Hart football (3-6, 2-3) stunned Valencia (4-5, 2-3) for the second straight year.
Hart was led by wide receiver Shawn Irwin, who finished with 11 catches for 105 yards and the game-winning touchdown as time expired.
Quarterback Tim Larkins found Irwin on an 11-yard pass on an out-route to win the game and cap off Hart’s 90-yard game-winning drive.
“I love that play,” said Irwin. “They called it to my side. The dude tried to press me but I was like, ‘He can’t cover me.’ So he’s on the floor down at the end of the play and I caught a touchdown.”
The Hart announcer kept accidentally calling Irwin his brother’s name after big plays. However, it was indeed hard to tell the difference at times between Irwin and his brother, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Trenton Irwin.
Neither team could find the end zone or points in the first quarter.
Both teams had a few promising drives but kickers from each side came up short of the uprights.
The Vikings’ pass rush was winning the majority of the fights at the line but quick passes and the legs of Larkins kept dozens of plays alive.
Valencia quarterback Trey Erickson was picked off by the two-way star Irwin. Irwin found plenty of open space on his return but was forced out at the Valencia 6-yard line.
Larkins would get the first points of the day with a 6-yard rushing TD. Kicker Bennett Murphy’s struggles continued as she missed the PAT.
The Vikings would answer right away. Consecutive big rushes sparked the scoring drive on the first two plays. However, Valencia would stall and be forced to go for it on fourth and long on the Hart 35-yard line. Wide receiver Brandon Boateng came up with a huge catch to save the drive.
Shortly after, Erickson would hit Judah Plett for a 21-yard TD pass. Vikings Kicker Cameron Fontal would give his team the lead with the PAT.
The Indians would answer with another promising drive but came up empty. The team elected to kick a 31-yard field goal with their other kicker in Samshj Oyewo, but Valencia came up with a crucial block and went into the half still up one.
Fontal would extend the Viking lead to three with a 44-yard field goal.
Hart was close to retaking the lead on its next drive. The Vikings defense kept handing their opposition free yards with penalty after penalty.
The Indians would work the ball into the red zone but defensive end Jake Pikor saved the Valencia lead with an interception on the line.
Hart would take the lead on their next drive. Wide receiver Ryan De La Maza pulled down a 10-yard catch to save the drive on the fourth down.
Larkins’ running would give the Indians the lead again but Valencia would answer quick.
The Vikings marched down the field with ease thanks to consecutive big catch-and-runs from running back Daniel Hernandez. The halfback led the team on 22-yard and 41-yard receptions.
Valencia capped off the drive with Erickson hitting Boateng for an 11-yard score to retake the lead at 17-13.
The Vikings then forced a lightning-quick Hart three and out but couldn’t put the game away on their ensuing drive.
Hart got the ball back on their own 10-yard line with 1:53 left in the game and marched down the field to win the game.
De La Maza was vital in the game-winning drive and caught a 33-yard pass to set up the final score. He finished the night with eight catches for 107 yards.
Larkins and Irwin loved the play when they got it with four seconds left in the game on the Valencia 10-yard line.
“I’m feeling really good now,” said Hart head coach Rick Harrington. “We needed one of those the way our season has been going. Losing some close games to good teams and we needed something like that. Our defense played pretty well the whole game.”
Hart has now won two in a row when the team needed it most. They’ll still need some things to go their way in order to make the playoffs but the Indians have looked outstanding in the last few weeks.
“It’s a big rivalry,” said Herrington. “Our guys just love this game. They concentrated and we’re focused all week long. When you play someone like that, you have to be like that. They knew that any chance to playoffs at all. We have to win this game.”
Larkins and Irwin’s connection has been an issue for opposing teams all season. The two will have the rest of the season and their senior year next year to keep wreaking havoc in the Foothill League.
“I’ve been with him for a long time,” said Larkins. “We just connect well, and I can just trust him pretty much on anything. I know he’ll get to the spot.”
Hart goes for three in a row next Thursday against Castaic.
Valencia is still in good shape to make the postseason and defend their CIF title but will need a win next week over Canyon.