After two years of Hart-breaking losses, Valencia Vikings football defeated the Indians on Friday and clinched a Foothill League championship.
Valencia quarterback Jackson Askins led another dominating offensive performance in the Vikings’ 37-7 win over the visiting Hart Indians.
Askins led the way in Valencia’s 34 unanswered points. The Vikings quarterback finished the game 13-for-18 with 277 passing yards, 93 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The Vikings defense shined bright with four interceptions and one sack. Senior Luke Cruz finished the game with a pair of picks and three catches for 71 yards.
“Honestly, we were just having fun,” Cruz said. “We all love each other and we just go out there and play. It was senior night and we just wanted to go out and win it. It’s a special feeling, you know, to be all all four years here and senior night out like this to me it means the world to me to go out like that.”
Valencia two-way star Jayboe Wilson returned to the team on Friday after missing six games this season. Wilson’s return to the field was again unfortunately cut short by an injury after colliding with Hart’s Parker Maxwell.
Wilson’s emotional comeback to the team on senior night ended in the second quarter as he was taken off the field via ambulance.
“Showing up today we’re all nervous because we knew we had everything to lose but we were ready,” Askins said. “Then after Jayboe went down, everyone’s mindsets flipped and everyone just like wanted to do it for him at that point. We know how hard he works. Jayboe is the hardest-working kid on the field.”
Valencia (7-1, 5-0) marched down the field on its opening drive but came to a halt in the red zone. Kicker Joseph Monti knocked in a 20-yard field goal to open up the scoring.
Hart (6-3, 3-2) managed to keep it close despite three first-half turnovers, as Cruz and Gavin Corbett both picked off Indians quarterback Tim Larkins before halftime.
Larkins hit running back Scott Morris for the game’s first touchdown, an 11-yard strike to go up 7-3.
The Vikings couldn’t answer right away but Cruz’s interception later set up the team’s first touchdown drive and the first of the 34-point run.
Valencia had a handful of big plays through the air, and Nick Seymour might’ve reeled in the catch of the day. Seymour leaped in the air over multiple Hart defenders to reel in a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jackson Askins.
Askins then led another quick touchdown drive on the following possession. Valencia picked up 34 yards on a flea flicker play, where Askins hit senior Reid Farrell. Askins then found an opening and broke free for 33-yard rushing score.
Cruz added his second interception of the day on the following drive, and yet again, set up a Valencia touchdown.
Askins and the Valencia offense were only on the field for a moment as the quarterback hit receiver Deandre Kermah for a 50-yard touchdown pass to go up 24-7 just before the half.
“Greatest senior night of all time,” Askins said. “I only get one of these and I would not want to change it one bit.”
The Vikings slowed down a bit in the second half, mostly due to penalties, but still held Hart off the board for two quarters.
Askins added a 20-yard touchdown pass to running back Brian Bonner in the third quarter before Gabe Magdaleno sealed the game with a 9-yard rushing score.
Hart has been led all season by Larkins and receiver Shawn Irwin. The two have already combined for over 1,200 yards but were held out of the end zone and to just four completions for 53 yards.
“This defense is something special,” Cruz said. “Everyone before the game said, ‘We can’t guard Irwin.’ Or, ‘We can’t stop DePerno,’ but every single week we prove them wrong.”
Valencia had taken two dramatic losses to the Indians in the previous two seasons but avenged the defeat on senior night. Seniors like Farrell, Cruz, Askins and Jake Pikor were able to finally beat Hart at the varsity level — the only Foothill League team they were yet to take down on varsity.
Valencia now claims at least a share of the Foothill League title but will need to win next week to clinch the outright championship and undefeated season in league play.
“We tried to bring back Valencia football and we finally brought it back,” Cruz said. “We came from nothing we brought it all back. This means the world to us.”
The Vikings will close out the regular season next Friday at Canyon. Vikings and Cowboys kick off at 7 p.m.