Regardless of any touchdown, injury, penalty or sack that occurred on Valencia’s football field on Friday night, the Vikings mantra remained the same throughout the game against Sierra Canyon:
“We’re not tired.”
But a relentless defense and an offense that refused to give up weren’t enough to earn Valencia a win as they fell to the Trailblazers 44-38.
“We’ve been practicing so hard for this game,” said Luring Paialii. “We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game … we came in knowing it was going to be a heavyweight fight, so we prepared ourselves and sadly, sadly, we came up short.”
Sierra Canyon (2-2) was the first to dent the scoreboard. After recovering a fumble on the first play of the game, Hunter Williams took it 58 yards to the house on the second play. The Trailblazers tacked on a field goal for a 10-0 lead with 8:57 to go in the first quarter.
Valencia (1-2) countered on their ensuing drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Davis Cop to Hunter Koch. Paialii punched it in from the 4-yard line to give the Vikings a the lead, then the Vikes added a field goal of their own to make it 17-10.
To close out the first quarter, Sierra Canyon running back Hunter Williams went on a 74-yard tear to tie the game.
In the second frame, running back Jake Santos went out with what appeared to be a knee injury, leaving ground game duties to Paialii and Nick Pham.
Pham had the majority of touches in the third and fourth quarters.
“I really look up to Jayvaun (Wilson) and Jake. They mentor me a ton. Especially Lu, too,” Pham said. “Lu tells me just run hard, just do what you do, like block everything else out. So I think it was mostly because of them. I attacked tonight as they told me to.”
The junior ran hard not just because a game was on the line, but also as a way to honor his former teammate and friend, Christian Nsubuga, who died earlier this week.
“I played mostly for him,” Pham said. “I was on JV with him. We were actually pretty close. It took an impact on me.”
With a little over five minutes left in the second quarter, JD Sumlin scored on an 11-yard run to give Sierra Canyon a 24-17 edge.
Paialii then scored his second touchdown of the night, this one from the 4-yard line. Trailblazers quarterback Chayden Peery ended the half with an 82-yard touchdown pass to Jared Staub, who happens to be a transfer from West Ranch.
Peery, a sophomore, showed off his arm with a handful of floaters and deep balls, but was constantly challenged by an aggressive Valencia pass rush.
“I feel like he definitely gave him a good test,” said Paialii, “and if not, then I mean, we gave it our all.”
Cop scored on a quarterback keeper, then Peery launched a touchdown pass to DJ Harvey to put the Trailblazers up 38-31 at the end of the third stanza.
Leaping over the Sierra Canyon defensive line, Paialii logged his third touchdown of the night, but Peery scored on a 1-yard keeper with two minutes to go in the game.
The Vikings blocked the PAT and the sidelines were rejuvenated.
“That’s when the momentum, we were so excited to get back on offense and get the ball back downfield and hopefully score so that really was a momentum change for everybody,” Paialii said. “We were ready.”
But the Trailblazers were ready, too. What followed was a series of incomplete Viking passes, the most promising of which was knocked down by a Sierra Canyon defender.
“They’re a physical team. They have an edge,” Pham said. “Like they have a chip on their shoulder. They just want to hit. So there’s always defenses like that and it’s pretty hard to go against those guys.”