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Valencia, West Ranch football: It’s hope against glory

Posted: November 12, 2009 10:19 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2009 4:30 a.m.

West Ranch running back Zak Snell, left, takes a handoff from quarterback Connor Eichten last Friday at Valencia High against Hart. Eichten threw for 310 yards and Snell rushed for 125 in the game.

 

West Ranch football head coach Sean O’Brien makes no bones about it — he’s a Canyon fan and a big one at that.

Any scenario that involves West Ranch making the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs includes a win by the Cowboys.

Though West Ranch plays Valencia tonight at 7 p.m. at Valencia High, the action at Canyon High, where the Cowboys host Saugus, is vital.

The Wildcats (5-4, 2-2) are heavy underdogs against Valencia (9-0, 4-0), so a West Ranch loss needs to be coupled with a Canyon victory. Saugus is 2-2 heading into its game and owns a victory over the Wildcats.

That would force a three-way tie for third place in the Foothill League between West Ranch, Saugus and Canyon.

The deciding factor for who goes to the playoffs then rests in the hands of a coin-flipper.

Approximately 45 minutes after Friday nights’ games, should that scenario happen, a coin will be flipped at Valencia High.

That will determine who goes to the playoffs.

It has not been decided how the coin flip will be done.

Of course, West Ranch can beat Valencia and hope Canyon beats Saugus, then the Wildcats avoid the coin flip altogether and are in.

But ...

“We face a tremendous challenge, I can’t overstate it enough,” O’Brien said. “We’re not mincing words with our kids — this is a very talented team.”

A team that could win the Foothill League outright with a victory.

The Vikings already clinched at least a share after last Friday’s 49-0 win over Saugus.

It’s the first league title for the Vikings since 2004 and the second in school history.

But sharing is not enough.

“I think we still have unfinished business,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “The goal was never to share the Foothill League championship. That’s not what we’d like to do.”

The Vikings have displayed the most dominant Foothill League performance since Canyon’s 2006 state championship team.

But Valencia is surrendering less points — 3.5 to 12.25 — and is outscoring Foothill opponents by more — 47.25 to 46.5 — than that Canyon team.

The Vikings have a star-studded cast, too.

It’s not just the offense, defense or special teams — it’s all phases of the game.

But West Ranch is getting better every week.

The Wildcats had a definite chance to upend second-place Hart in last Friday’s 43-26 loss.

But West Ranch’s defense proved to be its own worst enemy.

Hart scored on its first six drives — three of which lasted 42 seconds, 42 seconds and 16 seconds respectively.

“Offensively, we have most definitely improved. Defensively, we’re still looking to get better,” O’Brien said. “I’m very unhappy with our defensive performance, but we strive to improve all the time and we’re getting less and less out of position.”

The West Ranch offense spent a half being very on last Friday.

Quarterback Connor Eichten was 21-of-36 for 310 yards — the first 300-yard game of his varsity career.

Running back Zak Snell also ran for 125 yards on 21 carries, scoring two touchdowns.

Four receivers also had at least 40 receiving yards.

They might not only have to duplicate the performance tonight, they might have to better it to beat the Vikings.

 

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