Valencia running backs Aidan Hicks and Brian Bonner charged into the 2023 season with a head of steam.
The two hammered the Bishop Amat Lancers on the ground on Saturday. Bonner added several huge returns on special teams along with 65 rushing yards on offense, while Hicks did the scoring with a three-TD night while nearly matching with 61 rushing yards.
“We had a great summer and great spring ball,” Hicks said. “We’re a great one-two punch. He’s a little lightning and I’m a little thunder rumble. I love having him next to me. He’s a great complement.”
After a bumpy start, Valencia turned on the burners and scored 19 points in the second quarter en route to a 36-28 victory over the Bishop Amat Lancers at Canyon High.
The Lancers (0-1) looked sharp early as senior Brandyn Wetherspoon returned Valencia’s first punt for a 65-yard touchdown followed by a quick 69-yard TD pass from Lancers quarterback Frankie Villalbazo to wide receiver Cameron Vasquez on Bishop Amat’s first play of the second quarter.
Bishop Amat was pass-heavy, and only ran three designed run plays three times in the first half. Lancers running back Ryan Salcedo eventually got the rock more in the second half and pounded in a 25-yard TD.
Valencia (1-0) settled in, and stormed through the rest of the game. The Vikings were only held out of the end zone in the first quarter. Quarterback Jackson Askins played well under center, finishing 15-for-25 with 218 passing yards and one touchdown to fellow senior Luke Cruz.
Vikings wideout Jayboe Wilson was unguardable early in the game but exited with an injury. Wilson racked up five catches for 41 yards in his two quarters of action.
Valencia went into the half up 19-13, as the Viking’s special teams added a score. Defensive end Jake Pikor forced the safety on a bad snap and also finished his big night with two sacks.
Pikor and the Vikes had some growing pains last season but now feel up to the standard of Valencia football.
“It feels amazing,” Pikor said. “Last year, I felt like we got used to losing but this year is 100% different. Valencia football is back and I 100% can feel it.”
The Vikings special teams also shined, with several big returns from Bonner, Pikor’s safety and two clutch field goals from kicker Joseph Monti. The Valencia kicker nailed a 25-yarder and a 35-yard field goal in his first varsity outing.
The Lancers managed to make it one-score game late in the game. However with the game on the line, Muir went to sophomore quarterback Brady Bretthauer, who had entered on several earlier plays, to seal the deal. The quarterback was tasked with running the sneak to eat clock but needing over 10 yards for the game-winning first down, he gave his team that and some. Bretthauer delivered and gave the Vikes 13 yards on consecutive sneaks. The sophomore absolutely refused to go down and pounded Valencia into victory formation and the win column.
For Valencia, it was sweet revenge taking down Bishop Amat after last year’s 29-6 loss.
Bonner wasn’t sure what the running back duo would look like in his first varsity start but the sophomore showed he belonged on a field filled with future collegiate stars.
“I never thought we’d be a scary duo,” Bonner said. “But he was with me the whole way and he has helped me because I’m new to this. I was nervous tonight. I didn’t think I was gonna do this good but I’ve been with him this whole time and we did good.”
Muir however had a feeling he had yet another two-headed monster in the Valencia backfield.
“What a great combination they are,” Muir said. “You have a senior with all the experience and a powerful runner. And then you’ve got this young sophomore who’s explosive and I don’t think he realizes how good he can be. It’s a special group.”
As for the Lancers’ run, Valencia was able to hold the group under 50 yards on the night, a testament to how bad the team wanted the win against a respected opponent.
“We just absolutely manhandled them,” Pikor said. “They’re an aggressive team. We knew they were going to come out aggressive but we had to just be more aggressive. I’ve got so much respect for them, but our team bowed out and I’m so happy about it.”
The Vikings will look to make it two in a row on Friday when the team heads on the road to face Santa Barbara. The Lancers will look to bounce back in week two with a home matchup against the St. Paul Swordsmen. Both games are slated for 7 p.m.
Muir is excited to see what’s in store for his defensive front, running back duo and deep 2023 roster.
“Our guys did a great job up front,” Muir said. “We knew it was gonna be a heavyweight battle, and you have to match punch for punch. We weren’t perfect, and you’re not gonna play perfect, but the key was to keep playing on the next play and the kids did that whether it was a good play or a bad play. We went on to the next play and that’s a sign of a good football team.”