Prep football notebook: Foothill League rivalries renewed

Valencia senior Jake Santos runs the ball in a Foothill League matchup with Hart at Cougar Stadium Friday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

In the hours before the Friday night slate of football games were set to kick off, the fast-growing Saddleridge Fire brought with it uncertainty as to whether or not the games would, in fact, be played.

As the start time inched closer, two varsity games remained on the schedule: Hart at home against Valencia and West Ranch at home against Canyon. The game between Saugus and Golden Valley was moved to Saturday night.

Those in attendance at the Indians and Vikings game at College of the Canyons were rewarded with a back-and-forth affair that went down to the wire.

“We knew it was going to be tooth-and-nail, it was going to be a fight, going back-and-forth type of game,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir after the contest. “We had to have composure, we had to be relentless and we had to hold ourselves together. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys, especially because of how great Hart played. We knew they would be all in and I’m just proud of our guys and the way they were able to hold themselves together.”

Trailing 27-26 with less than four minutes remaining, the Vikings found themselves in a second-and-long situation near midfield after penalties pushed them back. Valencia was able to gain ground and on fourth-and-inches, quarterback Ryan Morrison kept the ball for a first down.

With less than a minute to go, junior kicker Ty Morrison lined up for a 28-yard field goal that sailed through the uprights and secured the 29-27 win for Valencia.

“I was just thinking that I have to visualize me making it, and it’s for the team, it’s for all the seniors who can’t be in the same position I’m in,” Morrison said. “Honestly, I was relaxed, I wasn’t nervous at all.”

At the same time, three miles north at Valencia High School, the Wildcats and Cowboys were trying to shake off a sluggish start to their game. 

Only 10 points were scored in the first half, all by West Ranch, but the game opened up in the final two quarters.

A Canyon field goal made the score 10-3, then West Ranch quarterback Walker Eget connected with Matt Striplin for an 8-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter opened with a rushing touchdown by Jackson Reyes, followed by a 70-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Zach Van Bennekum to propel the Wildcats to a 29-3 advantage.

Canyon running back Josh Perrin was able to score from one yard out to make it 29-11 after a successful two-point conversion, but West Ranch sealed the game when Eget found Reiger Burgin for a 20-yard touchdown on a screen pass, ending in a 36-11 win.

On Saturday night at Canyon High School, Golden Valley and Saugus wrapped up the second week of league in what turned out to be a 31-7 blowout victory for the Grizzlies. It was the first win against the Centurions in Golden Valley program history.

Johnathan Kaelin led the way for Golden Valley, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 146 yards on 18 carries. 

The defense was stout for the Grizzlies, forcing the Centurions into four turnovers and holding them scoreless until the final play of the game. Saugus got on the board with an 11-yard touchdown run by Josh Bond. 

Golden Valley quarterback Austin Garcia scored on a quarterback keeper late in the fourth quarter.

Valencia and West Ranch currently sit atop the Foothill League standings at 2-0, with Golden Valley and Hart behind at 1-1. Saugus and Canyon are winless so far in league play.

Poll position

Since joining the 2019 CIF-Southern Section top-10 rankings in late September, both Golden Valley and Hart have remained in the polls.
Golden Valley made the rankings as the No. 10 team in Division 6 on Sept. 30, and the Grizzlies have remained in that spot since, going 1-1 in that span

Hart was ranked for the first time on Sept. 23, slotting in the No. 9 spot in Division 4. Since then, the Indians moved up two spots to No. 7 but dropped back a spot to No. 8 after their loss to the Vikings.

West Ranch was ranked No. 9 in Division 7 in the preseason polls, and with an undefeated 7-0 record, the Wildcats have only moved up since.

The Wildcats were ranked No. 6 two weeks ago, but after wins against the previously undefeated Grizzlies and the Cowboys, they now sit in the No. 2 spot. 

After suffering its lone defeat of the season back on Sept. 27 to the No. 1 ranked team in Division 14 St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy, Trinity Classical Academy remains in the honorable mention category in the same division.

Sophomore sensations

Several underclassmen across the Foothill League were key contributors for their respective teams this past weekend.

After a slow start against Canyon on Friday, West Ranch sophomore running back Derek Miranda weaved his way through Canyon’s defense and broke off a 54-yard run near the end of the first quarter, setting up an 11-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Wildcats their first points of the game.

Miranda finished the game with five carries for 69 yards and a score. On the season, the sophomore back has 32 carries for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

In Valencia’s clash with Hart on Friday, two sophomores scored touchdowns, both of which were critical to the Vikings’ win.

Wide receiver Zamondre Merriweather caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to put Valencia up 14-7 at the time. He also caught a 14-yard pass to extend the Vikings’ game-winning drive.

Merriweather finished with five receptions for 48 yards and a score.

Fellow sophomore wideout Brandon Tompkins gave the Vikings a 20-14 lead in the third quarter on his only catch of the night, a 38-yard touchdown reception. 

Merriweather is second on the team in receptions (14) and receiving yards (231) to go along with two touchdowns so far this season. Tompkins has 10 catches for 184 yards and a score.

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