|OCVarsity Gridiron: Edison ready for state regional|
Carlos Arias, Steve Fryer, and Dan Albano discuss the upcoming CIF state regional semifinal game between Edison and Serra. Can the Chargers defense come up big again? Interviews with Dave White and players. Video by Jonathan Khamis, OCVarsity.com
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Edison keeps proving it belongs at top
HUNTINGTON BEACH – Edison football coach Dave White took the podium at Angel Stadium and, upon receiving his first CIF championship plaque, held it up and emphatically directed it toward his players.
"This is for you!" White beamed, moments after Edison beat Villa Park in the Southwest Division title game this past weekend.
It wasn't false modesty, even though White, in his 27th year at the helm, had been waiting for that moment long before any of these Chargers were born.
"Everybody knows the story of us getting to the finals and losing," said White, whose teams faces Serra of Gardena on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the CIF Division 2 State Regional bowl game at Orange Coast College. "I heard kids saying, 'We got to win it for Coach White.' But it's a team thing. I was so proud of how hard they worked. I just wanted them to know, 'This is your championship. You guys played in the games. I'm just a head coach.'
"They wanted to win it for me and I wanted to win it for them. We're a very close team right now."
Their unity was conceived about nine months prior. In March, the Chargers and their Sunset League cohorts found out that, for at least the next two years, they were out of the Pac-5 Division, formerly Division I, and in the Southwest Division, formerly Division VI.
Edison had yet to take a single snap of spring practice and already suffered its first loss of 2012.
"We were all upset," White said. "People were kind of putting us down."
Never mind that the Chargers had won more Pac-5 playoff games than all but four county teams, reaching the finals twice in what is widely considered the toughest division in the state. Players soon found themselves getting grief from their friends, their parents even getting it from their friends.
"It was insulting," linebacker Alejandro Perez said. "We know we're a Pac-5 team."
But the Sunset League had struggled to be a Pac-5 league, as Edison was the only school to advance past the second round since the division's inception in 2006. The Chargers were essentially being penalized for their league's shortcomings. White, in time, got through to his dejected and disrespected bunch.
"We said, hey, if we keep winning, we'll get respect," White said. "We can either pout about it or ... it's not like it's going to be easy to win any division. Let's win a CIF championship and prove we belong in any division.
"It took awhile (to get over it). I think it took a month. It was a little bit of a rallying cry."
Players say the team-wide angst and frustration manifested on defense particularly. After the Chargers shut out Garfield of Los Angeles in the season opener, they proclaimed it their goal to break the school's season record for shutouts.
Edison closed out the regular season against Huntington Beach with its school-record fifth shutout.
Within that two-month span, Edison won 9 of 10 games and allowed only 47 points total. The defense didn't give up a touchdown in victories against Pac-5 powers Servite and San Clemente. The Chargers did fall behind, 20-0, in the first half to Mater Dei, only to rally back and lose by six. Mater Dei, of course, went on to play in last week's Pac-5 title game.
Count the Monarchs among those convinced that Edison is still, well, Edison.
"They gave us all we could handle," Monarchs coach Bruce Rollinson said. "We felt physically that was one of our most difficult games, which is typical of an Edison club. We got by that one. That could have gone the other way in a heartbeat.
"I remember distinctly when it was over, saying, they'll win the whole thing and they'd probably go deep in the playoffs in the Pac-5."
The Chargers proved Rollinson as right as they could. They entered the postseason as the Southwest Division's top seed and eliminated two teams ranked in the county top 10 en route to their first section championship since 1985. On Saturday, they will be the county's lone representative in the state playoffs.
The Cavaliers last week won the Western Division, formerly Division IV, and earlier this season knocked off Pac-5 champ Long Beach Poly. Edison is relishing the opportunity to prove itself against another Southland power.
"It's a privilege to have another game," Perez said. "So we're like, this is it, we want more than just a CIF championship. We want to win regionals and go to state. Just do it for our school, do it for our coaches, do it for our parents and do it for ourselves, too."