COSTA MESA — The way they dug themselves into a hole Friday, it seemed a far stretch that the Edison Chargers could make a game of it with Mater Dei. No, not the way the charitable Chargers started things at Orange Coast College.
"You can't make that many mistakes and expect to beat a team of Mater Dei's caliber," Edison Coach Dave White said. "But our kids nearly overcame those mistakes, and we had our chances their at the end."
Edison climbed out of a three-touchdown hole before a near-full house at LeBard Stadium, fought and clawed its way back into contention, and had opportunities to go into the lead in the fourth quarter. Mater Dei, however, was able to hold on and escape with a 20-14 nonleague victory.
The Chargers, the No. 1-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division trailed, 20-0, to the Monarchs, the No. 5 team in the Pac-5 Division, with the game just 15 minutes old.
"Those early turnovers really hurt us," White continued. "We could have folded, but our guys didn't. Our defense played great once again. I'm proud of our kids."
Edison drew to within 20-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter when running back Donald Rice scored on a fourth-and-two run. The Chargers got the ball right back after holding Mater Dei to three-and-out, and moved from their own 26 out to midfield. On second down, quarterback Aleksander Torgersen avoided a rush, scrambled, and then found receiver Marcus Stepancich at the Mater Dei 36. Stepancich went high to make the reception in back of defender Thomas Duarte of Mater Dei, turned, and raced down the Edison sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the six. The play was wiped out on a holding call against the Chargers, who ended up punting four plays later.
One play after punting, the Chargers got the ball back when Robert Reyes hit Monarchs running back Justin Allen, stripped the ball, then made the recovery at the Mater Dei. 41 with 5:14 left. It was the first turnover of the night for the Monarchs who dodged another bullet when the Chargers turned the ball over on downs. Torgersen overshot a wide open Trenton Aschoff at the 21 on second down. His third down pass intended for Trevor Borkowski fell incomplete at the 20. Mater Dei safety Peter Russo, with his back to the play, was draped in front of Borkowski on the play, drawing protests from the Edison sideline.
"I thought it was pass interference, but one play doesn't make a game," White said. "It was a judgment call."
On fourth down, Torgersen fought off a sack to scramble to gain four yards to the Mater Dei 36, but was five yards shy of the first down marker with 4:08 remaining.
Edison got the ball back with 2:06 to play. Starting from its own five-yard line following a 63-yard punt by Tim Strader, the Chargers moved out to their own 33 after Torgersen had pass completions to Borkowski and Jake Favreau. Three incompletions later, Torgersen's fourth-down pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by lineman Malik McMorris. The Monarchs took over at the Edison 33 with1:29 to go.
The Chargers still had one last gasp effort after Mater Dei turned the ball over on downs at the 33 with eight seconds left. Torgersen's long heave downfield fell incomplete at the Mater Dei 21 as time expired.
The Edison defense contained a Mater Dei offense that came into the contest averaging 44 points per game. The Monarchs worked a short field to get their three scores, two of which came after Edison turnovers, the other, following a partially blocked punt.
On the first offensive series of the game, a handoff exchange between Torgersen and running back Elijah Herrera resulted in a fumble on the fifth play of the game. It came one play after Torgersen had converted a fourth-down run to give the Chargers first down at their own 47. The Monarchs' Laupule Moaliitele recovered at the 46.
Eight plays later, fullback Ronald Nickerson scored on a two-yard run for a 6-0 lead. It was the first score given up by the Edison defense in the first quarter this year.
On Edison's next possession, Mater Dei defensive back Matt Rockett partially blocked a punt by Hunter Kelley which was recovered by the Monarchs' Edward Rubio at the at the Edison 23. Six plays later, Allen, Mater Dei's leading rusher, went up the middle for a three-yard touchdown run. Strader's kick made it 13-0 with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
Before the quarter was over, a Torgersen pass was intercepted by defensive back Ben Humphreys at the Mater Dei 43. The Monarchs moved to the Edison 24 where they faced fourth-and-15. Chargers defensive back Kiante Goudeau appeared to intercept a pass by Mater Dei quarterback Ryan McMahon just inside the goal line, but Duarte wrestled the ball away from Goudeau for the touchdown to make it 20-0.
Edison responded with a 75-yard scoring drive that ended on a 14-yard touchdown run by Rice to make it 20-7 with 4:37 left in the half.
"Mater Dei's a pretty good football team," said White, whose team was coming off a 6-0 win over Servite. "That's why we play Servite and Mater Dei, to help us get ready for league."
Before the Chargers venture into Sunset League play next month, they close out their nonleague schedule with another tough game, Sept. 28 at San Clemente.
The Tritons suffered their first loss of the season Friday, 28-7, to Newport Harbor.