After a Zach Hammett touchdown tied the game up at 28 for River Valley with under two minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, Valley Christian head coach Jake Petersen knew there was one player that he had to give the ball to.
With 46 seconds left, Valley Christian called a run play up the middle for senior running back Kaden Majercak. Majercak subsequently took the handoff, found a hole and exploded 49 yards for a game-sealing touchdown that secured the Valley Christian Trojans the 35-28 victory over the River Valley Dust Devils.
“We just kept feeding him and feeding him because they were wearing down. I think they (River Valley) were looking for something different and so we saw an opportunity to take advantage of it and we did,” Petersen said. “We’ve relied on him all year to make big plays and do big things and we wanted him to have that opportunity.”
After the game Majercak gave credit to his offensive line for giving him a hole to run through on that last touchdown run.
“I just went behind my line, they made the hole, followed them the entire way,” Majercak said. “They just really opened it up for me.”
Majercak finished the game with 26 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite that game-sealing touchdown, River Valley still got the ball back for one last drive. After River Valley quarterback Gavin Hogencamp completed a 52-yard pass to receiver Gage Solano with under 15 seconds left, the Dust Devils had one last shot at tying the game. Unfortunately for River Valley, Hogencamp’s last pass was batted down in the end zone.
Hogencamp completed 17 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns, while Solano had four receptions for 197 yards and one touchdown. As for Valley Christian’s quarterback Hunter Heeringa, he finished the game with 26 completions for 231 yards and two passing touchdowns and five rushes for 16 yards and one touchdown.
Heading into tonight’s game, Petersen said that his number one goal for his team was to “Contain Zach Hammett” and in tonight’s game they did just that. In the first half Hammett had just nine carries for 27 yards and the Dust Devils found themselves down 21-14.
Although Hammett turned it up in the second half, finishing the game with 19 carries for 81 yards and both of River Valley’s second half touchdowns, Petersen was surprised that the Dust Devils did not utilize their star back as much as they have in past games.
“I think they (River Valley) knew that we were gonna try and take him away and they probably didn’t use him as much as they should have honestly,” Petersen said. “Not to be critical of what they did, but sometimes they went away from him a little bit. In some ways that’s smart to try and rely on some other guys when everyone is focusing on one, but at the same time when you have someone that’s that good you lean on that guy.”
Looking back on this historic season where Hammett led Arizona in rushing yards, scoring and offensive touchdowns, he said that the one thing he will remember most about this season are his teammates and coaches.
“All the good times we had and the bond we created over this summer,” Hammett said. “Covid messed that up last year so we weren’t really as close. We really wanted to focus on this year and we definitely did that for sure.”
As for the future, Hammett has hopes of playing collegiate football going forward.
“My hope is to stay at running back,” Hammett said. “This pain, I’m gonna take it and go far with it. I’m gonna work my butt off. I’m gonna look back on this moment and realize that I need to start working even harder.”
As for Valley Christian, they will face off against the defending 3A champions, the Snowflake Lobos next Friday in the 3A semifinals. The Trojans defeated the Lobos in the first game of the regular season 38-24 and since then Snowflake has won 11 straight games.
“Sometimes you’re at a disadvantage when you play a team for a second time when you’ve beat them because you get complacent,” Petersen said. “They’re a different team than they were at the beginning of the year. I think we kind of lit a fire under them after the first game of the season and they haven’t lost a game since. We’ll be prepared because we know it’s gonna be a battle and we hope we can come out on top just like we did today.”