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By John Harte / Special to The Californian
By ZACH EWING Ccalifornian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Fresno-Edison didn’t exactly smash Frontier’s five-game winning streak and Southwest Yosemite League championship; it’s more like the Tigers ran right past.
No. 6 seed Edison, using its blinding speed and acrobatics for big play after big play, negated No. 3 Frontier’s size advantage and won 42-21 in the Division I quarterfinals Friday night at Titan Stadium.
“It was like race cars against steamrollers, and they did a good job getting their race cars into space,” Frontier coach Rich Cornford said.
After Frontier opened the game with a 32-yard scoring strike from Evan Moore to Adam Huyck, Edison scored 35 unanswered points, using running backs Blake Wright and Kevin Nutt in the middle and receivers Deondre Howard and Isaiah Runderson with swing passes on the outside to great effectiveness.
“It was about execution,” Edison coach Ricky Manning, Jr., said. “Our offensive staff did a really nice job. We needed something to give the running game space. They’re big inside, and we needed something to counter that.”
Runderson had 121 receiving yards in the first half, and Wright and Nutt combined for 239 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“We have some strong guys ourselves,” Manning said, “and when you combine that with our speed, it’s just amazing to when it plays out like this.”
Edison (9-3) advances to play No. 2 seed Clovis North in the semifinals next Friday. Liberty, which upset top seed Clovis, will play at Fresno-Central in the other semi of a bracket where the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds didn’t survive a single game.
The key stretch in this one came on either side of halftime. Frontier trailed 14-7 but was driving in Edison territory with a first down when Justin Holmes made a diving interception of a deep ball from Moore. The Tigers then went 84 yards in just 53 seconds to pad their lead before halftime, with the big play a 58-yard one-handed catch and run from Runderson that will have a long stay on the highlight reel.
“We were about in field goal position, and then the kid makes a great interception, and they follow that up with a tremendous catch,” Cornford said. “They just made some great plays.”
Then, Edison took the second-half kickoff and scored two plays later on Wright’s 80-yard burst up the sideline. Just like that, it was 28-7.
“They were definitely quick, and they could make plays,” said Frontier senior Matt Bushnell, who added that a slippery field wasn’t helping the Titans’ defensive efforts. “It was definitely difficult to stop them.”
Frontier (7-4) had to play without Moore, who left with a hip injury, in the second half, and the Titans later lost their top defensive lineman, Augie Alcantar.
Still, Frontier got back into the game in the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Caleb Thompson hit Bushnell with a 47-yard touchdown pass on a drive set up by a 51-yard kickoff return from Justin Cash, who also had 73 rushing yards.
On the ensuing Edison possession, Jasmit Thind, who also had 70 receiving yards, scooped up a fumble and returned it 52 yards.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball better,” Manning said. “This is probably one of the best teams we’ve played, and we knew they’d make it a great game.”
Frontier got the ball back down two scores with 6:08 to play, but Thompson was sacked twice, and Edison took over on downs and punched in the clinching touchdown with 3:22 left.
In a flash, Frontier’s league-championship season was over before its playoff run even got started.
“We knew that if we could win our league we could make a run in the playoffs,” Bushnell said. “We just didn’t make plays tonight. We just weren’t good enough.”