By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The Valencia Vikings opened up the game with back-to-back sacks by middle linebacker Jack Gieser, who finished the game with three sacks. The Vikings’ defense remained much of the same but the offense wasn’t able to keep up.
Two of the top teams in the state, both ranked in the top 40 in the state, faced off Friday night. Strong defensive play for both teams remained the constant theme throughout the game.
“We didn’t execute, that’s my fault for whatever reason if we aren’t executing, that’s on me,” said Vikings head coach Larry Muir. “We just got to fix ourselves, how we’re preparing and the little things to make things better for next game.”
The Vikings (1-2) lost to the Villa Park Spartans (4-0), 17-7, their second loss in a row, despite recording four sacks in the first half and giving up four sacks in the process. It was a straight wash despite a strong first drive by the Spartans that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown by running back Carson Ridge, the only score of the first half.
Vikings quarterback Tyler Voss started off shaky, losing a fumble on their first offensive possession, but was able to bounce back before the end of the second, finishing with 62 total yards of offense. The Vikings had a chance to score before the end of the half but turned it over on downs in Spartan territory.
The Spartans commanded the majority of the game on the ground, led by Ridge, who finished the game with 89 rushing yards, which included a 2-yard rushing touchdown, his second of the game. Spartans quarterback Nathan Kornely also had himself a game, finishing with 160 total yards of offense.
Despite not scoring any touchdowns, Kornely made crucial plays throughout the game, including multiple third-down conversions to stop any Viking momentum. The most crucial of all came at the end of the fourth quarter with Kornely converting on a fourth down conversion to set up a 21-yard field goal, ultimately sealing the game for the Spartans.
The bright spot for the Viking offense belongs to their top player in the state, wide receiver Zamondre Merriweather. Merriweather would finish the game with 107 total yards of offense, which included a 2-yard rushing touchdown on the first drive coming out of halftime, the only score for the Vikings.
“They were playing man all game so I felt I could get open mostly every play, and that’s what I did,” said Merriweather. “We came up short because we weren’t playing as a team. We got to work harder in practice this week and have more of a fight next week.”
Costly turnovers and poor offensive line play ultimately sealed the fate of the Vikings, with the Spartans controlling the tempo and capitalizing on defense, giving Voss no time to throw the ball. Voss would finish the game with 136 total yards of offense, but was sacked seven times throughout the course of the game.
The Vikings look to end their losing streak next week against Westlake on Friday at 7 p.m.