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Prep football: Counter attack

Valencia goes aerial to beat run-happy Highland in round one

Posted: November 19, 2010 11:08 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2010 11:08 p.m.

Valencia wide receiver Max Rodriguez (24) pulls in the Vikings’ first touchdown of the game in the first quarter of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs at Valencia High on Friday as Highland’s Michael Sherridan defends.

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Valencia knew its opponent wanted to slow the game down and control the clock by running the ball.
The response was to do just the opposite.

With a fast-paced and efficient passing game, the Vikings put Highland of Palmdale away 42-17 to advance to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.

“We knew teams are going to try to limit our possessions, so we’ve got to take advantage on every single play we run and that’s what we try to do,” said Valencia quarterback Alex Bishop.

Highland’s plan was effective on the opening drive, when it took more than four minutes off the clock and finished the drive with Joshua Ramos’ 41-yard field goal to go up 3-0.

The lead was short-lived, and Valencia (10-1) picked up the tempo with quick passes to lead the offense to a five-play, 65-yard drive in 1 minute, 31 seconds to take a 7-3 lead midway through the first quarter.

The score came on a 41-yard Bishop pass deep down the middle to Max Rodriguez.

It was the first of many fast drives that finished with big plays for the Vikings.

Bishop’s very next pass also went to Rodriguez for a 30-yard score later in the quarter.

They were two of five touchdown passes from Bishop, who went 14-for-19 with 247 yards.

“We like to mix it up,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “We feel like we have a lot of weapons on offense. Alex can throw the ball and we have four senior wide receivers that can get down field.”

Rodriguez was the leading receiver for the Vikings with three catches for 76 yards and the two scores.

Blake Anthony also got behind the Bulldogs’ defense for a 21-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter.

“Their tempo is special. They do what they do,” said Highland head coach Troy Jackson of Valencia. “Their offseason conditioning program is miles ahead of us and those guys up front are big and strong.”

Highland (5-6) had no answer for the Vikings’ aerial assault, but continued to run the ball with a mixture of quarterback keepers by Hunter Sharp and option plays to its two running backs, Michael Sheridan and Dana McElroy.

The Bulldogs didn’t complete a pass in the first half, and Sharp went 5-for-8 with 51 yards passing in the game.

He did most of his damage on the ground, gaining 186 yards on 22 carries with a 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Sheridan also had a touchdown on a 22-yard run in the fourth.

The Vikings took a 35-3 lead into halftime after running back Steven Manfro got on the board with two touchdown receptions of 17 and 31 yards just before the break.

They were his only receptions of the day, but he helped kill the clock by running the ball in the second half, gaining 207 yards on 17 carries in the game. He scored once on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter to put the Vikings up 42-3.

Valencia will play Moorpark next Friday in a rematch of the last two Northern Division semifinals.

“You’ve got to make sure every round of the playoffs, you’re taking your game to the next level,” Muir said.

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