Golden Valley sweats out 16-7 win over Quartz Hill

Golden Valley wide receiver Julian Rios (18) takes a handoff and goes in untouched for the first touchdown for Golden Valley against Quartz Hill High at Canyon High School on Friday, 090222. Dan Watson/The Signal

Isaiah Orozco seals Grizzlies’ second win with interception to end the game 

The Golden Valley Grizzlies (2-1) had to sweat a little bit at the end, but held on to beat the Quartz Hill Royals (0-3) at Canyon High on Friday, 16-7. 

“I think everybody was sweating. This is one of the hottest games I’ve been a part of,” Golden Valley head coach Dan Kelley said. “But you know what, our kids, man, they fought for four quarters, and that’s a good football team over there. They played lights out on defense, but we were able to get in that double-tight set with our offensive line, and they sealed the deal there at the end.” 

While most of the game saw Golden Valley able to move the ball down the field but end up with nothing, the Grizzlies stepped up on their final drive. Leading Quartz Hill by just two points with roughly half a quarter left in the fourth, Golden Valley running back Julian Rios picked up 27 yards on the drive, including a 10-yard gain on fourth down to keep the chains moving and put the Grizzlies a yard away from the end zone. 

Golden Valley wide receiver Ajani Smith (4) catches a short pass and turns up field against Quartz Hill High at Canyon High School on Friday, 090222. Dan Watson/The Signal

On the next play, Grizzlies quarterback Chris Melkonian snuck through the offensive line for a touchdown. 

It was a play that Kelley didn’t want to use, but Melkonian was adamant that he wanted the ball, and the score. 

“Malachi [Beacham], the fullback back there, was saying, ‘Give Chris the ball. I’ll push him in,’” Melkonian said. “I was like, ‘I love the plan. Give me the ball.’ I wanna do whatever I can to help this team win. And that’s all I did. The line did a hell of a job getting me in there. I just walked in. It was really easy.” 

Melkonian finished the game with 175 yards on 12-of-17 passing. Six of those completions went to senior Ajani Smith, who totaled 94 yards on those receptions. 

Rios finished the game with 46 yards on 22 carries, one of those a 3-yard run with 2:49 to go in the first quarter to put Golden Valley up at the time, 9-0. Golden Valley kicker Keven Cabrera had gotten the Grizzlies on the board first earlier in the quarter on a 26-yard field goal. 

Golden Valley quarterback Christopher Melkonian (3) hands off to Julian Rios (18) in the second quarter against Quartz Hill High at Canyon High School on Friday, 090222. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Grizzlies were able to hold the Royals to only 90 yards of total offense, though with Golden Valley only up 9-7, the Royals had suddenly found life. But up stepped the Grizzlies’ defense once more, first on a Beacham interception to set up the Melkonain touchdown, and then another one by Isaiah Orozco at midfield to set up a kneel for the end of the game. 

“I saw my guy going out, they were doing crossers, I played my zone, saw the ball in midair, I went up, grabbed it,” Orozco said of that interception. “And I knew I had to come down with it for the win.” 

Quartz Hill got its only score of the game on a Dorsey Davis run from 4 yards out. 

Golden Valley defenders Isaiah Orozco (27), Adedamola Olabode (50) and Dallas Landry bring down Quartz Hill Austin Dupleasis (24) in the first quarter at Canyon High School on Friday, 090222. Dan Watson/The Signal

It was an interesting week for the Grizzlies – and everyone else in Southern California – as temperatures were in triple digits for most of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That forced Golden Valley to practice at 6 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, though Melkonian was happy to do it if it meant having a better chance to win on Friday. 

“We were saying all week, ‘Why are we gonna go in at 6 a.m. just to come out here and lose?’” Melkonian said. “I mean, we knew from the get-go, and I think that helped us give us more motivation, extra motivation, that we’re coming out here, it’s our home field. We just lost on our home field. We’ve been here for at 6 a.m. every morning. Why are we gonna come here to lose? We’re gonna play our hearts out.” 

Temperatures dropped slightly for kickoff, with the game starting at just under 95 degrees. Kelley liked what he saw from his players, especially with how abnormal preparations were. 

Golden Valley line backer Malachi Beacham (1) blocks a punt by Nicholas Smith of Quartz Hill High in the first quarter at Canyon High School on Friday, 090222. Dan Watson/The Signal

“The guys showed a lot of character and a lot of perseverance this week,” Kelley said. 

Next week sees more of the same, at least for the start of it, but Kelley wants his team to be just as ready for next Friday’s game at Garfield. 

“We’re going into another preseason game against a tough City Section school in Garfield,” Kelley said. “We got to travel down there, you know, another hour-and-40-minute drive. Our kids, we got to fight the heat again and prepare. These kids, now that they got a taste of victory, and the taste of a win, I think I got them where I want them, and then they’re gonna keep working hard.” 

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