The Valencia High Vikings rollicked through the Foothill League and their first CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoff game. But in their home quarterfinal game Friday night against a rugged Arroyo Grande squad, they’ll have to be tough. “We’re going to need a good performance from everybody to come out on the other side with a win,” said Vikings coach Larry Muir.
The Eagles (10-1) feature a no-huddle offense focused on the run game, which is headlined by sophomore running back James Gilmet (149 carries, 1,058 yards, nine touchdowns). “Just swarm the running back the whole time,” said Valencia nose guard Josh Washington. “Hit him hard the whole time. That’s about it.” The Vikings (9-2) welcome the hurry-up style. They might even have an advantage in it, since many Arroyo Grande players play both ways. Sawyer May, dual-threat quarterback and Arroyo Grande’s second-leading rusher, will be a game-time decision, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. May suffered an ankle injury in a first-round win against Westlake. Defensively, the Eagles are traditional. They don’t use many formations, but the ones they use work well. “They’ve been doing (the same defense) for years. They’re really, really good at it. It’s very sound, it’s very fundamental,” Muir said. “They’re very physical. They play a tough brand of football, and it’s going to be a big challenge.” Given the intensity of the defense, an efficient Vikings passing game is crucial to creating options on the ground as well as to Valencia’s hopes of a win. Quarterback Aaron Thomas has completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,599 yards and 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also rushed for an additional 200 yards and six touchdowns, while running back Moises Haynes has rushed for 1,388 yards and 18 touchdowns. No. 2 running back Jayvaun Wilson, who also starts at safety, will not play in the contest due to an undisclosed injury. “In order to get Mo free and get our offense moving, we’ve got to be able to throw the ball, find the holes in the coverage, play a lot of zone,” said receiver Zion Dunson. “And once we find those holes, the running game will open up as well and we’ll be able to move.”