Saugus struggles to slow down Valencia’s momentum

Valencia receiver Jaden Holmes (R) outruns Saugus defender Matthew Ballentine for a third quarter touchdown. Tom Cruze/For the Signal

It was the fourth quarter and the score was 27-14. All of a sudden, Valencia running back Luring Paialii got a handoff from quarterback Davis Cop and dropped back to throw a pass.

It was the only pass he’s thrown in his football career, and it was a success. The completion to JimE Deyoung was only for six yards, but the play got the Vikings sideline up in a roar.

“It almost gave me a heart attack,” said Valencia defensive end Ben Seymour. “But it was a good play.”

“I don’t think there was a doubt in his mind,” Cop said. “(Luring) plays with all the confidence in the world. That was just awesome.”

The very next play, Paialii rumbled in for a 30-yard touchdown, giving the Vikings a 34-14 advantage and a burst of momentum that they wouldn’t let go of.

Valencia (6-3 overall, 4-0 in Foothill League) went on to defeat Saugus by a final score of 41-14.

“We worked on it in practice one time and coach told us we were going to run it in the game,” Paialii said of the trick play. “In practice (Deyoung) didn’t catch the ball so in the game it was a Russian roulette type of play and it worked out. My teammates said ‘I guess you got a new spot.’”

Valencia’s special teams and defense started things off for the Vikings, as the punt unit was able to pin the ball down at Saugus’ 1-yard line early in the second quarter.

Linebacker Owen Hand was able to get to Saugus (6-3 overall, 2-2 in Foothill League) quarterback Cole Gallagher forcing a fumble which Seymour recovered, giving the Vikings a 10-0 advantage.

“The defense was phenomenal tonight,” said Vikings head coach Larry Muir. “They played as a unit. They played together. They’ve done a great job for us all year long, but they were exceptional tonight.”

“The defense has been amazing,” Paialii added. “Ben Seymour has been causing bad things for their O-line and creating a lot of chaos for the quarterback and offensive tackles.”

Saugus was able to answer in the second quarter, as Gallagher drove the ball down field by connecting with wide receiver Matthew Ballentine.

The two had a 42-yard connection that eventually set up Ballentine’s 10-yard touchdown to bring the score to 10-7.

Luke Fowble nailed a 22-yard field goal early in the third quarter, his second of the game, giving Valencia a 13-7 advantage.

The Centurions were able to answer one more time, as Gallagher and Ballentine connected on another touchdown pass, this time for 25 yards.

The Centurions pulled ahead 14-13, but that was the last time they’d score on the evening.

“I think we got a little ahead of ourselves. We gave up some plays that we shouldn’t have, made some mistakes we shouldn’t have made,” Ballentine said. “I feel like that’s what broke us down and brought down our momentum.”

On Valencia’s next drive, Cop found receiver Jaden Holmes in the middle of the field, who took it to the house for a 52-yard score.

Later in the third, Cop found Mitchell Torres for a 31-yard touchdown, giving Valencia a 27-14 lead.

The Vikings scored one more time after Paialii’s big play in the fourth quarter, as running back Jayvaun Wilson carried the ball for a 50-yard score to put Valencia up 41-14.

Up ahead of the pack was Cop, blocking for his running back as he sped through to the end zone.

“I think a big goal of mine is to show everybody that’s what Valencia football is about,” Cop said. “It didn’t matter if I was sore, how was I feeling. It was about getting that block because that’s what we needed.”

That’s the thing about Davis. It doesn’t matter what it is, whatever you ask him to do he does,” Muir said. “And that’s what makes him an exceptional leader.”

Despite the loss, Saugus head coach Jason Bornn told his team in the postgame huddle that he was proud of the way his team battled.

“We fought really hard. A lot of people didn’t think we could compete with Valencia,” Ballentine said about his coach’s encouraging words after the game. “We fought really hard but came up short.”

Valencia faces West Ranch next week to close out league play. Saugus will try to rebound against Canyon in its last league game.

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