, then took advantage of that blocked punt, and interception. Hats off to Huntington. They came out fired up and jumped on us early.

"But I was proud of the way we came back and took the lead. They responded once they got down, and we just couldn't come back after that."

For how fast Huntington jumped on Edison, the Chargers retaliated by scoring twice within a span of 3:13 of the second quarter, to get back into the game.

Starting from their own 48 after a big kickoff return by senior Kiante Goudeau, the Chargers overcame a personal-foul penalty and procedure call on consecutive plays, to move in for their first score. A 21-yard gain on a keeper by Gane, and a bruising, 26-yard run by the junior quarterback, took the ball down to the Huntington two. On the next play, senior running back Marcus Swanigan fought his way around left end to score with 7:55 left in the quarter.

The Chargers defense held Huntington in three plays and got the ball back for its offense. Taking over at their own 42, Swanigan took a third-down handoff at midfield, went to his left for a five-yard gain before cutting across field to his right. He got into the Huntington secondary, then bounced off the would-be tackle of Oiler junior free safety Brayden McRae at the 50, and went on his way to a 50-yard touchdown run. Kelley's kick pulled the Chargers to within 20-14 with 4:42 remaining in the half.

Edison continued its momentum after halftime to wipe out its six-point halftime deficit. The Chargers received the second-half kickoff and used 11 plays to chew up the first 6:33 of the second-half clock to take their first and only lead. A 75-yard march ended when Gane rolled to his right, set and found Favreau in the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-14 play. Kelley's third PAT put the Chargers in front, 21-20.

After leading by 20 and falling behind by a point, the deficit didn't seem to faze Huntington, which responded to the Favreau TD pass with an 80-yard scoring drive that put the Oilers in the lead for good.

"We're not afraid to go toe-to-toe with anybody," Lo said.

On what turned out to be the winning touchdown drive, Ross hit Kotchnik and Heer with key passes on two third-down plays to keep the drive alive. Heer capped the 11-play possession by breaking up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown run. Ross then hit senior receiver Levi Ison, who made a diving catch in the front of the end zone, on a two-point pass, and Huntington went back on top, 28-21, with 1:22 left in the third quarter.

Huntington's defense also came up with a few huge stops in the fourth quarter.

Edison had reached the Huntington 45 early in the quarter, but senior linebackers Matthew Tavakoli and Jacob Smith teamed to sack Gane for a five-yard loss. Two plays later, the Chargers were forced to punt.

Edison got the ball back with 9:34 to play and starting from its own 13, drove down to the Huntington 29. On second down, Jimmons tripped up Swanigan for no gain. On third down, a host of Oilers, including Jimmons, Smith and senior strong safety Skyler Pavloff, dropped Gane for a five-yard loss. On fourth-down from the 30, junior lineman Hojun Lee got to Gane who managed to get off a wobbly pass that flew incomplete.

Huntington got the ball back with 2:02 left and Edison with only one time out remaining. The Chargers did hold the Oilers in three plays and forced a punt. Senior Marcus Epps fielded Kotchnik's kick at the Edison 35, found a seem along the Edison sideline, and took off. Epps had a clear field ahead of him but finally was hauled down at the Huntington 35. The play, however, was called back due to an illegal block call against the Chargers.

Edison started at its own 30 with 10 seconds left. Gane hit senior receiver Jeremy Maxwell for an 11-yard gain to stop the clock. On the final play, Lee burst through to sack Gane to end the game.

"I was just trying my best and was watching [what was] in front of me," Lee said of the play. "I just did what I was taught.

"I'm so proud of my team and coaches. It's a great feeling."


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