History could be afoot for Valencia football.
After appearances in 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2013, the Vikings will find themselves in another championship game this Friday night at home against Oaks Christian.
“I’m excited and I know as a team, we’re super excited,” running back Moises Haynes said. “It’s also nerve-racking. When we won last Friday we were almost about to cry. Because to make it to the finals is honestly a blessing.”
Oaks Christian, which last saw a CIF-SS championship game in 2011, shares the same excitement. But the Lions’ emotions are tinged with a sharp sense of competition.
“They’re a great football team,” Oaks Christian running back Zach Charbonnet said. “They’ve had a lot of success this season, but for us, I feel like we can come out harder, stronger and that we can play with more heart as a team.”
The Lions (11-2) are coming off a 31-24 win over Upland in the CIF-SS semifinals that showcased their balanced offense. In that matchup, Charbonnet rushed for 107 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.
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Quarterback Josh Calvert completed 16 of 28 passes for 365 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“(Our strategy is) pretty much the same thing as every other week,” said defensive lineman Josh Washington. “Be physical off the line, be faster than they are, stop the run, stop the running back and get to the quarterback.”
Valencia’s offense is clicking as well. In last week’s 52-34 win over Heritage, Connor Downs threw for two scores with zero interceptions and completed 15 of 24 passes. He also rushed for an additional 116 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Although Haynes didn’t reach the end zone, he was the leading rusher for the Vikings (12-1) with 146 yards on 21 carries. Luring Paialii scored three times and Mykael Wright scored twice.
Jayvaun Wilson did not play due to injury and will be a game time decision for tonight’s game.
MORE: Valencia football beats Heritage for a trip to the CIF-SS finals
The top challenge for the Vikings offense is Kayvon Thibodeaux, the No. 1 defensive end in the nation for the class of 2018, according to 247sports.com. He currently leads his team with 86 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks. He’s also caught three touchdowns.
“They’re a great team,” said Thibodeaux of Valencia. “Honestly, its just about playing hard and getting stops. We know they pass a lot and have great receivers and a great quarterback, so we’ve got to be able to maintain. Slow down their offense, make them change it up.”
Valencia takes the next steps towards earning a ring tonight at 7:30 p.m. at home. The game will also be shown on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
“(We’re) trying to do something that’s never been done before at Valencia,” said Downs. “…All of us seniors are especially excited because we actually have this opportunity now to do something that’s never been done.”