Valencia senior Daniel Hernandez rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Vikings (4-3, 2-1) to a 42-14 victory over the Golden Valley Grizzlies (5-2, 2-1) on Friday at Valencia High School.
Two of those touchdowns from Hernandez came in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good.
“We just knew that Golden Valley always gave us competition because they never won against us, so they play with vengeance and they play with a goal,” Hernandez said. “They were giving us tough times, but I’m glad our offensive line, they pushed through, they knew what they’re capable of. And that’s the only reason I was able to do what I could do.”
Valencia is now 17-0 all-time against the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies were able to keep it close for three quarters, trailing 21-14 entering the final frame. But a 37-yard throw from Valencia senior Trey Erickson to junior Jake Pikor on the first play of the fourth quarter made it a two-possession game, and the Vikings played their brand of football from there on out.
“That was good. You saw glimpses there of Viking football,” Valencia head coach Larry Muir said. “All the credit to Golden Valley, a good football team. I thought we did a good job of kind of getting to that group. We had to get physical, and I thought the kids responded really well. And Daniel in the running game did a great job of running the football. That makes us a whole different deal, willing to run the football like that.”
Hernandez began the game with a 3-yard rushing score after less than four minutes had elapsed in the first quarter. That was quickly followed by Erickson finding senior Ralph Testa for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 4:36 to go in the opening frame for a 14-0 Vikings lead.
Golden Valley stormed back to close the first quarter with a score, senior Chris Melkonian finding fellow senior Ajani Smith for a 65-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead in half. Melkonian would score again late in the second quarter to make it a one-score game, running it in from 3 yards out to make it 21-14 in favor of the Vikings. That came after Erickson hit junior Deandre Kermah for a 28-yard score with 4:30 left in the second quarter.
Kermah and the rest of the Vikings receivers had to step up their game with Valencia senior Brandon Boateng being closely marked by Smith. Boateng finished with just two catches for 5 yards, both coming late in the game.
“You gotta account for him, he’s a big target,” Golden Valley head coach Dan Kelley said. “But their ability to run the ball was pretty effective.”
The loss is the Grizzlies’ first since the season opener, snapping a five-game winning streak.
“It’s been a while since we lost, so we’ve got to be able to bounce back, you know, and that’s my big message to them, was we’ve got to watch this film and see the mistakes that we made,” Kelley said.
Melkonian finished the game 19-of-36 passing for 231 yards, tossing a touchdown and an interception. That went to Valencia junior Sam Gieser.
Erickson was 14-of-21 passing for 171 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Golden Valley senior Nicholas Curry picked him off midway through the second quarter.
Golden Valley had a rough time running the ball. Junior Julian Rios carried the rock 15 times for 22 yards, while Melkonian led the team with 37 rushing yards on eight attempts.
“Our defensive front, our front seven guys, we really like those guys,” Muir said. “I think that’s a really good group. They did a good job there. And the second half, I was really proud of the defense.”
Valencia held Golden Valley to just 281 total yards in the game after allowing 176 total yards in the first half alone. The Vikings finished with 375 yards of total offense after accruing just 171 in the first half.
Testa finished with three catches for 58 yards, one of eight players to catch a pass for the Vikings, who will face their biggest test of the season next Friday in West Ranch.
“We know that next week is going to be one hell of a challenge,” Hernandez said. “Ever since that loss to Saugus [earlier this season], we played you know, Viking football. We know West Ranch is gonna be one hell of an opponent.”
That game kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at Valencia High School.
Golden Valley will travel to play Canyon Friday at 7 p.m. at Canyon High School.