Eden Chiles nodded to himself as he walked off the sidelines, preparing for one final moment of heroism.
With his Downey Vikings down by one point and two minutes left to play, the senior Oregon commit went to work, the same take-charge attitude he’s had all season. He removed the routes while taking his team forward in the field. He ducked, weaved, dumped a third-down pass for a first down. The stage was set, crawling the end zone, a Chula Vista win over Mater Dei Catholic and the Vikings’ first CIF regional title in program history a few yards and a field goal away.
And then, a pass fumbled and a season was whimpered. Mater Dei’s DJ Overstreet picked off a chili pass and won 22–21 in the Division 2-AA CIF Regional Finals.
Chiles threw his helmet as he walked off the field, looking at coach Jack Williams.
“Coach,” Williams recalled Chiles saying, “I need a hug. I’m about to cry. I lost it for us.”
But Williams tried to reassure him. He was not. And the Vikings wouldn’t be anywhere near where they are without him.
After a broken hand ended a promising junior season, Chiles threw for 36 touchdowns in one of the best performances by any prep quarterback in the nation. When the defense faltered and stalled in grind-it-out wins all season, there was Chiles, Williams said, jumping like a kid on the sidelines and telling his teammates they’d make a play.
And on Friday night till 1.15 am he was cooking. First came a 40-yard pass to senior Bryant Carey for Downey’s first score of the game, then a 35-yard strike up the middle to Ian Hernandez early in the second quarter extended Downey’s lead to 21–0. The defense did its job, picking off two passes from dynamic Crusaders quarterback Dominic Nankill in the first quarter.
But everything went wrong.
As Downey’s offense stalled, Mater De Catholico came in. Nankil reached into his pocket and found the receiver. A touchdown pass late in the second quarter and a short run in the third brought the game within one score early in the fourth quarter.
“I thought maybe we came out and instead of being us,” Williams said of the second half, “we probably did some things we tried not to lose the game.”
And just as Downey looked poised to pull away the victory, the Crusaders picked off a pitch-back trick play thrown by the Downey receiver after Chiles drove him back down the field in the fourth quarter.
“That was me,” Williams said. “I thought we started to get some momentum … like, ‘Hey, let’s try this, and try to burst the bubble. ‘”
Moments later, Nankill rolled left and threw a bomb to receiver Rollin George for an 87-yard gain. Anthony McMillan finished the drive with his second score of the game. The Vikings’ energy evaporated, down 22–21 – and then fumbled on the subsequent kickoff.
Chile’s final campaign was cut short. It was a bitter end to one of the most successful years in Downey program history — but Williams said its legacy as Southern Section Division 4 champions was already sealed.
“I’m sure people will build on him,” Williams said of Chiles, “and what he brings to the program.”
Chile hopes this is just the beginning.
“I hope they carry on this legacy,” Chile said. “I hope they win CIF every year. I just want to come here and see the other kids how we shined this year.