Rivalry sets stage for Foothill League finish

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

Although the Foothill League prep football season is halfway finished, arguably the most important game of the year has already been played.

Valencia is going for its 11th straight Foothill League title and at the start of the season, it seemed like the only team standing in its way was Hart, a group led by quarterback and University of California, Berkeley, commit Zach Johnson.

On Oct. 11, the two teams met for an action-packed game that didn’t disappoint.

“In every game we play, we have the mindset that the other team is just a bunch of jerseys and it doesn’t matter who’s wearing them,” said Valencia quarterback Ryan Morrison before the game. “Now, with that being said, Hart versus Valencia is a big rivalry game and because of that, this game will mean a little bit more to both sides. What we do during the game will not change, but the victory at the end of the night will be a little sweeter.”

The competition was tight in the game. Johnson completed 50 percent of his passes for 269 yards and threw three touchdowns to three different receivers — Ashton Thomas, Dylan Vradenburg and Angelo Lucchese. Running back Taden Littleford added one more touchdown on the ground for Hart.

Morrison played a major role in the game for the Vikings, completing 22-of-34 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns, but it was special teams that came through to get the win for the Vikings.

With 41 seconds remaining in the game, Ty Morrison drilled a 27-yard field goal for a 29-27 win.

In an instant, Valencia gained a considerable advantage in winning the league title once again. After taking down Hart, the only other team that could be a challenge is West Ranch. The Wildcats are the only other team in the Foothill League with an undefeated record.

This season, the Vikings are competing in Division 1/2 in the CIF-Southern Section, meaning that they will be in either Division 1 or Division 2 in playoffs, depending on their finish in the regular season.

On Oct. 18, the CIF-SS released the selection process for the top two divisions. The CIF-SS Football Advisory Committee will award points to teams based on their position in the section’s coaches polls and wins against Division 1 and 2 teams. One point will also be awarded to teams that are league champions.

Valencia competed in Division 1 last season, but lost in the first round of playoffs to Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana.

If the Vikings beat West Ranch and finish the league season with a league title, they’ll have the chance to compete in the top division once again.

“I definitely think that we should be undefeated in league,” Ryan Morrison said. “I think that we will be as long as we remain focused and keep our heads straight and do what we need to do and don’t mess around and take anyone too lightly and screw ourselves over.”

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