Esperanza running back Temitope Sonuyi's four-yard touchdown run with seven seconds left gave the top-ranked Aztecs a wild, 49-43 victory over No. 2 Edison and the Sunset League title Thursday at Huntington Beach High.
Sonuyi's run capped a frenetic fourth quarter in which the teams combined for 47 points--28 by Esperanza--and traded the lead five times.
"That's a championship game," said Aztec Coach Gary Meek, whose team won its first Sunset League title since 1997 and fourth overall, giving him the perfect present on his 52nd birthday. "It hasn't set in yet. I'm still in shock."
The Aztecs trailed, 43-42, with 1 minute 1 second left after Edison quarterback Richard Schwartz connected with Denny Flanagan for a seven-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing kickoff gave Esperanza the ball at its 23-yard line with less than a minute to play.
Two consecutive completions by Aztec quarterback Ryan Sausedo moved the ball to the Edison 40, then Sonuyi ran for nine yards to the 31. After an incompletion, Sausedo hooked up with Daniel Pace for a 27-yard gain to the 4. Sonuyi ran it in on the next play.
"I told coach I'd get it," said Sonuyi, who finished with 235 yards and four touchdowns in 34 carries, giving him 2,111 yards to eclipse the school single-season record of 1,986 set in 1986 by Mike Miscione. "Once I got that ball, I knew I was getting in [the end zone] no matter who was in my way."
After he scored, Sonuyi took a knee and pointed skyward. It was a moment to remember for the county's leading rusher, who missed five games last season with a wrist injury.
The Chargers (8-2, 4-1) got the ball back with five seconds left, but Schwartz's pass was intercepted by Anthony Vicencia with no time remaining.
For a while in the fourth quarter, it looked as if Esperanza (9-1, 5-0) wouldn't need any late heroics. Sonuyi ran up the middle for an eight-yard touchdown with 3:57 remaining that put the Aztecs ahead, 42-31.
But Edison quickly drove 56 yards for a touchdown, which came on Charles Linman's one-yard charge with 1:49 left and made the score 42-37 after a two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Chargers recovered an onside kick and were awarded the ball at the Esperanza 47 even though it appeared an Edison player touched the ball before it went the 10 necessary yards.
The Chargers needed only three plays to score. Schwartz hit Flanagan for a 22-yard pass play. Darryl Poston ran for 18 yards. Then, after Poston was stopped for no gain, Schwartz found Flanagan again in the corner of the end zone to give Edison its one-point lead.
"I'm really proud of our kids," said Edison Coach Dave White, who was bidding for his first league title since 1990. "We were down all game and we had to play catch-up. It's obviously a tough one to lose."
Poston finished with 175 yards and a touchdown in 26 carries for the Chargers, and Flanagan caught six passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Esperanza could have put the game away early in the fourth quarter when Schwartz underthrew a pass intended for Flanagan. Two Aztec defenders had a shot at the floating ball near the goal line, but one of them tipped it into Flanagan's hands for a 37-yard touchdown and a 31-28 Edison lead.
The Chargers only managed to score 17 points in the first half despite having excellent field position on each of their six possessions. Their average starting position was their 48.
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League Overall School W L T W L T Esperanza 5 0 0 9 1 0 Edison 4 1 0 8 2 0 Los Alamitos 3 2 0 8 2 0 Fountain Valley 2 3 0 5 5 0 Marina 1 4 0 6 4 0 Huntington Beach 0 5 0 2 8 0
* Esperanza 49, Edison 43
* Fountain Valley 38, Marina 7
* Los Alamitos 21, Huntington Beach 9
1937 Norwalk Excelsior 1938 Long Beach Jordan 1939 Anaheim 1940 Anaheim 1941 Anaheim 1942 Newport Harbor 1943 Anaheim Norwalk Excelsior Santa Ana 1944 Santa Ana 1945 Santa Ana 1946 Anaheim Huntington Beach 1947 Fullerton Santa Ana 1948 Fullerton 1949 Fullerton 1950 Fullerton 1951 Anaheim 1952 Anaheim Fullerton 1953 Anaheim 1954 Anaheim 1955 Anaheim 1956 Anaheim 1957 Fullerton 1958 Anaheim Santa Ana 1959 Santa Ana 1960 Anaheim 1961 Anaheim 1962 Anaheim 1963 Anaheim Santa Ana Westminster 1964 Anaheim Santa Ana Valley Westminster 1965 Santa Ana Valley 1966 Anaheim 1967 Santa Ana 1968 Westminster 1969 Anaheim 1970 Anaheim Newport Harbor 1971 Westminster 1972 Western 1973 Anaheim Newport Harbor 1974 Newport Harbor 1975 Westminster 1976 Edison 1977 Fountain Valley 1978 Edison 1979 Edison 1980 Edison 1981 Edison 1982 Edison Fountain Valley 1983 Fountain Valley Huntington Beach Marina 1984 Fountain Valley 1985 Edison Marina 1986 Marina 1987 Fountain Valley 1988 Fountain Valley 1989 Edison Ocean View 1990 Edison 1991 Santa Ana 1992 Servite 1993 Huntington Beach 1994 Los Alamitos 1995 Esperanza 1996 Esperanza Fountain Valley Los Alamitos 1997 Esperanza 1998 Los Alamitos 1999 Los Alamitos 2000 Esperanza