In the third quarter, Valencia defensive end Ben Seymour hoisted the football with one hand, with legs doing high-knees in a circle as he neared the Viking sideline.
The post-fumble recovery dance was indicative of Valencia’s eventual 52-34 win over Heritage in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 semifinals on Friday.
“It was pretty much the best feeling of my life so far,” Seymour said of his recovery, which set up a scoring drive for the Vikings.
But the mood wasn’t constantly upbeat for Valencia on its home turf.
The Vikings (21-1) scored on a pass from quarterback Connor Downs to Mykael Wright on their opening possession, then rattled off two more scores, both on Luring Paialii rushes of five yards.
With the home team holding a 21-0 lead, the Pioneers’ Sherod White went for a pair of touchdown runs himself.
Valencia quickly countered with a field goal from Jake Calver on the next drive, but Heritage quarterback Devan Freedland hit Rashoud Shelton with a 50-yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 24-21 heading into halftime.
“We just knew we had to step it up, and we knew it was going to be black and blue, we’re going to face adversity, but we just had to overcome and that’s what we did,” Seymour said.
Connor Downs opened up the second half with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mykael Wright, but again, White was there to dampen the mood with a 30-yard scamper to set the score at 31-28.
With 6:59 remaining in the third frame, Paialii went for his third touchdown of the night, this one on a 2-yard push.
On Heritage’s next possession, Seymour had his moment, and the Vikings capitalized on the fumble recovery for a touchdown. Downs punched it in on a quarterback sneak.
“I came over to the sideline and Coach (Larry) Muir was trying to figure out what play to run and I said, coach, let me do a quarterback sneak right now,” said Downs. “He said, all right, you got it.”
Heritage (11-2) scored once more, but Downs followed with another scoring rush. The Vikings will play Oaks Christian in the CIF-SS finals matchup.