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Hart beats Valencia to win CIF title

Hart wins 9th CIF title in school, denies Valencia its first

Posted: December 6, 2013 11:48 p.m.
Updated: December 6, 2013 11:48 p.m.

Hart High wide receiver Trent Irwin, left, intercepts a pass from Valencia quarterback Jake Wallace while Valencia's Nick Jones tried to take him down during Friday night's CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship game at Valencia High School.

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The Hart Indians may have taken a more circuitous route than it expected this season.

But in the end, this Hart team found a way to reach the pinnacle. And that’s precisely where the Indians always thought they could be — CIF champions for the ninth time in school history.

In an all-Santa Clarita Valley CIF-Southern Section Northern Division title game, Hart made a final defensive stand to hold off the Valencia Vikings in a 28-21 win on Friday night in front of an overflowing crowd at Valencia High School.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to play this season with,” said Hart senior running back/defensive back Connor Wingenroth. “We had our ups and downs. ... We had high expectations going in, a bunch of pressure on us the entire season and we came through in the end.”

Wingenroth did Friday what he’s done throughout the season, and the playoffs in particular. He was a forceful runner and a constant spark for the Indians’ offense, running for 183 yards on 32 carries. That included one 25-yard touchdown run on a crafty hook-and-ladder play in the third quarter.

Wingenroth was instrumental in helping Hart (12-2) win its first CIF title since 2003, when it defeated Mission Viejo to claim its fifth championship in a span of six years from 1998-2003.

After a 10-year drought, Hart is back.

“It’s amazing,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington. “It still hasn’t set in yet. We had to squeeze that one out at the very end, (Valencia head coach Larry Muir) and his team fought till the very end.”

On the other side, bleachers full of purple-clad Valencia fans stood in stunned silence after the Vikings (11-3) came up just short of winning their first CIF crown in school history.

That was despite Valencia coming back from a 21-10 deficit in the second half to tie the game late, only to watch Hart immediately re-take the upper hand.

“I’ve never been on a team that’s been so close and such a brotherhood,” said Valencia running back Stone Jackson. “I don’t think we should look at this one loss and determine our whole season like that. We’ve had a great run.”

Jackson was Valencia’s primary weapon, amassing 159 rushing yards and scoring both of Valencia’s touchdowns on 25 carries.

Friday was Valencia’s fourth overall appearance in a CIF championship game and the third against Hart.

The Vikings fall to 0-4 in title games despite a furious comeback bid.

After scoring 11 unanswered points to tie it up, Valencia again fell behind when Hart's Wes Fitzpatrick’s scored the go-ahead 53-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Brady White on a screen play with 5:42 to play.

It was an up-and-down day for White, as he finished 22-for-37 with 250 yards passing, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also scored on a 17-yard run late in the first quarter.

Hart turned the ball over a total of six times and Valencia had three turnovers of its own in what proved to be a sloppy game at times.

“Both defenses are playing pretty good, and turnovers happen when you have good defenses,” Herrington said.

In the final minute, Valencia drove down the field in hurry-up fashion, completing a 37-yard pass from Jake Wallace to Nick Jones to the Hart 8-yard line.

With under 30 seconds to go, Hart’s Cody Shoemaker tracked down Wallace for a sack that pushed Valencia back to the 20.

Two plays later, Wallace floated a final heave into the end zone, where it was picked off by Wingenroth with 14 seconds to play.

Hart never trailed in the game, going up 7-0 on a 59-yard scoring pass to Chase White in the first quarter.

Jackson scored both of his touchdowns on 16-yard runs, once in the first quarter and another in the fourth.

Valencia kicker Cole Murphy kicked two successful field goals from 32 and 36 yards out in the game.

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