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Valencia's Nguyen, Son lead the defense

Valencia defensive duo has helped the Vikings continue their rule over the Foothill

Posted: November 28, 2013 10:04 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2013 10:04 p.m.

Valencia's Justin Son, left, and Jordan Nguyen have been best friends since junior high and have helped to lead the Vikings to their fifth Northern Division semifinal in the last six years.

If it weren’t for Jourdan Nguyen, Justin Son wouldn’t be playing tonight for the Valencia Vikings in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division semifinals.

And if it weren’t for the both of them, who’s to say where Valencia would be?

“They’re such an integral part of what we do defensively,” says Valencia defensive coordinator Robert Waters. “I don’t know how we’d do (without them). I don’t think we’d be nearly as successful. Our scheme and what we do is designed around those guys. They are big, big part of what we do.”

But here they are, the Vikings with Nguyen and Son, playing Saugus for the right to play in a CIF championship game.

“It would mean the world,” Son says of playing in an elusive CIF championship game for the Vikings.

Valencia played in three CIF championship games — 1999, 2001 and 2004. All three were losses.

Since 2004, the Vikings have reached the semifinals six times, including this season.

Valencia is 0-5 in those games leading up to this one.

However, these Vikings are convinced the curse is reversed.

The play of Nguyen and Son is a big reason.

Valencia head coach Larry Muir has called Nguyen — a 5-foot-10-inch, 205-pound defensive end — the most consistent player on his defense.

He has 17 sacks (12 in Foothill League play), 31 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 10 games.

Son — a 5-for-10-inch, 195-pound linebacker — has six sacks, two forced fumbles, 25 tackles for loss, an interception returned for a touchdown, two blocked punts and a game-saving tackle inside the 10-yard line on Canyon quarterback Cade Apsay that gave the Vikings a 35-28 win.

Son has arguably been the fastest riser in the shortest period of time in the Valencia program.

And the partnership between the two is a major reason why.

Son was a seventh-grader living in Newhall who played XBox with regularity.

He recalls playing a game that allowed him to connect with other gamers through the Internet — gamers who he didn’t know.

Son struck up a friendship with a fellow gamer he didn’t know.

A year later, he moved across town next door to Nguyen and during a PE class at Rio Norte Junior High, they realized they were playing against each other after talking about their usernames.

Son and Nguyen bonded over simple things — sharing frustrations over math homework and basketball.

Nguyen, a football player since he was 6 years old, convinced Son — who had never played organized football before — to play freshman football at Valencia so the two could hang out more often.

Son didn’t play one down his whole freshman season,

“He was the benchwarmer,” Nguyen recalls. “He said, I need to work hard so one day I could be a varsity starter.”

Son was close to quitting after his freshman year, but he saw opportunity on the JV team when a group of kids left the program.

And someone believed in him.

“To be honest I was thinking about (quitting) heading to my JV year, but Jourdan and the coaches said I had potential,” Son says. “I figured I’d give it one more year.”

Son became a starter on the offensive and defensive lines on the JV team.

Now he’s a two-year starter on the varsity with Nguyen and both are leading the defense.

“What’s highly, highly missed about them is their leadership,” Muir says. “Their leadership is off the charts.”

So is their toughness, Waters says. And one player learns from the other.

“Last year Justin Son had some hurt ribs and he was still playing,” Waters recalls. “He’s one of those kids who won’t come out of a game. We’re in a timeout during a game and I see Justin Son hurting. He’s wheezing. He’s standing in front of Jourdan. I could tell he was in pain. I say, ‘Are you OK? I’ll take you out.’ Jourdan Nguyen grabbed Justin away and said, ‘Stop showing weakness. You’re not coming out.’”

Nguyen and Son say they motivate each other.

They’ll need little motivation tonight.

In two seasons with the Vikings varsity, Nguyen, Son and their teammates have reigned over the Foothill League without a CIF title.

With a win tonight and another next week — the evasive championship will belong to them.

Just think what Son would have missed if his friendship with Nguyen never began.

Just think what the Vikings would have missed.


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