LONG BEACH — Dave White had been through several of these battles before.
Halfway through Friday's crucial Sunset League game between Edison and Los Alamitos, the veteran head coach of the Chargers said he wasn't surprised at the low-scoring affair. Through the first 24 minutes of action, the teams were scoreless. Midway through the third quarter, his team was down a touchdown.
"We've lost plenty of close games to them, and we knew this would be another tough one," White said. "We've had so many games like this."
After Los Al had taken a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, Edison roared back, wore down the host Griffins down the stretch, to come away with a 24-14 victory. The triumph allowed the Chargers, the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division, to get its first win at Veterans Memorial Stadium since 2006. More importantly, it allowed the Chargers to improve to 2-0 in league, and tied for first-place with Huntington Beach (2-0).
Edison won its third-straight game to improve to 6-1 overall.
Los Alamitos, ranked third in the Southwest Division, had its four-game win streak snapped and fell to 5-2.
"It feels good," White said of the win. "This was a big one, and it feels good to be 2-0 in league.
"Our offensive line, our fullbacks, our tight ends, played great. We won this one in the trenches."
The Chargers did. They turned to their run game in the second half and churned out steady drives to control the line of scrimmage. All three of their touchdowns came on the ground, with Donald Rice rushing for two scores and Marquis Ross for the other.
Los Alamitos had taken a 7-0 lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Marshall to wide receiver Dashawn Gordon. The score came two plays after defensive back Samuel Corder-Lee returned an interception 33 yards to the Edison 22-yard line. Corder-Lee grabbed a pass from Edison quarterback Alek Torgersen that deflected off the arms of Edison tight end Markus Boyer. He then slipped away from the grasp of Boyer at the Los Al 45, and raced to the Edison 22 where he was pulled down.
Gordon found a seam between defensive backs Dylan Luther and Kiante Goudeau to make the catch in the end zone with 4:51 left in the third quarter. The touchdown was the first given up by the Edison defense in 13 quarters.
The lead didn't last long. Edison stormed back in just six plays to tie the score. Elijah Herrera returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the Los Al 39. Consecutive keepers by Torgersen took the ball down to the 14. Rice then ran the ball four consecutive times, the last of which resulted in a two-yard touchdown run. Hunter Kelley's conversion made it 7-7 with 2:47 to go in the third.
From there, Edison took over. After stopping the Griffins in three plays, the Chargers got the ball back at their own 33. Five straight rushes by Ross took the ball out the to the Los Al 43. Four plays later, Rice fought his way for three yards on fourth-and-two, to keep the drive alive at the 32. On the next play, Ross made a nice cut to the inside and broke a few tackles on his way to a 21-yard gain down to the 11.
Ross then reached the 100-yard rushing mark by gaining five on first-and-goal. Two plays later, Rice burst up the middle to score on a four-yard run. Kelley's kick made it 14-7 with 6:40 remaining in the game.
The Edison defense gave the offense the ball back two plays later. On second down, Herrera intercepted Marshall and returned it 23 yards for an apparent touchdown. The TD was negated by a personal foul call against the Chargers. Starting at the Los Al 29, the Chargers upped their advantage to 21-7 with 4:42 left when Ross rambled his way for a 22-yard scoring run on a fourth-and-three call.
The Chargers converted their final fourth down attempts of the game, after failing on their first two.
"Our guys did a nice job of controlling the ball in the second half," White said. "Los Al did good things out there and made us adjust. We had a pick, fumbled at the one, and made some mistakes, but like I said, we won this one in the trenches."
Los Al came right back after Ross' touchdown run for a score of their own. Marshall threw in the flat to running back Richie Molina who turned the short pass into a 29-yard scoring play. It brought the Griffins to within 21-14 with 3:21 to play.
The Griffins then attempted an onside kick which was recovered at midfield by Herrera. The Chargers were able to run off all but 17 seconds on the clock. They kept possession when Torgersen teamed with fullback Robert Reyes on a 18-yard screen pass on third down that put the ball at the Los Al 27. The Chargers reached the one but a fumble on third down put the ball back at the five. Kelley came on to boot a 23-yard field goal for a 10-point cushion.
After going scoreless for two quarters, the teams combined for 38 second-half points.