By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The clock hit zero and the players ran onto the field. Before Valencia Vikings head coach Larry Muir could even think, he was covered in an ice-cold Gatorade bath.
It was the punctuation mark for a coach and a team who had accomplished their season’s ultimate goal.
In the CIF Division 5 finals matchup between the Vikings (8-4) and the Oaks Christian Lions (7-6) , the Vikings took matters into their own hands and secured the victory and the title, winning 28-14.
“We’re just excited for these players and the alumni that were all a part of this,” said Muir. “It’s been a long road for everybody, but these kids went through so much this year and fought through, so much heart and frustration. It was what these kids have worked hard all year to do and they did it. I couldn’t be prouder.”
In the first two possessions of the game, both teams scored to apparently write the script of a high-scoring game between two of the CIF Southern Section’s best, but the jitters soon went away for both defenses, leaving both teams scoreless for the remainder of the half.
The Lions’ first possession relied on their running back Johnny Thompson, who accounted for 46 of the drive’s 82 total yards. The drive was capped off with a quarterback sneak at the 1-yard line by Cole Tannenbaum. Thompson would finish the game with 109 rushing yards.
The Vikings’ answer to the Tannenbaum touchdown came off key third down conversions and wide receiver Duhron Goodman doing damage through the air. Goodman would finish the first drive with 26 receiving yards, but a 33-yard rush by Daniel Hernandez and the 16-yard rushing touchdown by wide receiver Don Ray Hall were what put the Vikings on the board.
Before the end of the half, the Lions had another chance to finally score again but had their field goal blocked by Goodman. The Vikings were unable to capitalize and ran out the clock to end the half tied at 7.
The game script would completely turn on its head as on the ensuing kickoff right out of halftime, Hall took the ball and returned it 98-yards to the house to give the Vikings the 14-7 lead. Hall finished the game with two total touchdowns and totaled over 130 yards, accounting in every major offensive statistic.
“I just had to go out there and show this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Hall. “I had to show that we were worth it. Everyone kept doubting us all season long. It feels great to win. We just have to push through and go out and take care of more things this year. For now, we’re going to have fun.”
On the very next possession for the Lions, Goodman picked off Tannenbaum and the Vikings were able to capitalize with a drive ending in a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Hernandez to push the score to 21-7.
The Lions would make a push, converting a crucial fourth down late in the third quarter, which was capped off by a 35-yard one-handed tipped catch by Khari Butler, making the score 21-14.
The Vikings controlled the time of possession, punishing the Lions on the ground, totaling 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns, which included a 10-yard rushing touchdown from running back Giorgio Spiropoulos to make the score 28-14 and the final score of the game.
The Lions made one last effort to score, but Valencia’s defensive end Victor Saenez helped seal the same with two clutch sacks in the fourth quarter. Saenez accounted for the only two sacks for the Vikings.
The Vikings end the season as the Division 5 CIF champions.
“I just thought of all the alumni that laid the foundation for this,” said Muir when asked about his initial reaction when he saw the clock hit zero. “All the alumni putting in all the work on the field that got us to this position. That’s all I can think about. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”