FULLERTON — Servite High School's debut in the Sunset League was a sleepwalk Friday night, but then the Friars' defensive star, A.J. Gass, has taken the long walk before.
Gass, who once walked 16 miles to practice from his home in Corona, walked over perennial power Edison, getting six sacks as Servite got defensive with a 28-6 victory in front of 3,200 fans at Cal State Fullerton.
Servite (3-0-1, 1-0) made an impressive debut in its first game in a public league by recovering a fumble, intercepting a pass and recording eight sacks. Gass, playing strong safety, also had the game's biggest play early in the second quarter.
Edison (2-2, 0-1) was trailing, 6-0, with 9:41 remaining in the first half when Gass burst through the Chargers' offensive line and blindsided Edison quarterback Geoff Bell at the one-yard line.
Servite's Eric Gunther fell on the loose ball in Edison's end zone for a touchdown and suddenly Servite had a 14-0 lead. Edison, which was coming off an upset victory over Nevada's defending state champion, Las Vegas Eldorado, never recovered.
"We self-destructed," Edison Coach Dave White said. "They outplayed us all night. They played great defense and we didn't block well."
The only suspense was whether Servite would record its third shutout of the season after previously blanking Mater Dei and Valencia, two defending Southern Section division champions.
But Edison avoided the shutout late in the fourth quarter when Adam Cancelleri scored on a five-yard run against Servite's second stringers. Afterward, Servite Coach Larry Toner praised the Friars' defense.
"A.J. was a little more spectacular than the others, but I liked the way everyone played defense tonight," Toner said. "It was a great team effort."
Offensively, Servite was once again led by running back Elphamous Malbrue. Malbrue gained 143 yards in 17 carries, including a 74-yard scoring run with 5:05 remaining in the first half that pushed Servite ahead, 20-0.
But the night belonged to Servite's defense, and particularly Gass, the speedy strong safety who once walked miles to get to practice.
"I missed my ride and had already spent my money, so I had to walk that day to school from Corona," Gass said. "I walked all day before I got to Kramer and the 91 Freeway and my mom found me."
Edison's offensive line failed to find Gass all evening.
"Nobody ever came out to block me," he said. "I've never had a game like this before. I thought the fumble recovery in the end zone really picked the defense up and turned the game around."