Valencia football sees halftime lead slip away

Valencia's Mykael Wright makes a one-handed interception in the end zone against Calabasas at Valencia on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

A Calabasas High defender slung Valencia quarterback Aaron Thomas to the ground late in the fourth quarter.

The punt team shuffled onto the field.

It was the Coyotes’ eighth sack of the game and the all-but-official-end of a tantalizing opportunity.

Valencia led one of the Southern Section’s most vaunted teams by five at halftime and lost 37-21 at home Friday night.

The Coyotes (6-0) played at another level in the second half, and the Vikings (3-2) did not.

“We didn’t bring the fire that we brought in the first half,” said Valencia running back Moises Haynes. “We kind of let go.”

Haynes carried the ball 17 times for 101 yards and a touchdown in the first half. And Thomas hit Kuan Glasgow for a 21-yard touchdown pass 11 seconds before the break to give Valencia a 21-16 lead.

But from there, the Coyotes constantly pressured Thomas, Haynes carried the ball just three times for 4 yards and Calabasas scored 21 unanswered points.

“The second half you could just tell there was something about the team that was just slow,” Thomas said. “We were up so high and amped, and then we kind of sunk down and chilled.

“We can’t do that.”

It seems to be a trend for the Vikings this season. The team led Chaminade 15-14 at half in week two before losing 42-15.

Thomas and Vikings coach Larry Muir struggled Friday to pinpoint why the Vikings haven’t figured out how to finish.

A big reason against Calabasas was quarterback Tristan Gebbia.

The Nebraska-bound senior completed 36-of-52 passes for 512 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He completed 12 of his last 14 attempts.

“They did a really good job in the short passing game,” Muir said. “They got the ball out quickly, and our pass rush wasn’t’ quite where it needed to be.”

Coyotes wide out Darnay Holmes caught 11 passes for 170 yards and a first-quarter touchdown that gave Calabasas a 7-0 lead at the 3:39 mark.

Valencia forced the Coyotes to turn the ball over on downs at the Vikings 26 and 6 yard lines on two first-half drives.

Valencia defensive back Mykael Wright ended another drive with an interception in the end zone.

Haynes tied the score 7-7 early in the second quarter with a 7-yard scoring run.

And after Calabasas sacked Thomas in the end zone for a safety, Jayvaun Wilson scampered for a 54-yard touchdown. He broke a tackle at the 13 before finishing the run.

That was the night’s highlight for Valencia.

Gebbia found Brendan Radley-Hiles for an acrobatic 19-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter for a 23-21 lead. He threw for another score and ran for one before the night was over.

“Their level of play rose and ours didn’t,” Muir said. “That’s the bottom line.”

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