Missed opportunities haunt Valencia football against Loyola

Valencia running back Aidan Baptiste (37) stiff-arms Loyola defender Carter Link (4) in the second quarter at Valencia High earlier this year.

Turnovers and missed opportunities never allowed Valencia football to get in a rhythm against Loyola on Friday night as they fell to the Cubs 29-14 at Valencia.

“We are still not there yet, we still have a ways to go,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “That was a good football team and we have to give credit to Loyola, but at the same time, we still have to find consistency on offense. We had some breakdowns here and there on defense and when you play good teams like Loyola, they will beat you and take advantage of it. We are still trying to find that, but we are getting to the meat of the season where we have to make some strides.”

The Vikings set the tone early, utilizing running back Jake Santos in multiple sets as he began the game with a 26-yard catch from quarterback Ryan Morrison and followed it up with two back-to-back runs to drive into Cubs’ territory.

Morrison dropped back on the following play and due to tight coverage and a collapsing pocket, forced a pass that was tipped and intercepted by a Loyola player on the Cubs’ 4-yard line.

Striking first, the Cubs drove down the field and scored on a 56-yard bomb from Loyola quarterback Brayden Zermeno to running back Harrison Allen with 6:06 left in the first quarter. After the two-point conversion, the Cubs led 8-0.

After two three-and-outs by the Vikings, the Cubs put together a 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a 4th down conversion as Allen punched it in from two yards out with 2.5 seconds left in the first half to get ahead 15-0.

Down by two scores, the Vikings (2-2 overall) answered with their own 60-yard touchdown drive, but it didn’t come easy.

Starting on their own 40-yard line, Nick Pham began the drive with runs of nine and four yards before a high snap that Morrison jumped on brought the Vikings back to their own 42-yard line.

Five plays later, Santos scored from two yards out with 2:11 left in the first half to go down by one score to head into halftime down 15-7.

Valencia’s Jake Santos (21) makes the catch on a long pass against Loyola defender Nikko Gonzalez (44) in the first quarter at Valencia High on Friday. Dan Watson/The Signal

At the turn, Loyola didn’t waste much time scoring on their first drive of the third quarter as Zermeno found Jacoby Kelley for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 3:36 left in the quarter.

The Vikings countered two drives later to score from nine yards out as Morrison found Zamondre Merriweather and Mitchell Torres for 10-, 25- and 20-yard receptions that set up Santos’ second rushing touchdown of the game to get the Vikings within one score with 9:57 left in the game.

Forcing Loyola (2-2) to punt on its next drive, the Vikings gained possession on their own 15. On the third play of the drive, Morrison mishandled the snap, but Vikings center Vincent Casillas jumped on the ball to maintain possession.

Two plays later, the Cubs intercepted Morrison with 4:17 left in the game and scored with 2:06 left in the game to hand Valencia its second loss in a row after falling to Sierra Canyon last week.

Valencia faces Calabasas on the road at 7 p.m. on Friday.

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