ORANGE - First-game struggles affected the Villa Park football team at times Friday, but the final score had the Spartans feeling good about things.
The Spartans sweated out a four-quarter battle with Valencia, eventually walking away with the 21-12 nonleague victory at El Modena High. "As you know, you either start the year off with a win or loss and that to me is a really big thing," Villa Park coach Dusan Ancich said. "When the kids wake up, when you lose that (first) game, it takes a couple of days to get over it and we don´t have that much time."We can go tomorrow with a little bit more pep in our step. It is easier to fix stuff when you win."
In the fourth quarter, the Spartans (1-0) likely thought they had put the game away when Dylan Osborne and Kyle Harlin hooked up for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Jason Sanders´ extra point gave the Spartans a 21-6 lead with 5:01 remaining. "They bit on the quick slant," Osborne said. "We called a pump and go and the corner and the safety bit on it and touchdown."
The Tigers (1-1) quickly answered, thanks to Trent Salcedo´s kickoff return to the Villa Park 17-yard line. On a second-and-goal from the 5, Pat Godoy found Jake Watkins for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Valencia went for a two-point conversion, but failed.
On its next possession, Villa Park ran out the clock to seal the victory. "At the beginning, we kind of struggled," Osborne said. "In the future, I think we will be a more explosive offense."
Osborne´s first touchdown pass of the game also went to Harlin, a 10-yard strike to opening the scoring in the first quarter. Villa Park led 14-0 at halftime.
The Tigers scored the only points in the third quarter when Watkins intercepted Osborne´s pass and ran 55 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was missed, making it 14-6 heading into the fourth.
"Their defensive line was really good, they were talented," Ancich said of Valencia. "Anytime you can beat Coach (Mike) Marrujo, it is good, because he´s a fantastic coach. I think it was noticeable that this was our first game ... we have a lot to work on, but we´re proud we beat them." Michael Vega led the Spartans with 75 rushing yards.
The game pitted two of the top teams in the latest CIF-SS Southwest Division poll. The Spartans are ranked third in the division and Valencia is sixth. The Tigers opened the season last week with a 22-7 victory over Brea Olinda. Valencia will play host to Sonora next Friday. Villa Park visits Cabrillo of Long Beach.