On Saturday afternoon the Huntington Beach Oilers and the Los Alamitos Griffins battled to gain the upper hand in the Sunset League race.
In end it was the visiting Oilers who held on for a narrow 7-6 victory in a knock down, drag out game at McAuliffe Middle School in Los Alamitos. .For the past few seasons this rivalry has been action-packed and full of intense play, and this weekend’s game was no different. With Los Al playing a more defensive, possession-minded game and the Oilers opting for a more fast-paced, offensive style of play, something was bound to give. The Griffins opened up early establishing their defensive style from the get-go and kept the Oilers from any real opportunities in the opening minutes. Los Al got on the board first when attack man Josh Jenks (1 goal) scored when he drove hard from the wing and bounced the ball past Oiler net minder Trevor Jackson. The Griffins struck again shortly after off a fluke play where Griffin long stick middie Matt Herbert (1g) attempted a pass to a teammate from half field and Jackson came out of the goal to intercept the pass and the ball flew over his head and into the goal, giving Los Al a two goal lead to close the first quarter.
Los Al seemed to be dictating the tempo of the game early, slowing down Huntington and turning the game into half field possessions, which favored the Girffins early on. Los Al’s defense was able to keep the Oilers scoreless for the first 15 minutes of the game. Huntington finally broke the drought when Jerritt Rodenas (2g) scored with a drive from X to make it a 2-1 game. However the Griffins answered back shortly on an extra-man opportunity when Brandon Ezell (1a) found Tyler Miller (2g, 1a) open for an easy goal, making it 3-1. Huntington’s star attackman Taylor Refice (4g, 1a) was kept quiet for much of the first half. However he was finally able to get on the board with one minute to play in the half when he scored on a drive from X, making it 3-2 Griffins at the break.
The third quarter was action packed on both ends of the field with excellent offensive movement that was countered with great team defense and excellent goalie play on both ends. Refice began to heat up for the Oilers minutes into the 3rd quarter when he scored back-to-back goals just minutes apart from each other to give Huntington their first lead of the game 4-3. Los Al was able to compose itself and Miller scored again with a hard fought goal midway through the quarter, knotting the score at 4 a piece. Refice struck again shortly when he drew a short stick slide, posted up at goal line extended and got to the middle of the field for a dip and dunk goal. Los Al continued to battle back and it was Josh Duchon (2g) who answered for the Griffins with a low-to-high rip as he drove from behind the goal, tying the game again 5-5. The final minutes of the 3rd quarter was an absolute frenzy to say the least; with each team forcing turnovers and each offense pressing to break the deadlock, the action was back and forth. In all the commotion Refice was able to pick up a rebound of his own shot and found Micah Willis (1g) open on the crease for an easy finish, closing the quarter 6-5 Huntington and setting the tempo for a fantastic fourth quarter finish.
In the opening minutes of the quarter Los Al had two good opportunities to score, but Jackson made two excellent saves to preserve the lead; on his second save he turned the defense into offense and Rodenas was able to give Huntington their biggest lead of the night when he caught a pass from Alex Kowalski (1a), making it a 7-5 game. Los Al pressed on and midway through the quarter Huntington Beach was flagged for two separate penalties giving the Griffins a 2-man up opportunity. Los Al capitalized on the power play when Miller found a cutting Duchon on the crease who buried the ball past Jackson, making it 7-6 Oilers. With two and half minutes left Huntington called a timeout but during the time out the Huntington bench was called with an unsportsmanlike conduct and possession was rewarded back to Los Alamitos, giving them a chance to equalize. The remaining two minutes were frantic to say the least, with Los Al pressing to goal and trying to square the game. Los Al had their chance when Duchon found Jenks wide open on the crease for a 1-on-1 with Jackson, but the keeper stood tall in cage and stonewalled Jenks to preserve the win for the Oilers, 7-6.
The win puts Huntington Beach in the driver’s seat for the Sunset league and their record has improved to an impressive 10-2. Los Al, now 10-4, has the week off while the Oilers visit Marina on Tuesday. The two teams will meet up again in a week in a half in what is sure to be the deciding game for the Sunset league championship.
—Adam Guy MaxLaxOC.com