With less than four minutes remaining in Friday night’s prep football game between Valencia and West Ranch, the T-shirts began to emerge.
Scattered throughout the Vikings sidelines were fans wearing black “10-peat” shirts as the clock ticked down, leading to Valencia’s 10th straight Foothill League title after beating the Wildcats 42-13 at Valencia.
“It’s amazing because it’s all the hard work that we put in and all the teams before us have just put in to just play like, for something bigger than us, and it came through tonight,” said Valencia’s Ben Seymour.
But those T’s almost stayed in their boxes. West Ranch (9-1 overall, 3-2 in Foothill League) came out hard and fast, scoring halfway through the first quarter as quarterback Weston Eget danced his way into the end zone, evading three tackles in the process to put the Cats up 7-0.
“We were expecting them to come out hard, but we weren’t expecting them to actually come out, like, that hard,” said Vikings running back Jake Santos.
The Vikes (7-3, 5-0) tied it up with 6:39 left in the second quarter when the offensive line cleared the way for Santos to sprint 45 yards to the end zone. Three minutes and 30 seconds later, Luring Paialii punched it in from less than a yard out to pull Valencia ahead 14-7.
The Wildcats put together a 12-play drive before halftime, but two tackles for a loss from Seymour prevented the Cats from scoring.
After a fairly quiet third quarter, there were big plays abound in the fourth. Paialii carried the ball on eight consecutive plays, capping the endeavor with a 20-yard touchdown rush to make it 21-7 with 7:42 left to play.
On West Ranch’s ensuing possession, Santos picked off an Eget pass and returned it for a touchdown. It was Santos’ first pick-six of his playing career.
“I saw there was a miscommunication, the ball was thrown behind him, and I just kind of went for it and somehow stayed on my feet,” Santos said. “And then my defense just created a full wall that I could just follow into the end zone and block perfect and awesome for me.”
Eget immediately threw a screen to Jovan Camacho for a first down on the next play of the following drive, but Valencia’s defense held Jackson Reyes to a 1-yard run, then forced Eget to throw two incomplete passes before taking the ball back.
But the Cats applied equal pressure on defense as Brandon Wyre picked off a Davis Cop pass, which allowed for Eget to throw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Camacho on the next play. Valencia blocked the PAT.
“We could’ve just kind of quit, but that just showed the fight our kids had to get to play like that,” West Ranch coach Chris Varner said.
Santos had one last touchdown left in him, going coast-to-coast for a 70-yard run that brought the score to 35-13 with 5:19 left in the game.
Nick Pham topped off the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown scamper with 23 seconds remaining.
West Ranch finished the league season in fourth place, behind Saugus and Hart who tied for second, after losing a coin flip to break a three-way tie. This season, the Cats set the program record for best start to a season after winning the first eight games of the season.
“We got more wins than we’ve had before, since I’ve been here, so we battled and just really proud of what my kids did,” Varner said.