HUNTINGTON BEACH — Within the first four minutes of their season opener Thursday, the Huntington Beach Oilers looked as though they had picked up where they had left off last season: on a roll.
Nine months after winning the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division championship, Huntington started a new campaign at Cap Sheue Field against Coronado. The Oilers looked as though they would have their way with the visitors from Henderson, Nev., by staking their way to an early, two-touchdown lead over the stunned Cougars.
Turned out, that hot start would amount to the only lead of the night for the Oilers.
Coronado ran off 21 consecutive points over the final 17 minutes of the first half, built its lead to as many as 21 points en route to a 41-26 victory.
Not only did the setback spoil Huntington's opener, it also put an end to a five-game win streak the Oilers carried into the new season.
"We're not very good right now," Huntington Coach Eric Lo said after the game. "Coronado played harder than us, and deserved to win. We have a long way to go.
"Offensively, besides that first touchdown, we didn't do anything in the first half. We couldn't run the ball the way that we thought we could."
Before many of the spectators had settled into their seats, lightning struck for Huntington. It came in the form of senior running back Travis Heer who bolted his way for an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
Heer, the Oilers' leading rusher last year with 923 yards and 11 touchdowns, hit an open gap provided by his offensive linemen and took off straight up field. He cut to his right and outraced the Cougars defense. He outlasted the pace of defensive back Wade Jacobs the final 30 yards, was tripped up at the seven by Jacobs but kept his feet and stumbled into the end zone.
Maliek Miller's conversion kick gave Huntington a 7-0 lead 15 seconds into the game.
But that would be the only offensive highlight for the Oilers in the opening half. They would, however, go up, 13-0, three minutes later thanks to their defense.
With Coronado moving from its own 17 yard line down to the Huntington 46, Jordan Patterson, the Cougars' tough and talented junior running back, coughed up the ball after a six-yard gain. The Oilers' Chris Renne scooped up the loose ball near midfield and raced down the Coronado sideline to the end zone.
Miller's kick went wide yet Huntington had widened its lead.
"It was a great start but I think we got overconfident after that," Lo said.
Coronado Coach Brad Talich chalked up his team's early deficit to opening game jitters.
"That was more nerves, than anything," he said of his team's woeful start. "We play a lot of young kids and we have a young defensive line. They were out of position on that first play but started to settle down after that.
"We (coaches) told the kids on the sideline that the game was far from over. We knew coming in that Huntington was a very good football program. I had studied them a lot on film and from what I saw of them, I knew that this would be a big challenge for us. But out kids stuck with it and came up with a big win tonight."
Coronado started to mount its comeback when senior quarterback John Farella scored on a one-yard run with 4:14 left in the first quarter. The Cougars took the lead for good, 14-13 with 7:46 left in the half when tight end Travis Boman took in an eight-yard scoring pass from Farella and Spencer Cofer provided the point after.
In the final minute of the half, Patterson got the final three of his 83 yards of the half on a touchdown run. Cofer's kick gave the Cougars a 21-13 halftime lead.
Coronado further put Huntington in a hole by taking the second half kickoff in for its fourth touchdown. The key plays during an 80-yard scoring drive included an eight-yard scramble by Farella, a 13-yard pass from Farella to receiver Travis Little, and a five-yard run by Patterson. Each play came on third down and kept the drive alive.