By Mike Sciacca
3:25 PM EST, December 5, 2012
ANAHEIM — Dave White held tight to the championship plaque as he stood, beaming, on the postgame podium set up at midfield at Angel Stadium late Friday night.
"This one's for you," the Edison football coach repeated in a joyful shout directed at his players, a jubilant group that had created a massive huddle in front of their coach.
"This one," White later said, was for the entire Edison community. The Chargers had just finished off Villa Park, 28-10, to claim the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division championship before a crowd of more than 9,000. It was the first Southern Section title in 27 years for the program since it shared the 1985 Big Five crown with Long Beach Poly. It was the school's first outright title since 1980, and fifth, overall.
"You could say the monkey's off my back," said White who finally won the title.
The veteran coach, in his 27th year at his alma mater, has taken Edison to four championship game appearances since 2001.
"I'm just so happy for these kids that they are CIF champions," he said. "They worked hard for this. We were challenged early tonight but we've been a fourth quarter team all year. I'm just so proud of these guys and our coaches, and happy for our fans."
Top-seeded Edison, ranked No. 1 throughout most of the season in its initial year in the Southwest Division, wore down third-seeded Villa Park as the game itself wore on. The Chargers won their 10th straight game and are 13-1 overall.
Two days after claiming the title, Edison was awarded a berth in the CIF Division II State Regional Championship game. The Chargers will play host to Serra of Gardena, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Orange Coast College. The winner of the game advances to play in the 4 p.m. Division II championship game on Dec. 15 at The Home Depot Center in Carson.
Clayton Valley takes on Oakdale on Saturday in the North regional final. The winner moves on to the Dec. 15 Division II title game.
Serra (12-2) won the CIF Southern Section Western Division championship Friday by defeating Mission League rival Chaminade, 30-28.
White called Edison's berth in Saturday's Division II South region title game appearance, "icing on the cake."
"But, we're also very competitive players and coaches, so we want to win this game," he said. "We're really excited that the season is continuing."
After Friday's victory over Villa Park, the Chargers were in the moment as they soaking up what they had just accomplished on a slick Angel Stadium turf.
"This feels so great," senior defensive end and fullback Derek Baljeu said. "We've been working hard since Day 1 for this, striving for this, and now we have a championship."
Edison trailed early in the game, 7-0, but scored the next 21points to grab control. The Chargers took command behind a little of everything from both sides of the ball.
Offensively, mistakes prevented the Chargers from sustaining any type of momentum in the opening half. The Chargers turned the ball over on their first possession of the game and went three and out on their other two possessions of the first quarter. They managed just 119 yards of offense in the opening half. In the second half, however, the Chargers controlled the ball and rode the legs of senior quarterback Aleksander Torgersen.
The Chargers also had a boost on offense with the return of leading rusher Marquis Ross. The senior started and played his first game since suffering a knee strain in the first half of the Huntington Beach game on Nov. 2.
The Edison defense, as has been the case the entire season, was outstanding once again. It contained Villa Park's run game for most of the night. The Chargers, who have a school-record five shutouts this year, came up with four interceptions and registered a pair of safeties. Senior linebacker Trenton Aschoff was among several Chargers to turn in an outstanding performance in the final.
The Spartans, who had a 10-game win streak snapped and finished 12-2, both losses coming to Edison, scored their only touchdown on a short field after recovering an Edison fumble at the Chargers 26. Five plays later, senior running back and leading rusher Meki Tafuna scored on a 10-yard run to give the Spartans a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.
Villa Park, which came into the game averaging 32.6 points, led, 7-2, after one quarter, with Edison's first points coming on a safety on a botched punt attempt by the Spartans. A 23-yard field goal by Hunter Kelley with 7:40 left in the first half drew the Chargers to within 7-5. Two plays later, junior cornerback Jeremy Maxwell intercepted a Dylan Osborne pass when he stepped in front of intended receiver Dustin Harrison at the Edison 43. Maxwell returned the pick 29 yards down to the Villa Park 28. Five plays later, senior running back Donald Rice took a pitch around left end and went into the end zone from a yard out on fourth down. Kelley added the conversion and the Chargers went in front for the first time, and for good, 12-7, with 4:27 left in the half.
"I thought we did a good job of adjusting in the second half," White said. "We made too many mistakes in the first half and couldn't get anything going. We had penalties, we dropped balls. I thought we did a much better job of taking care of the game in the second half.
"Alek [Torgersen] can run the ball and we lived on his legs in the second half. Our offensive line did a great job and our defense was amazing. We didn't give [the Spartans] much."
Edison took further control by taking the second half kickoff in for its next score. Senior running back/linebacker Elijah Herrera returned the second half kickoff 42 yards out to the Edison 45. Torgersen had two big gains on keepers to keep the drive alive including one on a fourth-down play. He later hit a wide open Markus Boyer at the 15, and the senior tight end went untouched to the end zone to complete a 20-yard scoring play. Kelley's kick put the Chargers on top, 19-7.
Villa Park was pinned inside its own 10 late in the third quarter when Osborne dropped back to pass but was pressured. He eluded the oncoming rush of Baljeu but was met moments later by Aschoff and defensive end Garrett Garcia who smothered Osborne in the end zone for a safety with 3:46 left in the quarter.
Torgersen bulled his way into the end zone from 26 yards out with 8:01 left in the game to make it 28-10, and Edison was on its way to beating Villa Park for the second time this year. The Chargers scored a 27-7 nonleague victory over the Spartans on Sept. 6.
"It took us a lot of hard work to reach this moment," said Herrera, a senior and three-year starter who played both at running back and linebacker. "A lot of us have played together since youth football and to go out like this, is just amazing."
Moments later, Herrera soaked up one last, tangible piece of the magical night when he slid, head first, toward the south end zone, where his slide came to a rest at the six yard line. He then hugged a few teammates, and the group entered the visitor's dugout, and then headed toward what was certain to be a raucous Edison locker room.
It's been a month of milestones for White. Earlier this month, Edison won an outright Sunset League championship for the second straight year and has won or shared six of the last seven league titles. Two weeks ago, White, a quarterback in the 1970s at Edison and the school's Male Athlete of the Year in 1974, registered his 200th career victory at his alma mater when the Chargers routed Valencia of Placentia, 52-14, in the quarterfinals.
Friday's triumph gave him victory No. 202, and placed him in the company of Bill Vail (1970), and Bill Workman (179, '80, '85), as the three coaches to guide the program to a Southern Section title.
After finishing runner-up to the title in each of three previous attempts, White said earlier in the week that he hoped the fourth trip to a Section final, would be the charm.
It turned out to be.
"This means so much to me, and to this team, but I'm really happy for Coach White," Aschoff said. "He's done so much for us and for this program, and it's just so great to see him get a title."
At 13 wins, Edison is one victory shy of matching the school record for victories in a season. That mark belongs to the 1980 CIF-SS Big 5 championship team that went 14-0. A win Saturday would send the Chargers on to the Home Depot Center, and give them a chance to set the all-time school record at 15 wins.
"There's still a lot to play for," White said.
Serra won its third section title in four years when it defeated Chaminade, 30-28, Friday. The Cavaliers rushed for 304 yards in the win in an attack spearheaded by junior quarterback Jalen Greene (114 yards) and sophomore running back Malik Roberson (104 yards).
Roberson has rushed for 100 or more yards in three of four of playoff games. He had 197 in a semifinal win over No. 1 Lompoc two weeks ago, and ran for 237 in a Nov. 16 quarterfinal win over Santa Monica.
"They are a very fast and athletic team," White said of the Cavaliers. "We haven't seen a team like this all year, and that presents a big challenge to our team. Their No. 21 (junior Adoree' Jackson) does a little bit of everything for them, and is just phenomenal."
Serra comes into Saturday's game on an eight-game win streak. In their second game of the regular season, the Cavaliers knocked off a Long Beach Poly team (20-12) that last Saturday defeated Mater Dei to win the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division championship.
14...Mater Dei 20
(*denotes Sunset League game; ^denotes CIF-SS Southwest Division playoff game)
26...Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks...23
20...Long Beach Poly...12
42...*St. Francis/La Canada...6
(*denotes Mission League game; ^denotes CIF-SS Western Division playoff game)