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Valley Christian’s defense bends, does not break against Hueneme in semifinals

Valley Christian High sophomore running back Jojo Apisala had another big outing in last Friday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 12 semifinal game against Hueneme High. Apisala rushed for 139 yards on 30 carries and scored on a two-yard run on the second play of the second quarter in V.C.’s 28-14 win. The Defenders will face Lancaster High in the championship game on Saturday. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

November 22, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

CIF-SS Div. 12 12 FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS~All you need to know, or hear, about the 2022 Valley Christian High football team was chanted after first-year head coach Nick Walker’s postgame speech with his team last Friday night. On the heels of a 28-14 victory over Hueneme High in a CIF-Southern Section Division 12 semifinal game, the players and coaching staff blurted out the phrase, “from 3-7, going to the ship”, rendering MC Hammer’s 1991 hit song “2 Legit 2 Quit”.

For the sixth time in school history, the program will be playing in a divisional championship game, having won titles in 1986, 1995 and 2016. The second-seeded Defenders will travel to top-seeded Lancaster High on Saturday night. But what makes this trip to the finals standout from the others is that the Defenders entered the postseason at 3-7 with a fifth-place finish in the Ironwood League out of six teams.

“A lot of people doubted us; a lot of people counted us out,” said Walker. “A lot of people told us we weren’t going to be here. The perseverance that we have is phenomenal, and that’s how you overcome adversity. It’s by getting in there and battling and being the best you, and when we are the best us, we’re the best team on the field.”

“It’s pretty incredible having the whole school behind you,” said sophomore quarterback Joe DeYoung. “It’s just an amazing feeling and experience. I’m just trying to live it out.”

The recipe for the win was almost like the other two playoff games-get an early lead and then let the defense take over. After a scoreless first quarter that featured an interception by senior cornerback Nick Bozanic, who then fumbled eight yards shy of a pick-six, and a missed 39-yard field goal from junior kicker John Montoya, the hosts began the second quarter with a touchdown.

After a 17-yard run from sophomore running back Jojo Apisala on the first play of the second quarter, he scored on the next play from two yards out. Following another turnover, V.C. went 30 yards on three plays, ending when DeYoung tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Casey Bouma. To summarize, V.C. ran five plays within the first 1:24 of the stanza and built a 14-0 lead.

But as fast as the lead was established, it was quickly erased as Josiah Sanchez found Jojo Velasco for a 23-yard score a minute later. Then with 4:29 remaining in the half, the second place representatives from the Citrus Coast League tied the contest on a one-yard run from Josiah Gipson.

Later in the quarter, freshman middle linebacker Cole Hefner recovered a fumble, which led to DeYoung finding freshman wide receiver Jaden Hernandez for 23 yards and the go-ahead score with 42 seconds left before halftime.

“It was just opening up the book and getting us to the right places and getting us in the right position,” said Walker of the second quarter. “Ultimately, it’s on us and we have to adjust to make sure we’re the better team and we’re completing passes and running correctly.”

Despite the three miscues by the Vikings and the three punts and missed field goal by V.C., both teams were moving the ball well in the half. Sanchez completed nine of 16 passes for 161 yards, all but 39 yards going to Robert Barrera, and Aiden Avila accounted for 16 of the 18 rushes by Hueneme in the first half while Apisala was already at 80 yards on 15 carries as both teams easily had over 170 yards in offense.

“I have to give props to my linemen,” said Apisala. “My linemen played and laid their bodies down for me. Nothing would have been possible without them. They’ve been working their butts off, coming in practicing three hours a day and getting extra lifts in sometimes. I would say they’re the hardest working people on our team. I know they don’t get the credit much, but I’m very proud of each and every one of them.”

“They were trying to off-tackle us,” said Walker of Hueneme’s offense. “Obviously, they have a good running back; Avila is a good running back and ultimately, we had to shut that down. We knew if we shut that down, they’re not going to pass on us. If you pass on us, that’s a mistake.”

V.C.’s defense took it up a notch early in the third quarter, stopping the Vikings on downs after three straight Sanchez incompletions, then forcing a three-and-out on their next drive. But the Defenders iced the game later in the stanza as they ended their longest drive of the game (10 plays, 63 yards, 5:19) with a DeYoung eight-yard score. Hueneme would have fourth quarter drives end in an interception, downs and a pair of punts. The Vikings ran 14 plays in the quarter but gained 15 yards and were stopped at the V.C. 15-yard line with 7:40 left in the game.

 

Valley Christian High junior quarterback had reason to celebrate during last Friday night’s CIF-Southern Section Division 12 semifinal game against Hueneme High. DeYoung completed eight passes for 111 yards, scored on an eight-yard run and threw 23-yard touchdown passes to senior Casey Bouma and freshman Jaden Hernandez, both in the second quarter as the Defenders doubled up the Vikings 28-14. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

“We just tried to stay positive at all times,” said DeYoung. “Even when they scored, we had to keep our heads up and try to go back at it on the next drive.”

Hueneme still gained nearly 400 yards for the game with Sanchez passing for 325 and Barrera hauling in 10 receptions for 202 yards.

“He did some damage, but look, you have to limit who can damage you,” said Walker. “We’ll take that over the run any day.”

Meanwhile, Apisala carried the ball 30 times for 139 yards while Bouma caught five of DeYoung’s eight completions for 48 yards. Apisala also led the defense with nine tackles as did sophomore safety Austin Abrahams.

“I’ve told you already he’s a dog,” said Walker of his leading rusher. “Man, that kid’s a number one back in the Ironwood [League], I think. He’s the number one back in CIF as far as D-12 is concerned. That kid is phenomenal, and you can’t ask for a better situation for that kid.”

“Casey is just awesome,” said DeYoung. “You put the ball anywhere within six feet [of him] and he’s going up and getting it no matter where he’s at. That’s a huge tool to have and I think he’s going to be pretty vital next week.”

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