The evening seemed to be perfectly crafted for an ageless Friday night football recipe.
Crisp and chilly autumn air that necessitates a light jacket for most spectators: check.
A sizeable breeze that made the passing game interesting: check.
A view of the blazing-salmon sky from the visitors’ side: check.
And an exciting contest of football dominance between two league contenders: definitely check.
Goddard High School hosted Valley Center in its first home game of the season, and beat the Vikings 22-7.
Although the Lions led the entire game, they were plagued by penalties for holding, illegal formations and blocks, ineligible receivers downfield, and delays of game.
“The penalties really killed us—just stupid things that we could’ve avoided so easily,” Goddard coach Scott Vang said. “We were really our own worst enemy tonight. We didn’t play very well and really struggled to execute on plays.”
Conversely, Valley Center played a relatively clean game, but had multiple turnovers, including an interception mid-first quarter that gave Goddard its first touchdown and a 7-0 lead over the Vikings.
“We gave (Goddard) too many points,” Valley Center coach Pat Haxton said. “They scored 12 points without having to play a single yard, and that was because of our mistakes. We had interceptions, fumbles, and a failed punt that gave them a safety.
“We’re too good of a team to be 0-2 right now. We just have to keep playing and stay focused.”
Although Valley Center’s defense kept the pressure on the Lions, especially in the second half, Goddard had the momentum almost the entire game.
After the interception-turned-touchdown by Goddard’s Josh Gilchrist in the first quarter, the Lions scored again on a pass from quarterback Collin Nevil to Austin Chippeaux. However, the play was brought back due to a holding penalty against the Lions, but they still had a 7-0 lead.
In the first half, the wind made deep passes difficult for the Lions, forcing the Goddard backfield and Nevil to rush more and run the option.
“It’s different than what I’m used to,” Nevil said. “I’m used to passing, but I got to run more tonight. Valley Center had really fast and aggressive defense, so it was hard running against them.”
In the second quarter, Nevil failed to capitalize on a run on a third-and-long near the endzone, and the Lions chose the field goal, making the game 10-0.
Valley Center answered back, charging down the field in the second quarter. Once the Vikings were within first and goal, quarterback Braden Tormey passed the ball off to running back Justin Holdaway, who rushed in for the team’s only touchdown—10-7.
Valley Center’s greatest moment during the game would be when the defense stopped Nevil on a fourth-and-goal play in the third quarter, when the Lions were within five yards of the endzone.
The Vikings couldn’t capitalize on their next two drives and were forced to punt near their own endzone. But, a bad snap to punter Holdaway gave Goddard a safety and a 12-7 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Goddard scored another touchdown after recovering its own fumble on the five yard line. On fourth down, the Lions inched into the endzone, making the lead a comfortable 19-7 with only four minutes left in the game.
Although Valley Center fielded an excellent kick-off return—Tony Bluml went nearly 35 yards before being tackled by Goddard kicker Court Roland—the offense couldn’t run effectively against the Lions defense and punted again.
Goddard would score one more field goal in the last 1:30 of the game, making the final score 22-7.
“We’ve definitely improved since last week,” Nevil said of the Goddard team. “We definitely grew in toughness and learned how to finish. Now, we need to stay close as a team and keep improving like we have been so far.”
Both coaches said their respective players lacked the fundamental focus necessary to play football effectively.
“We always have a great fan base at home, and I know our guys were really excited to play out here tonight,” Vang said. “Maybe a little too excited.”
Haxton said his team has to keep a discipline of focus to win its upcoming games.
“We have to practice focusing on what we’re doing,” he said. “In football, how you focus is how you win, and we didn’t focus tonight.
“Part of that focus has to start with me. I have to make sure we prepare better before we play (Maize South) next weekend, and then we can take those preparations onto the field and win. ”
Valley Center will host Maize South next Friday, and Goddard will play Andover Central at the Andover District Stadium.