By DAN ALBANO
SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER
PLACENTIA Valencia rode its defense to another victory Thursday.
Linebacker Greg Hammond returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown and blocked a punt that led to a touchdown as the host Tigers defeated Villa Park, 17-0, in a matchup of Southwest Division teams. Valencia (2-0), ranked third in the Southwest, opened the season with a 13-0 victory against Brea Olinda.
"That´s very rare," Valencia coach Mike Marrujo said of the consecutive shutouts to open the season. "We feel like everybody on our defense can tackle." Hammond made both his big plays in the first half against the Spartans (0-2). The senior blocked a punt in the final seconds of the opening quarter to set up Valencia´s first score.
The Tigers recovered the ball at Villa Park´s 7, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Omar Perez on third-and-goal early in the second quarter. On Villa Park´s next possession, Valencia pressured Villa Park QB Blair Boyce before Hammond grabbed an interception and returned it 59 yards for a 14-0 lead with 5:57 left in the first half. Valencia also scored a defensive touchdown against Brea Olinda.
"(Hammond) was one of our players of the week in the first ballgame," Marrujo said. "He picked up right where he left off." Caleb Carreno added a 40-yard field goal with 3:35 left in the fourth for Valencia.
Valencia held Villa Park to 54 yards rushing. Defensive tackle Jason Sota added two sacks. The Tigers have picked a good time to play strong defense. They have played the first two games without one of their top running backs, Steve Logovi, who broke his hand in Valencia´s scrimmage. Villa Park was shut out for the second consecutive game. The Spartans lost last week to San Clemente, 25-0.
The Spartans came close to breaking through against Valencia. A sack by Villa Park´s Devonte Bennett in the first quarter almost led to a fumble recovery but Valencia quarterback Robert Mata was ruled down before the ball came loose at the Tigers´ 42. Later in the game, the Spartans thought they recovered one of their punts that bounced off a Valencia player. They also had a 42-yard field goal blocked in the fourth quarter.