With the clock frozen in overtime against Calabasas on Friday, Valencia football lined up inches away from the end zone.
Luring Paialii stood at the ready to take the handoff, just as he had done a seemingly endless amount of times leading to this point.
“That was the most emotional play of my life,” Paialii said. “Just because I know how important it is to beat Calabasas. Not just Calabasas, just to win the game.”
The Vikings had brought the score to 21-20 at the home field on a Paialii rush and fell short on a 2-point conversion immediately after. However, a facemask penalty was called on the Coyotes, giving Valencia one last chance.
Paialii charged ahead with the might of a bulldozer, his teammates pushing and shoving behind him. But the ball never crossed the line.
“I’ll never say that we came up a yard short,” said quarterback Davis Cop. “In the referees’ eyes we did, but I will forever fight for the fact that we were in on the play that the penalty was on. And I think (Luring) did a fantastic job.”
Calabasas football has won three consecutive games against Valencia in the last three seasons, but the 3-0 streak doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story of the sense of rivalry and intensity that arises when these two teams get together.
Valencia (2-3) picked up momentum with three minutes remaining in the first quarter, recovering a Coyote fumble. Paialii rumbled 14 yards on the next play to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
On the first play of Calabasas’ ensuing possession, the Vikes’ Mitchell Torres picked off a Jaden Casey throw to further build Valencia’s energy.
“I saw a receiver to his left, and he was eyeing him. I just dropped back and saw him throw, and I just dove and picked it off,” Torres said.
Two plays later, however, the Coyotes (4-1) recovered a Viking fumble to turn the tide once again, but never fully capitalized as Valencia forced a turnover on downs when a Julien Stokes run came up short.
Valencia then capped a 17-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown rush from Paialii for a 14-0 advantage with 2:36 left in the half.
Calabasas came back with two touchdowns in the third quarter to tie the game: a 4-yard scamper from Mycah Pittman with a 2-point conversion and a 14-yard rush from Stokes with a missed PAT.
The Vikes made a fourth-quarter push with the ground game, at one point handing the ball to Paialii 11 consecutive times, but were unable to score, forcing overtime.
Casey punched it in from the 1-yard line for the game-winning score in overtime.
“These last two years have been ridiculous,” Cop said. “It’s been a back-and-forth battle. We got to see two of the top teams in Southern California go after it and go after it really well for a really long time on the field. Tonight you got to see that again.”