With the marine layer rolling in and temperatures in the 60s, former Huntington Beach Edison all-CIF receiver Garrett White, a Yale grad, stood on the Edison sideline Thursday night having flown in from New York for the Sunset League title showdown against Los Alamitos.
“I heard it was a big game,” he said.
Edison came in 7-0 and ranked No. 7 by The Times. Los Alamitos was 5-2 and ranked No. 4. The winner would be a certain Southern Section Division 1 playoff team and the loser could end up facing Santa Ana Mater Dei or Bellflower St. John Bosco in a first-round playoff matchup. That was motivation enough for both teams to rise up. Except the game meant so much more.
The Los Alamitos-Edison rivalry produced some of the greatest Orange County matchups of the 1990s and 2000s when John Barnes was head coach at Los Alamitos and White’s father, Dave, was head coach at Edison. Dave coaches receivers for the Chargers and reminded players of the rivalry before the game.
Unfortunately for Edison, Los Alamitos’ talent level is on another level. Whether it was running back Damian Henderson powering through Edison defenders, receiver Makai Lemon finding a way to turn on the speed despite a banged-up ankle or defensive end Sinn Brennan breaking through for a sack, the Griffins just had too many contributors in coming away with a 52-27 victory at Huntington Beach High.
Henderson, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound senior who played last season at Long Beach Jordan, is a revelation. He had 303 yards rushing in a 69-49 win over Santa Margarita on Sept. 16. He rushed for 169 yards and scored two touchdowns in the first half Thursday as Los Alamitos took a 31-14 lead. He finished with 257 yards in 28 carries. Combining speed and strength, he’s committed to Colorado State and has become an invaluable contributor. He briefly was shaken up in the second quarter but returned to continue his punishing running.
The USC-bound Lemon came in with an injured ankle, didn’t start at receiver, made an appearance on defense and was limping. Then he caught a short pass from Malachi Nelson and sprinted 73 yards for a touchdown, showing no effects of his ankle injury. Later, he hobbled off the field after being tackled on a reception. He returned in second half to make a spectacular fourth-quarter interception.
On defense, Los Alamitos’ Kaleb McCutcheon had an interception and sack. And what a performance by 300-pound freshman offensive tackle Manoah Faupusa not giving an inch. Another freshman, Carson Clark, caught a 31-yard touchdown pass.
Edison got as close as 21-14 in the second quarter on a Tucker Tripp 37-yard touchdown reception. Then came Lemon’s stunning touchdown, followed by a 35-yard field goal at the end of the half by Chase Mclachian for a 31-14 Los Alamitos halftime advantage.
Nelson completed 18 of 28 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Sophomore Anthony League had a big second half, finishing with 101 yards rushing.
Los Alamitos is now in ideal position to be the No. 4 seed for an eight-team Southern Section Division 1 playoff bracket.