VALENCIA, Calif. – One of the many cookie-cutter sayings in sports goes “Turnovers don’t win games.”
Well, the Hart Indians laughed that off on Friday night.
Six turnovers didn’t stop them from controlling the pace of the game in the CIF Southern Section, Northern Division Title game against crosstown rival Valencia. It didn’t stop stars like junior quarterback Brady White and senior Connor Wingenroth from having excellent nights.
And it definitely didn’t stop them from winning their ninth CIF title in school history, their first since 2003.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a close game. The Vikings were still the second overall seed in the Northern Division playoff bracket and were in it thanks to the running ability of Stone Jackson, as well as the Valencia receiving corps stepping up without a suspended Jay Jay Wilson.
However Valencia and Hart made this game one to remember for years to come. The first half probably wasn’t one to remember for either team’s playcallers.
White was intercepted four times throughout the game and fumbled it once, and Valencia quarterback Jake Wallace threw costly picks and was sacked multiple times.
As cliché as it sounds, it did come down to the fourth quarter for both teams. Valencia drove down the field in a smashmouth, ground-and-pound style until Stone Jackson scpred from a 16-yard run. That put Valencia down 21-16, but coach Larry Muir knew that wouldn’t be enough. A risky two-point conversion call gave returns as a streching Nick Jones converted. Valencia now trailed by three with just six minutes to go in the game.
However Hart changed that in the span of about 20 seconds. A 53-yard catch and run down the sideline from White to Wes Fitzpatrick gave the Indians a 28-18 lead. That would seal it right? No turnovers and they win.
After a field goal by Valencia, White is intercepted (an athletic interception too) and the Vikings have another chance trailing this time 28-21. with about a minute left, Wallace finds Jones down the sideline for a 37-yard catch on the Indians eight.
Less than 25 feet seperated Valencia from their first CIF football title. Wallace’s next play results in a sack. “Spike the ball” orders are made and followed. Wallace dropped back again and threw to the back of the endzone, only to be intercepted by Connor Wingenroth, who had already lit up Valencia offensively.
That would eventually run the clock out as Hart would beat the Vikings after losing to them in the regular season 24-19 at Cougar Stadium.
A championship game as close as this makes it hard not to smile and could arguably make most stoic and stone-faced fans enjoy the game. However, when asked about the game and where it ranks among his favorites, Indians coach Mike Herrington simply smiled and said,”It’s definitely up there.”