Over the course of two nights late last week, the chase for the 2013 Sunset League football championship became a free-for-all.
You can thank, or blame, depending on which sideline you root from, Los Alamitos High and Newport Harbor for creating an interesting race which will play out over the next eight days.
Edison and Fountain Valley, then co-league leaders of the six-team race, were defeated last week by Los Al and Newport Harbor, respectively. The end result last week left the Chargers, Barons, Griffins and Sailors, tied for the top spot, each at 2-1. A game back is Huntington Beach, a 1-2 team which over the next two games has the opportunity to possibly get a share of a title. A sixth team, Marina (0-3), has been eliminated from title contention.
"Here we go again," Edison Coach Dave White said. "The race is going down to the wire, and there are some big games left to play."
No game is any bigger than the one this week, for students, alumni and fans of Edison and Fountain Valley. Friday is the "Battle for the Bell," the big Bell Game that will once again be played at what already is a sold-out LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College. It's the 44th meeting between these two rivals and not only is the Bell up for grabs, but so is the chance to stay in the hunt for a league championship.
Edison enters the game ranked fourth and Fountain Valley is No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division poll.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
For Fountain Valley Coach Ray Fenton, Friday marks his initial first-hand experience of the Bell Game. The first-year Barons coach earlier this week got a taste of Spirit Week on campus and the excitement leading up to the showdown.
"It's just a great opportunity, for kids on both sides, to play in a game like this," Fenton said. "It will be standing-room-only, and sideline passes for the game are like a golden ticket. I just think the whole thing is exciting."
Defending league champion Edison (5-3) had a 12-game win streak in league play come to an end on Oct. 24 following a 16-10 home loss to Los Al. The Chargers out-gained the Griffins in yardage, 325-132, and in first downs, 16-4, but turnovers doomed their chances.
Senior Hunter Kelley kicked a 34-yard lead to give the Chargers a 3-0 lead, and a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Tyler Warren, followed by Kelley's PAT, tied the score 10-10 late in the third quarter.
"Turnovers have been our nemesis in our three losses," White said. "Turnovers, poor punt team coverage, a blocked punt, and 89-yard punt return, were what hurt us.
"If we want to win Friday, we need to take care of the ball against a Fountain Valley team that I think is athletic, plays very, very hard, and is very well-coached. They are doing a great job.
"They were ahead at half at Newport, and a lot of teams, including us, had tough games at their place. We, and the same goes for Fountain Valley, just have to worry about ourselves Friday and execute our game plan."
Fountain Valley (6-2) took a 17-7 halftime lead at Newport Harbor Friday, but a second-half surge by the Sailors wiped out that lead, and resulted in a 42-25 loss for the Barons. Senior quarterback Scott Schultz (12 of 26) threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns, one each to junior receiver Ryan Finley (57 yards), senior Isaiah Davis (four yards), and senior Noah Rivard (57 yards), in the loss.
Senior Jonah Mack kicked a 38-yard field goal late in the first half for a 17-7 lead.
"They're a good football team," Fenton said of the Sailors. "I think all four of these teams tied for first right now, can win this thing.
"Playing for a league title, is an opportunity you look for. There is certainly no bigger game than this [Bell] game, but there is life after Friday. There's still one more league game left and, hopefully, the [CIF] playoffs."
Edison leads the all-time series, 28-14-1, and has won the last eight meetings dating to a 21-20 Fountain Valley victory in 2004.
"The fact that the winner of this game has the chance to be a league champion, makes this Bell Game even more intense," White said. "It should be a good one Friday."
The Great American Rivalry Series, presented by the United States Marine Corps and Hibbett Sports, selects 100 of the best rivalry games across the country each year to celebrate the best examples of high school football. The series, in its 10th year, has selected the Edison-Fountain Valley game as part of its 2013 schedule and will attend Friday's game.
This year's series is covering 68 cities in 38 states throughout the prep football season.
Edison-Fountain Valley is the feature game in Week 11 of the series. The winner of Friday's game will be given the Great American Rivalry Series Champions trophy, presented on field by members of the Marines Corps. A game Most Valuable Player also will be named.
The Great American Rivalry Series has included the following rivalry matchups: St. John Bosco vs. Mission Viejo, Bergen Catholic vs. St. Joseph Montvale in New Jersey, Hoover vs. Vestavia Hills in Alabama, St. Ignatius vs. St. Edward in Ohio, McKinley vs. Massillon in Ohio, Byrnes vs. Gaffney in South Carolina, Baltimore Poly vs. Baltimore City in Maryland, and the game that inspired the Series, and one that has been played since 1893, Male vs. Manual in Kentucky.
Huntington Beach (4-4) vs. Los Alamitos (7-1)
(7 p.m., Veterans Stadium)
The Oilers are within a game of the Sunset League lead and have the chance to make the championship race even tighter, when they take on the Griffins, who are playing their first home game in nearly two months, in Long Beach.
Huntington picked up its first league win last week, and retained the Victory Trophy for a fifth-consecutive year, by rolling past rival Marina, 50-12. Senior quarterback Kai Ross had a big game, going 10 of 15 for 265 yards with four touchdown passes. Two of those scores went to senior receiver Maurice Barber (two catches, 129 yards), and one each to senior receiver Levi Ison (a 21-yard pass), junior receiver Nolan Thompson (five catches, 102 yards), and senior tight end Connor Kotchnik (three catches, 54 yards).
Sophomore running back Hunter Simmons churned out a game-high 152 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and fellow sophomore back Travis Heer gained 83 yards and scored once on six carries.
The Oilers' run game racked up 368 yards on 32 attempts.
"It was all about big plays for us," Huntington Coach Eric Lo said. "We made some really nice plays on offense and defense, which was real nice to see."
It's homecoming for third-ranked Los Alamitos which has played seven-straight road games since opening its season at Veterans Stadium on Sept. 6. The Griffins moved back into the Sunset race by winning, 16-10, Oct. 24 at Edison. Senior Mike Hayden scored on two short runs near the goal line for the Griffins, who won despite having only 132 yards of total offense.
The result against Edison, combined with Newport Harbor's win over Fountain Valley, created a four-way tie atop the standings.
"This win [Marina] keeps us alive in the hunt for a [CIF] playoff berth," Lo said. "We have two (Los Alamitos, Newport Harbor), big league games left to play."
Newport Harbor (4-4) vs. Marina (1-7)
(7 p.m., Huntington Beach High)
The Sailors, who climbed back into title contention in the Sunset League, and Vikings, who are out of the title race, clash at Cap Sheue Field.
Marina fell to 0-3 in league play and suffered their sixth consecutive defeat Friday following a 50-12 loss to Huntington Beach. The Vikings started strong, scoring the game's first touchdown on a 25-yard pass from senior quarterback Daylan Harmeyer to junior tight end Josh Gordon to cap an 81-yard, four-play drive on the opening possession of the game. Senior kicker Landon Marshall accounted for the other six points by connecting on field goal attempts of 30 and 44 yards.
"We got off to a good start but as it's been throughout the season, we didn't finish strong," Marina Coach George Pascoe said. "We had some chances to get back in the game, but we couldn't."
It's been a repeat cycle so far this season for seventh-ranked Newport Harbor: lose one week, then come back to win its following game. The Sailors are coming off a big win last week against Fountain Valley. They scored 35 second-half points and outscored the Barons, 14-0, in the fourth quarter, to wipe out a 17-7 halftime deficit and pull away to a 42-25 victory.
Junior quarterback Cole Norris was 17 of 27 for 259 yards with three touchdowns, two of those scoring passes going to senior receiver Quest Truxton who had seven receptions for 163 yards. Junior tailback Riley Gaddis also rushed for three touchdowns.
With the win, the Sailors, who have opened league play with three-straight home games and beat Los Alamitos in overtime and two weeks ago lost to Edison, moved into a four-way tie for the league lead with two games to play.
Newport Harbor plays its final two games of the league/regular season on the road. The Sailors return next week to Cap Sheue Field to face Huntington Beach.
Ocean View (1-7) vs. Westminster (5-3)
(7 p.m., Westminster High)
The Seahawks go on the road to take on Golden West League leader and rival Westminster.
Ocean View is 1-2 in league and last week was handed a 61-7 defeat at Segerstrom. The Seahawks' lone score came on a two-yard run by senior running back Daniel Valencia late in the fourth quarter.
Westminster leads the GWL at 3-0 and can clinch a tie for the league title by defeating Ocean View. Last week, the Lions scored a season-high 62 points in a 62-22 win over winless Santa Ana (0-8, 0-3). Senior quarterback Daniel Thomsen threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another score, and junior running back Humberto Maciel ran for two scores in the win.
Westminster has scored no fewer than 35 points in three league games.
Ocean View Coach Luis Nunez says his team will have its hands full Friday.
"They've got a dynamic quarterback [Thomsen] who loves to beat you with his legs, as they will run various zone-read plays that play to his strength," Nunez said. "It won't be an easy task stopping the run but my guys are ready for the challenge. We've got plenty to play for still, and our kids have responded well this week after last week's lopsided loss.
"My kids know the only way to spark the rivalry back up, is to compete for a league title on a consistent basis and play toe-to-toe with them. We are working relentlessly to get our program to that level and Friday is a great opportunity to put the Segerstrom loss behind us and hopefully, spark the rivalry back up."
Crean Lutheran (1-7) vs. Brethren Christian (6-2)
(7 p.m., Ocean View High)
There's plenty on the line for Friday for the Warriors, who can clinch no worse than second place in the Academy League and gain an automatic berth to the upcoming CIF Southern Section East Valley Division playoffs with a win over Crean Lutheran.
BC rebounded from its only league defeat two weeks ago against St. Margaret's, to win, 35-17, at Sage Hill. The Warriors (2-1 league) used a big second half to pull away from a halftime tie with the Lightning.
"We probably played our best second half, offensively, this season, and we needed that in the second half," BC Coach Pat McInally said. "We mixed the run with the pass well, and I knew it would be a tough game at Sage. The kids invested a lot of emotion into the St. Margaret's game (a 21-10 BC loss) the week before.
"Our offensive line was outstanding in the running game and on pass protection."
Senior Anthony Moore scored on a 91-yard kickoff return and junior Brandon Bryson returned a punt 60 yards for a score, to account for BC's first two touchdowns, as the teams went into the half deadlocked at 14-14. In the second half, Warriors quarterback Jack McInally, who was 11 of 10 for 207 yards, threw touchdown passes to senior Austin Gorrell (44 yards), Moore (30 yards), and Bryson (five yards).
Running back/linebacker Jared Fuga rushed for 89 yards, caught two passes and made 14 tackles on defense. Pat McInally said the senior had a "great game."
Also turned in a big performance was senior defensive end Will Martin, who finished with 10 tackles, a pair of sacks, and knocked down a pass.
Pat McInally said that Bryson, who also starts at safety on defense and returned an interception 60 yards in Friday's win, injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter and will not return the remainder of the season.
"Brandon has made some great plays for us all season on both sides of the ball, and he'll be tough to replace," McInally said.
Crean Lutheran lost its first six games of the season but won its league opener two weeks ago against Downey Calvary Chapel. Last week, the Saints (1-1 league) were upended by top-ranked and undefeated St. Margaret's, 55-14..
This is the final league game for BC which closes out its regular season with a nonleague game Nov. 7 against Lynwood Firebaugh.