It’s been 13 years since Valley Christian High’s football program last defeated Arizona Lutheran Academy, and the Trojans wanted redemption.
Valley Christian’s offense came out firing on all cylinders while the defense held its own against a dynamic Arizona Lutheran offense, as the Trojans went on to beat the Coyotes for the first time in over a decade, 49-13, on Friday night.
“It’s great to get the win over them for our high school,” Valley Christian coach Kirk Sundberg said. “We have a lot of respect for them, that’s a great program. It’s a great feeling for our kids to be able to do that.”
The Trojans wasted little time putting points on the board. On one of the Trojans’ first few plays from scrimmage, senior quarterback Vinnie LaGatta found junior running back Tony Gomez Jr. on a screen play for a 39-yard touchdown. Just a few plays later after a forced fumble by the Valley Christian defense, LaGatta connected with senior wideout Tanner Canfield, who made a diving catch into the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown.
“We have so many weapons, anybody can break out at any moment,” LaGatta said. “Coach Kirk does a great job of getting everybody the ball and that makes it hard on the defense, because you never know what is coming.”
Arizona Lutheran managed to answer Valley Christian’s touchdown with one of its own, as senior athlete Tyson Biciolis took the pitch from quarterback Aarone Bode and found sophomore running back Gabriel McKenney for the 23-yard touchdown.
However, that would be Arizona Lutheran’s only score until late in the fourth quarter, as Valley Christian’s defense took control.
“We say we are the best defense in 3A and I feel like we play like it,” senior cornerback Justin Stinson said. “We play with swagger. We know when we play together we can’t be stopped.”
After a 10-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Kaden Majercak, an interception by Gomez Jr. set up another Valley Christian touchdown. Junior quarterback Jadon Hanzal lined up behind center, sending LaGatta to wideout. The two then connected on a 24-yard touchdown to extend the Trojans’ lead.
The two-quarterback system is one that has worked through the first two games of the season for Valley Christian, and it was on display once again against Arizona Lutheran. LaGatta and Hanzal combined to complete 10 of the duo’s 15 pass attempts for 190 yards and five touchdowns.
Four different wideouts scored for the Trojans, with Canfield scoring two of his own.
“We have dynamic athletes, man,” Sundberg said. “We had an extra week to prepare since we came off our bye week. Our guys were ready, we executed our game plan and I’m proud of them.”
Valley Christian continued to apply pressure on offense and defense throughout the course of the first half, as the Trojans led 42-6 at the break.
Just under two minutes into the second half, a running clock was initiated after Canfield fell on a fumble in the end zone, giving the senior his third touchdown of the night. Hanzal connected with senior wideout Ben Somora, who took it 24 yards down to the Coyotes’ 1-yard line before fumbling into the end zone.
Luckily, Canfield was able to fall on the loose ball.
Arizona Lutheran’s only other touchdown of the game came on a 1-yard quarterback keeper from Bode, which was set up by a 79-yard run by Biciolis.
“They run a very dynamic offense and it’s hard to shut them down,” Sundberg said. “Our defensive coordinator, Jake Peterson, he’s doing a lockdown job this year. Our kids are playing fast and physical and they know what they’re doing.
Despite the loss, Arizona Lutheran (3-1) remains one of the top teams in the 2A Conference. The Coyotes will look to get back on track next week as they host Tempe Prep (0-3).
Meanwhile, Valley Christian’s (3-0) first win over Arizona Lutheran in over a decade gives the Trojans a boost of momentum heading into a home match up against Page (0-4) next week.
“We started out 2-0 last year and then lost to these guys,” Sundberg said. “So, to get over that hump, it shows progression. Now it’s all about preparing for a Page team that played us close two times last year.”
ALA 6 0 0 7 -- 13
VC 15 27 7 0 -- 49
VC – LaGatta 39 pass to Gomez Jr. (Haagsma kick), 8:17
VC – LaGatta 46 pass to Canfield (Hanzal 2 pass to Grako), 6:42
ALA – Biciolis 23 pass to McKenney, 1:13
VC – Majercak 10 run (Haagsma kick), 11:09
VC – Hanzal 24 pass to LaGatta (Haagsma kick), 9:05
VC – LaGatta 8 pass to Haagsma (Haagsma kick), 6:47
VC – Hanzal 2 pass to Canfield, :36
VC – Canfield 1 run (Haagsma kick), 10:12
ALA – Bode 1 run (Grippo kick), 3:12