SAN JOSE — Just like last season, Valley Christian hosted Wilcox in the season opener for both teams. But this time the outcome was quite a bit different.
Aaron VanderVeen produced the only points of the second half with a 20-yard field goal in the third quarter to give Valley Christian a one-point lead that stood up Friday in a 16-15 victory
Last year Wilcox dominated VC 35-13.
“Coming off a 1-9 season we have something to prove,” said Valley Christian middle linebacker Remy Hernandez, a standout all night long. “We were very young and inexperienced. Now that we’re older and more grown I think we’ll have a great year. I can’t wait to see.”
In a throwback sort of game, middle linebackers were the star players for both teams. Wilcox middle backer Brayden Rosa was singled out after the game by Valley Christian coach Mike Machado.
“That kid is a playmaker,” Machado said. “He gave us a lot of problems tonight.”
Valley Christian’s Uchenna Eke (6) runs for yardage during the first half of the Wilcox at Valley Christian football game on Friday.(Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group).
Wilcox broke one long touchdown run out of its veer option offense. Quarterback Tyson Bonilla raced 45 yards for a TD in the first quarter. After a defensive penalty moved the ball half the distance on the conversion attempt, the Chargers went for two with Elijah Walker punching it in to make it 8-0.
The Wilcox offense is oftentimes problematic for opposing defenses due to the difficulty in simulating it in practice. But after playing Wilcox yearly, Valley Christian has gained familiarity.
“We know them better than some teams in our league,” Machado said.
After Bonilla’s early score, the Warriors drove 74 yards in 10 plays with Uchenna Eke scoring on a 3-yard run out of a short-yardage full-house T-formation
On the ensuing kickoff, the Wilcox returner slipped after receiving the ball at the 1-yard line, and the Chargers had to start backed up on their own goal line. First-game jitters and mistakes were an issue for Wilcox throughout the game.
Three penalties prevented the Chargers from picking up a first down and getting out of the hole and they were forced to punt from their own end zone. Valley took over on the 29 and needed only four plays to score on a 5-yard run by Marcel Leggett to take a 13-8 lead.
Wilcox responded with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Bonilla to William Souza late in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 15-13 lead.
Valley Christian’s Marcel Leggett Jr.(8), center, is dragged down by Wilcox defenders. during the 2nd half of the Wilcox at Valley Christian high school football game on Friday, August 25, 2023, in San Jose, Calif.(Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group)
Defenses ruled in the second half. The only score, the game-winning field goal, was set up after Wilcox fumbled a punt and Valley Christian recovered at the Wilcox 8-yard line.
Wilcox got one last chance, taking over on its own 8 with 4:35 left. A 27-yard run by Bonilla and a 15-yard penalty moved the ball into Valley Christian territory. But a fourth-down pass from the 27 was intercepted by Jordan Vargas and Valley celebrated the win.
Bonilla carried 15 times for 104 yards while Walker gained 97 yards rushing, also on 15 carries.
“I thought our guys did a pretty good job fighting to stay in the game, but we just made too many mistakes,” Wilcox coach Paul Rosa said. “You can’t make mistakes in a game like this. We had a lot of penalties on offense. When you have to go 20 yards instead of 10, that’s hard to do.”
For Valley, Eke, the returning West Catholic Athletic League running back of the year, gained 54 tough yards on 18 carries. Joseph Stephens, who began his high school career at Prolific Prep, made his first start at quarterback and completed 9 of 16 passes for 96 yards. Kai Hamilton had five catches for 48 yards.
“We played all three phases well,” Machado said. “We’ve got a good group of guys and hope to get this thing back to where we were.”
Valley plays at Salinas on Friday while Wilcox is back in action Thursday at Hollister.
Valley Christian’s Uchenna Eke(6) runs for yardage during the 1st half of the Wilcox at Valley Christian high school football game on Friday, August 25, 2023, in San Jose, Calif.(Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group)
Valley Christian’s Jordan Vargas(21) runs for yardage during the 1st half of the Wilcox at Valley Christian high school football game on Friday, August 25, 2023, in San Jose, Calif.(Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group)
Valley Christian players huddle up during the 1st half of the Wilcox at Valley Christian high school football game on Friday, August 25, 2023, in San Jose, Calif.(Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group)