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WEEK ONE FOOTBALL: Ericks, Walhof and defense lead Valley Christian over Norwalk in battle of inexperienced teams

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

 

Not only were Valley Christian High and Norwalk High a pair of inexperienced teams when the Defenders hosted the Lancers at the newly renamed Valley Christian Stadium, but it was a matchup of head coaches who once shared the same sideline.

From 2006-2009, first-year V.C. head coach Stephen Kelley and Norwalk’s Otis Harrison were on the Compton High coaching staff. This time, they were against each other and Kelley saw senior quarterback Hayden Ericks, senior running back Curtis Walhof and his defense ease past the Lancers 34-19 last Friday night.

“It was great being across the sideline from coach Harrison,” Kelley said. “He’s a great coach; he’s a great man, somebody that was a mentor to me early in my career. I wish him a lot of luck this season.”

“I’m proud of him as a coach and it’s not anything other than that,” Harrison said. “The one thing in the coaching fraternity is you don’t know everybody. So, I’m kind of used to it. I just think it’s really neat that he’s a younger guy and is actually the coach here at a private school. So, I’m real happy for him and it kind of stays right there.”

Both teams were coming off rough season-opening losses in which the combined score was 94-9, and it showed that way in V.C.’s opening drive when a turnover led to Norwalk’s first score, an eight-yard run by sophomore running back Warren Stevens-Tayou. That was all the excitement the Lancers would get as they were held on downs the next time they had the ball, then punted on five straight drives.

Meanwhile, the Defenders tied the game with 7:37 left in the first half when Ericks connected

with senior wide receiver Benjamin Lopez for a 20-yard scoring play. A little over three minutes later, it was junior tight end Andrew Lange who was the recipient of an 18-yard touchdown pass from Ericks. Then less than two minutes later, Walhof scored from 19 yards out as V.C. quickly established a 21-7 lead. By halftime, V.C. had outgained the Lancers 245-99 with Ericks and Walhof accounting for all but five of those yards.

“Curtis played well for the second week in a row,” Kelley said. “Last week, he showed us some things; he had flashes of some great runs and this week…we relied on him.

“Hayden did some good things tonight,” he continued. “He also made some mistakes, but we’re going to fix those and continue to go forward.”

“It was more on offense,” Harrison said. “We just got a lot of inexperience; a lot of guys first year ever playing. It just kind of what you deal with in certain environments.”

Ericks tossed his third touchdown pass nearly midway through the third quarter, an eight-yard strike to senior wide receiver Derek Talsma and Walhof rounded out the team’s scoring just over five minutes into the final stanza with a six-yard score. Walhof would post a game-high 189 yards on 30 carries while Ericks completed 13 of 23 passes for 160 yards. But when V.C. was on defense, Norwalk had a hard time moving the ball, rushing for 130 yards on 37 carries. In fact, after Stevens-Tayou picked up 40 yards on his first carry, no other running back gained more than 10 yards on any carry. Stevens-Tayou also added a 10-yard touchdown run late in the game and sophomore quarterback Christian Brito sneaked in a one-yard run around the left side with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Junior linebacker Cam Stahl led V.C. with 12 tackles and a sack while senior lineman Sam Range and junior safety Brayden Garner each added eight tackles. Norwalk had eight plays that went for negative yardage.

“Our defense was great tonight,” Kelley said. “We had a great game plan this week and our team came out and executed. That first drive, the first play, we were lined up wrong and we just weren’t ready for that play, which is not an excuse. But, we buckled down and we were able to slow them down on the defensive end, which really uplifted our offense actually.”

“Everyone who came here to Valley Christian came to play football who is on the football team,” Harrison said. “They weren’t just a student that said, ‘I’ll go out’. I have a lot of kids who’ve said, ‘I am a student and I’d like to go out for the team’. The IQ of football, we don’t have a lot of it. No matter how you coach, only experience can build that.”

V.C., will host Visalia-based Central Valley Christian High tonight The Cavaliers are 1-1 and have been outscored 62-34. This will be the second time the teams have met, the last time being in 2000 with V.C. coming away with a 20-7 victory.

“It’s a sweet victory; the first one here [at Valley Christian] for the season,” Kelley said. “I’m proud of the way that our team came together this week and just got better from last week. We made a lot of mistakes, we had a lot of inexperience. So, we didn’t know how we were going to come out last week. But, we persevered this week and we got better this week. We have to continue to focus and continue to strive to get better next week.”

Norwalk got 56 yards on 15 carries from Stevens-Tayou and 48 yards on nine touches from junior running back Daniel Onopa. On defense, senior lineman John Armas led the team with seven tackles while Stevens-Tayou added five tackles as the Lancers will host Bell Gardens High (0-2) tonight at Excelsior Stadium.

“I just want us to play well,” Harrison said. “As far as momentum and all those things, I just want us to play with heart and passion. The wins and losses will come and then they’ll fit whatever category they’re supposed to go into.”

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