WEST VALLEY PREPS

Monsoon squeaks by Stallions 27-23 to solidify playoff spot

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A small handful of plays defined the Oct. 25 Surprise showdown, with city bragging rights and - most likely and more importantly - a 6A playoff spot on the line.

Valley Vista got  the better of those plays, taking a 27-23 advantage over Shadow Ridge late in the third quarter and holding on through a scoreless fourth to secure the win.

The Monsoon entered the night ranked No. 17 in 6A, but with the top three teams in the rankings qualifying for the open division that ranking was more like No. 14 and good enough for a playoff spot.

"It was special for everyone, including the seniors. We still have a chance to be a regional champs," Delay said. "We've never been region champs." 

Shadow Ridge (5-4, 1-3 Southwest Region) entered the night at No. 20 and likely saw its playoff hopes slip away.

Stallions coach Bob Chappelle said there is still plenty to play for, including the program's first winning record since 2013, when it was in the state's third-biggest division, not its first.

"The last three weeks have all been difficult losses, But they played hard all three games," Chappelle said. "I told them 6-4 is definitely an improvement of next year."

The visitors also were looking to beat both Surprise rival schools in the same season for the first time and came out firing.

Senior quarterback Kaiden Lansford capped his team's second drive with a 31-yard touchdown strike to sophomore receiver Isaac Yates.

Valley Vista (6-3, 3-1) responded, as neither team would lead by more than a touchdown all night. Following three straight handoffs with goal to go, junior quarterback Burt Delay took a quick snap and plunged in himself with two seconds left in the opening quarter.

After getting a stop, the Monsoon took advantage of a botched punt snap.

Taking over on the Stallions' 23, the offense relied on Delay to run for the four yards needed on fourth down. Three plays later he threw a 13-yard fade to junior receiver Liam Kelleher in the left rear corner of the end zone.

"We didn't know they were going to double cover Liam the whole game," Delay said. "We used him as a decoy because he took two people with him."

Following an exchange of punts, Lansford reared back and launched a 38-yard strike to senior receiver Damian Getejanc. Now in the red zone, the Stallions went back to their favored I formation and pounded away.

Senior tailback Michael Clark  ran for 9, 4 and 3 yards before squeezing in from the one on a game-tying touchdown.

The Monsoon defense largely did a good job limiting Clark, who entered leading the 6A conference with 1,174 rushing yards. Clark finished the night with 25 carries for 93 yards.

"We practice these situations. That kid's a down hill runner. I'm super proud of this defense," Valley Vista coach Josh Sekoch said.

At times, though, the defense overcommitted.

On the second snap of the second half, Clark took a handoff and pitched back to Lansford, who dropped in an easy deep ball for a 61-yard flea-flicker touchdown to junior Zach Sutton.

"We actually just put it in this week," Chappelle said. "Then giving up the post for a touchdown ... you get the momentum then you give up that."

The teams traded punts , then the Monsoon squelched any anxiety by the home fans. Delay hit senior Derek Miller in stride on a post route and the speedster finished a 69-yard touchdown pass.

A stopped two-point run, leaving the game  tied at 20, did not diminish the importance of Miller's catch.

"He's actually a safety that we moved over when Tyson Givens was injured," Sekoch said.

Valley Vista forces a Lansford fumble on fourth down near midfield. Immediately Delay went deep, connecting with Kelleher for a 35-yard gain.

Two plays later, Kelleher ran another corner route and caught an 11-yard scoring strike for a 27-20 lead.

"That was a great feeling. As soon as I caught it I knew what it meant to our team," Kelleher said.

Just before the end of the third, a snap sailed over Delay's head. He and several Shadow Ridge players tried to pick it up, untill the Stallions  fell on it at the Monsoon 33.

The home team relied  on stout defense and limited Shadow Ridge to senior Josh Cano's 29-yard field goal.

One the Monsoon had the ball back, they moved well on screens to Brown and fellow senior tailback  Aiden Cunningham. But after three such short tosses for 43 yards, senior tailback Yazid Tyler fumbled and the Stallions recovered it at the 20.

Shadow Ridge got it back but two implications and the sack of Lansford allowed the Monsoon to take their time and waste seconds.

"We didn't convert on fourth down a couple times. That's huge," Chappelle said. "And on those last couple drives, they caught us with the back coming out of the backfield."

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