LA JOLLA — Gene Edwards, the football coach at La Jolla High School, probably plays a decent game of poker. When he has a good hand, he keeps it a secret.
He found out Friday afternoon that he has a good hand this season. The Vikings defeated Mar Vista, 18-0, at La Jolla High.
Edwards wasn't sure what to expect. He has just two starters back from last season's City Western League champions. And his team's first test was against a team that also was a league champion in '87 and beat La Jolla to open last season.
Friday, La Jolla quarterback Fred de la Vega shook off first-half jitters and helped the Vikings, who led 3-0 at halftime on a 38-yard field goal by Mike Wollaeger, control the ball and the game in the second half.
De la Vega finished with just 6 completions in 13 attempts for 57 yards, but he improved in the second half. Midway through the third quarter, de la Vega hooked up with Mark Hutchin for two completions and 27 total yards. That drive, which covered 47 yards in nine plays, stalled at the Mar Vista 31. But it established the ball control Edwards was seeking.
"We preached all the last three weeks that we have to be a better ballclub in the second half," he said.
And so it happened. The Vikings capitalized on a Mar Vista mistake to get their first touchdown. With just more than three minutes left in the third quarter and the Mariners punting, the ball was snapped over the head of Mar Vista's Francisco Mondragon. He recovered at the 5, but La Jolla took over.
After an incomplete pass, de la Vega faked a handoff and kept the ball around right end for the touchdown. On the extra point, Wollaeger picked up a bad snap, dropped back and fired a two-point conversion to Erick Litch to make it 11-0.
What was perhaps de la Vega's best pass was called back. With 11:50 left, he fired a strike to Davey Berteaux, who made a couple of nifty moves and went into the end zone. The play covered 47 yards, but the Vikings had clipped.
Penalties bothered both teams in the first half: Mar Vista was whistled for 7 for 80 yards. La Jolla was penalized 5 times for 49 yards.
"We made far too many mistakes," Edwards said. "But that's typical of a first ballgame."
Mar Vista wasn't able to generate a drive until the fourth quarter. Stan Betters came in to relieve quarterback Mondragon, who had completed 3 of 9 for 48 yards. Betters got the Mariners rolling with completions of 20 and 22 yards to Olin Palanca and John Potino. But Berteaux foiled his plans, picking off a pass at his own 9 and streaking down the right sideline 91 yards for the final touchdown.