June 19, 2024

As linebacker Kamar Mothudi of Los Alamitos High finished shaking hands with Edison players after a 21-10 victory on Friday night that gave his team the Sunset League championship and a likely high seeding in the Southern Section Division 2 playoffs, he was reminded that a year ago he was playing in the Division 11 playoffs for Campbell Hall.

“Honestly, it all feels the same,” he said. “It’s high school football. I’m excited to be in an environment where people truly care about football. I want to pursue this as far as I can. It’s really my passion.”

Mothudi, who committed to Oregon, is going to need to provideall the elite tackling he can for the Griffins (8-2, 5-0) because they likely lost two key defensive players to injuries, lineman Liki Lotulelei and linebacker Zechariah Misa.

Edison (6-4, 4-1) gave the Griffins a real scare. Using the clock to limit an offense that had scored 62, 69 and 63 points in its last three games, the Chargers were in position to pull off an upset.

Trailing 14-10 early in the fourth quarter, Edison had the ball on the 47-yard line. That’s when quarterback Save Niumata, making his first appearance after missing a month because of an injury, was called for consecutive 15-yard intentional grounding penalties under pressure from Los Alamitos’ pass rush. The Chargers never recovered.

Los Alamitos got the ball back, and rugby star Lenny Ibarra scored the clinching touchdown on a 28-yard run with 5:44 left.

Edison coach Jeff Grady said, “Sometimes as a quarterback, you’re in survival mode and you have to get rid of the ball.”

The game’s big stars stepped forward. Edison junior running back Julius Gillick grinded his way for 85 yards in 26 carries.

“Eighteen is outstanding,” Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton said, referring to Gillick by his jersey number.

Los Alamitos running back Anthony League helped his team overcome no first downs on three possessions to start the second half by picking up gains of 11 and 34 yards in the fourth quarter.

Then there was the play of 6-foot-2, 330-pound sophomore defensive tackle Manoah Faupusa of Los Alamitos. He was winning battles in the middle, had a sack and made a key block in the the Griffins’ jumbo formation while playing fullback.

Each team had just two possessions in the first half. Los Alamitos held a 14-7 halftime lead after Edison scored with 13 seconds left on a perfectly executed third-and-goal play from the five, with Niumata connecting with an uncovered Daniel Sonnenberg on a swing pass.

Los Alamitos scored on each of its possessions, receiving an 11-yard touchdown run from League on its opening drive and a seven-yard touchdown run from Jerod Terry in the second quarter. Both teams’ defenses were denying big plays, forcing the offenses to grind out yards and use up clock.

Daniel Sonnenberg of Edison celebrates after his touchdown against Los Alamitos with 13 seconds left in the first half.

Daniel Sonnenberg of Edison celebrates after his touchdown against Los Alamitos with 13 seconds left in the first half.

(Craig Weston)

Missing the game because of turf toe was Los Alamitos’ Davon Mitchell, an Oklahoma-bound tight end. As if Edison assistant coaches needed additional motivation, several were charged $10 to park at Veterans Stadium despite identifying themselves.

Now the focus is on the playoff brackets to be released at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Grady has no complaints with a team that started the season three months ago having its opening game in Maui canceled because of the tragic fires.

“We played our rears off all night,” he said. “I love our team. We’ve made progress.”

Los Alamitos has the kind of speed, strength and talent up front that can lead to playoff success. And it has Mothudi.

“I’m ready,” Mothudi said.

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