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WEEK SIX FOOTBALL – Defensive first half gives way to offensive showdown as Valley Christian falls in league opener

Valley Christian High senior Jaidon Carter returns a kickoff late in the third quarter as he tries to get past Rashas Shamburger (#4) and Austin Evans of Heritage Christian High in last Friday night’s Ironwood League opener. V.C. fell to the Warriors 29-21 and dropped to 2-4 on the season. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

By Loren Kopff •@LorenKopff on Twitter

October 2, 2022~It was the inaugural Ironwood League opener for Valley Christian High last Friday night, and nothing would have made first-year head coach Nick Walker happier than to beat Heritage Christian High. One week before his Apr. 10 hiring at V.C., Walker was about to take the defensive coordinator’s position at Heritage Christian.

After both defenses stole the show in the first half, which ended with the Warriors only up 6-0, the teams combined for six touchdowns in the second half with Heritage Christian getting the game winner with 1:24 seconds remaining in the game when D.J. Cole scored on a two-yard run, giving his team a 29-21 victory.

“There were a lot of emotions in it from a coaching perspective, just knowing that those were going to be my guys and I’m here and I’m with my real guys,” said Walker. “I wanted to beat them.”

V.C. was trialing 21-7 entering the fourth quarter before sophomore running back JoJo Apisala scored from 19 yards out on the fourth play of the final quarter. The Defenders defense then forced their former Olympic League rivals to punt and starting at their own 27-yard line, the hosts marched 73 yards to get the tying score, a seven-yard run from Apisala with 2:33 remaining in the game.

“It shows that we’re on the right track,” said Walker. “We’re young, we’re young. When we start three or four freshmen, it’s going to be like that. As far as us being resilient, that’s what we preach. Keep fighting all four quarters. If we fight all four quarters, we’re going to be okay.”

Walker added that his team has to start fast because the Defenders are not a come from behind team as five of their six opponents have scored the first points this season. Only the Sept. 16 game at Artesia High featured a scoreless opening quarter.

 

Valley Christian High senior Casey Bouma goes up and over a Heritage Christian High defender on the fourth play of V.C.’s opening drive of last Friday’s Ironwood League opener. Bouma went on to score what would have been a touchdown, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. Bouma would still catch eight passes for 53 yards in a 29-21 loss.

PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

 

The Defenders (2-4, 0-1) thought they had scored the first points of the game when senior Casey Bouma skirted for a 55-yard touchdown on the fourth play of their opening drive. However, a holding penalty negated that play and junior quarterback Joe DeYoung would be intercepted by Joseph Chavez on the very next play. The turnover led to a 13-yard touchdown reception from Anthony Pineda.

The next two drives of the half by Heritage Christian would end on downs and a missed field goal while V.C. would have first half drives end on two punts and three plays in the final 31 seconds. Through the first 24 minutes, V.C. had the ball for 9:13, ran 22 plays and gained 54 yards while the Warriors put together 36 plays for 165 yards.

“Coming into halftime, we just adjusted a few things,” said Walker. “Obviously, we had some line issues, so we had to fix that. That was number one going into the half. Then we adjusted that and we adjusted on defense and kind of settled down on the blitz and just kind of put ourselves in a better position to be successful.”

V.C. got the ball to begin the second half and after DeYoung connected with Bouma on the first two plays for 40 yards, Apisala and Bouma combined to rush for 37 yards on seven of the next plays and when Brown scored on an eight-yard run with 6:25 left in the third quarter, it was a different game. But two plays later, Cole’s 29-yard run, plus a two-point conversion from Dre Bolte put the Warriors up 14-7. Then after another interception on the second play of the ensuing drive, Cole got past the Defenders defense for a 30-yard run and a 21-7. The combined three touchdowns came in a span of 2:17.

While V.C.’s offense struggled in the first half, it was the opposite in the second half as it had the ball for nearly four more minutes and put together 214 yards. The defense also limited the Warriors to 15 plays and 133 yards.

DeYoung rebounded from a slow start and finished the contest with 15 completions in 29 attempts for 218 yards. Eight of those completions went to Bouma for 53 yards while senior wide receiver Micah Maurer caught four passes for 129 yards. At the beginning of the season, Walker had been rotating senior Kaden Struiksma and sophomore Keiran Edmundson at quarterback, but lately, DeYoung has been getting more snaps from under center.

“Joe gives us the best shot to succeed,” said Walker. “We’re trying to help our guys and put our guys in the correct positions. Obviously, we don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings or whatnot, but we try to do it to the best of our ability.”

On the ground, Apisala picked up 54 yards on eight carries and defensively, he led the Defenders with six and a half tackles while Bouma and sophomore linebacker Kingston Mutu each had five and a half tackles.

Next up for V.C. is its homecoming game against its longest rival, Ontario Christian High. Up until 2000, the two had been Olympic League rivals but since then, they had simply played in non-league games. But now, the stakes are much higher, and the Defenders will be tested even more, now that the other five league teams have a combined record of 23-7. The Knights slammed Big Bear High 55-6 last Thursday to remain unbeaten in six games and are an extremely high-scoring team. Ontario Christian’s lowest scoring game was a 35-7 win against St. Margaret’s High in the season opener and is averaging 43.3 points a game while allowing just 56 points so far.

Entering the game against Big Bear, the Knights had rushed for over 1,600 yards with half a dozen players having gained at least 100 yards. Since 1998, V.C. owns a 13-9 record over Ontario Christian and the teams met on V.C.’s homecoming game in 2009, a 35-24 victory for the home team.

“Oh man, that’s probably the biggest matchup of the season,” said Walker. “We’re going to come out and we’re going to come out hungry. These guys are hungry, and when you’re hungry, it changes the whole dynamic of the game. By them being hungry, we’re going to take advantage of that energy.”

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