By Jonathan Andrade
For The Signal
The Viking faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief in the Valencia High School stands as the clock struck zero Thursday night.
For three quarters, a winless yet relentless Hart High School squad hung tough with undefeated Valencia, but a pair of fourth-quarter blunders doomed the Indians, who ultimately fell to the Vikings, 25-7.
“We showed a lot of adversity tonight,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “I think they’ll learn and grow from that.”
Holding on to a narrow 15-7 lead in the fourth, the Vikings caught a break. Off a Vikings punt, Hart senior Ryan Tomaszewski tried to scoop up the bouncing football to gain some extra yardage, but he mishandled the rock. Valencia recovered the loose ball and made Hart pay. On third and long, junior quarterback Tyler Voss lobbed a deep bomb to streaking junior receiver Kaden Bassett, who made a tough catch for the 47-yard completion, setting up a 30-yard field goal by senior kicker Ty Morrison.
“When I saw that ball, I knew it was my opportunity to shine,” Bassett said of his tightly contested snag.
On Hart’s next possession, Valencia’s Brandon Tompkins intercepted a pass from Hart freshman Tim Larkins to give Valencia the ball back with 7:56 to play. Voss again connected on a long pass, this time to junior Duhron Goodman for a 65-yard touchdown.
While Valencia’s explosive fourth quarter derailed the upset bid, Hart head coach Rick Herrington was pleased with his team’s performance.
“You always go out and you try to shock the world when you play a better team,” he said.
Valencia’s high-powered offense, which scored a combined 136 points in the first two weeks, marched 63 yards in its opening drive, highlighted by a 46-yard pass from Voss to Goodman. Running back Giorgio Spiropoulos, a junior, rammed his way into the endzone from 1 yard out before senior Caden Harrington scampered in for the 2-point conversion to give Valencia the 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The rest of the first half was a battle of field position. Hart’s offense couldn’t get much traction but the Indians defense got Hart on the board with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter when junior Cole Spivey scooped up a Valencia fumble and returned it 80 yards for the score.
Valencia added to its lead with 7:26 remaining in the second quarter off a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Voss, capping a 65-yard drive.
Hart linebacker Zach Stothers made a diving grab just before halftime to pick off a Voss pass attempt to halt that drive.
“Our defense played so well,” Herrington said.
Next Friday, Valencia travels to face Golden Valley while Hart will try to pick up its first win of the year, against Canyon. Both games kick off at 7 p.m.