Just when the Central Section desperately needed some muscle to save face in the state, it received a weight room-full from Edison High on Friday night at Sunnyside Stadium.
The Tigers, ranked second in the section and likely about to break into the state Top 25 as well, closed with a 20-0 rush — literally — to defeat Crenshaw-Los Angeles 29-14.
Blake Wright scored on runs of 12 and 27 yards while rushing for 228 of the Tigers' 359 total as they mauled the Cougars up front in the second half to improve to 4-0.
"We got physical and it felt great doing it, too," Wright said after gaining 138 of his yards in the final two quarters against a Crenshaw team generally regarded as the best in the Los Angeles City Section.
The Cougars (1-2), a week after threatening the state's ninth-ranked Long Beach Poly into the fourth quarter of a 28-15 loss, took a 14-9 lead against Edison on a 27-yard pass from Ajene Harris to Nolan Grigsby with 3 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Then it was all Tigers to the wire for a team that expected its first test after crushing Clovis (43-6), Carson (40-6) and Merced (45-0).
"I was telling the guys, 'You're going to get tested; how are you going to respond?' " Tigers first-year coach Matt Johnson said. "I didn't like the comfort feeling (in the first three weeks).
"This is where I wanted the team to be. Sometime you have to get in a ball game to really test your character. We got in a ball game and I think our kids came through."
Coming out of the locker room at half, with his team leading 9-7, Johnson barked to his charges: "You're just where you want to be; you wanted to be challenged."
No one, then, took that to heart more than his offensive line, which punished Crenshaw behind the play of tackles Bryan Romero and Hezekiah Hamilton, guards Yasmon Haynes, Kevin Vance and John Washington, and center Mitch Soper.
And it certainly helped, also, that Johnson has the luxury of rotating fresh legs into the backfield with Khai Williams and free safety standout Kevin Nutt, who set up Wright's go-ahead score with a 51-yard bolt after breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Edison, which will be idle next week before returning to Sunnyside to close its nonleague schedule against Clovis West, also received two interceptions from Tyler Horton; another — a key diving theft late in the fourth quarter — from Tyrone Smith; and unceasing pressure from linemen Haynes, Ali Shabazz and Anthony Shepard.
Crenshaw's Harris, after completing 11 of his first 15 pass attempts, went 4 for his final 19 against a deep Tigers secondary featuring Horton, Nutt, John Fletcher and Aaron Johnson.
All this came on a night that Long Beach Poly routed Bakersfield 27-7 in another intersectional showdown. Bakersfield was ranked No. 1 in the section and No. 20 in the state.
Earlier this season, top-flight section D-I teams had been dominated twice: Central 31-7 in a season-opener at Valor Christian of Highlands Ranch, Colo.; and Clovis North 48-0 at state No. 2 St. John Bosco-Bellflower.
In addition, going back nine months, Clovis North lost 28-7 to Long Beach Poly for the Southern California Regional D-I bowl championship.
The state seeding committee surely has noted this and considers recent history when determining bowl invitations.
That's clearly looking too far ahead for an Edison program that last won a section large-schools title 38 years ago.
Bullard, for one, has a Nov. 8 County/Metro Athletic Conference date with the Tigers circled on the calendar.
But if Friday was a measuring stick, Edison hit a home run.
"We have a billion things to clean up," Johnson said. "But I'm real happy. That was a good team we beat; those guys are real good."
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