The Valencia football season was not the prettiest, to say the least. From having a COVID-19 outbreak at the school to starting the season 1-2, the team never lost focus. Coach Larry Muir was proud of how the team never gave up.
“We just had to put the work in every week and that’s to the kid’s credit,” Muir said. “The great thing was our back’s against the wall. You know, kind of symbolic to our season. But to their credit, they got us to this position right now.”
Even with a tough season, the Vikings had a chance to reach the CIF Southern Section Division 5 after beating Chino Hills, 24-21.
The key to winning this game for the Vikings was their defense, which only allowed a combined 19 points and 69 rushing yards in their last two playoff games. But Chino Hills had a dual-threat quarterback that the Vikings were aware of all week and knew they had to limit his presence on game day.
“He’s a great player, and we were really trying to limit him. That was one of our keys,” Muir said. “We knew we played really well against the run. So we were trying to really limit the quarterback and some of the big plays he could get.”
That’s exactly what the Vikings did Friday as they beat Chino Hills in a thriller advancing to the CIF-SS Division 5 championship on Friday. They will face a familiar opponent in Oaks Christian in a rematch of the 2017 CIF-SS Division 2 championship game.
Compared to the Huskies’ quarterback, Valencia quarterback Trey Erickson struggled. He only had one passing touchdown and threw two interceptions. Meanwhile, Chino Hills’ Bobby Johnson had one passing and one rushing touchdown with one interception.
The first quarter was a defensive battle. Neither team was really able to get their offense going. But midway through the second quarter, the Vikings struck first. A 62-yard touchdown run by Daniel Hernandez put Valencia up, 7-0.
On their first drive of the second half, the Huskies needed to get their offense going. Johnson made sure that happened. He had a 37-yard scramble which would later set up a nine-yard rushing touchdown by him and tie the game at 7-7.
On the ensuing Vikings possession, Erickson threw his second interception of the night. The Huskies’ Kade Musser picked him off.
The interception set up the Huskies with a short field. The offense scored quickly with a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Jermar Jackson to put Chino Hills up 14-7 late in the third.
The Vikings need their offense to step up badly. Around a minute into the fourth quarter, Erickson connected with Duhron Goodman for a 67-yard touchdown pass. Despite struggling all game prior to the touchdown, Erickson never got in his own head.
“I trusted my teammates to make plays to,” Erickson said. “We all started to click and we were good.”
After the 67-yard touchdown to Goodman, the Huskies got the ball back and Johnson made one of his only mistakes of the night. Jake Stauffer picked off Johnson and returned it for a touchdown. The momentum was fully with the Vikings after two quick scores.
“All you have to do is read your keys and you can make plays like that,” Stauffer said. “I saw the ball come, pick it, and score.”
After a punt from each team, the Huskies had the ball midway through the second quarter. With a targeting penalty on the Vikings’ defense, Chino Hills was able to score easily with a 6-yard touchdown pass to William Davis. The game was tied for the third time, with the score knotted at 21-21 with five minutes to go.
The Vikings’ offense drove down the field but were stalled around Chino’s 29-yard line. On a fourth-and-5 Valencia decided to go for a field goal to put them up three. Kicker Cameron Fontal hit the field goal right down the middle to put up Valencia 24-21 late in the fourth.
With about a minute left in the game, Chino Hills got the ball back with their work cut out for them. Johnson hit Davis for a long pass down the right sideline to the Vikings 27-yard line.
Instead of going for the tie on fourth-and-8 4th & 8 with a field goal, the Huskies decided to go for it all and threw a fade to the right corner of the end zone. It was incomplete, but there was a flag on the field. The call was offensive pass interference on the Huskies, which sealed the win for the Vikings.
Valencia is the only team left from the Foothill League after finishing third in the final league standings.
“We’re excited to represent the Santa Clarita Valley, represent the Foothill League,” Muir said. “You know, you do this to try to play Thanksgiving weekend. So it’s awesome to do that.”
Next week, the Vikings will be looking to get revenge in the Division 5 title game. They will have a home game against Oaks Christian. In their last meeting, the Vikings lost 20-19.
“It feels almost like a lifetime before because in 2017, that was pre-pandemic. That was a couple of years ago,” Muir said. “So this is a whole new team, whole new era, a whole new deal. We’re just excited to be there. We’re fired up. We will work hard all week and try to represent the Santa Clarita Valley.”