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Valencia football: The great escape

Posted: November 20, 2009 11:45 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Valencia's Darrol Mitchell (48) sacks Thousand Oaks quarterback Jackson Lucht (13) Friday night at Valencia High School.

 
There would be no overtime dramatics in Valencia’s matchup with Thousand Oaks on Friday.

The Lancers put fate in their own hands and went for two.

But with less than 10 seconds remaining, Vikings safety Zach Tartabull snatched it out of the air, intercepting a Thousand Oaks pass to secure a 28-27 win for his team in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.

It was a gutsy decision by the Lancers, who had scraped their way back into the game from a three-score deficit.

“I felt like where we were at, we had the momentum and we had to take that opportunity rather than try to play for overtime,” said Lancers head coach Mike Leibin. “I couldn’t be more proud of my guys right now.”

One play earlier, backup quarterback Jackson Lucht hit running back Rickey Minyard for a 13-yard touchdown with 28.8 seconds left before the failed two-point try.

The teams traded possessions in the opening quarter before the Vikings struck first.

After several power runs by Vikings running back Steven Manfro, quarterback Alex Bishop found wide receiver Brock Vereen in the end zone to put his team up 7-0.

Bishop wound up completing 13-of-17 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Manfro finished with 113 yards on 11 carries and added four catches and 77 receiving yards.

On the Lancers’ second drive, quarterback Avondre Bollar struggled to play through an ankle injury he sustained last week.

The senior signal-caller struggled to 7-of-11 passing for 58 yards on Friday and could no longer run on his ankle by halftime, so he was replaced by Lucht. Valencia’s Darrol Mitchell took advantage of the situation, picking up five total sacks.

The loss of Bollar forced the Lancers to switch to a wildcat formation, which ended up working in their favor.

“We came up with some great plays, but we were shooting ourselves in the foot and you can’t afford to do that in the playoffs because you’re playing good teams,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “We made too many mistakes with containment, and we don’t usually do that.”

Minyard was ready to capitalize on those mistakes.

He ran for a 33-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7, but several drives later, Bishop hit Tartabull, Manfro and Vereen for first downs before Max Rodriguez ran in a 2-yard score to put Valencia up 14-7.

With four minutes left in the first half, Bishop found Rodriguez near midfield, and the speedy receiver juked several players and scampered to the end zone to give his team a 21-7 halftime lead.

But the Lancers weren’t finished fighting.

After Manfro led a drive down field that he capped off with a 5-yard touchdown, Thousand Oaks came back.

Minyard’s second rushing touchdown made it 28-14 as the Vikings had trouble bringing down the 6-foot 3-inch, 190-pound back.

Minyard finished with 20 rushes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

A nine-yard touchdown run on a direct snap by wide receiver Richard Mullaney on the Lancers’ next possession made it 28-21.

An interception by Vereen seemed to ice the game with 2:42 left, but Valencia’s failure to get a first down meant the Lancers got one last shot.

They almost made the most of it.

After the touchdown and failed conversion attempt, Thousand Oaks miraculously got the ball back on a successful onside kick.

“We needed a game like this. We haven’t had a fight like this in a couple of weeks and it was good game to wake us up,” Vereen said.

Muir said he was happy his team was still playing, but said they would need more next week to advance.

“It’s about surviving and advancing,” Muir said. “They figured out a way to win and that’s all that matters.”

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