SURPRISE — No one needed to tell first-year Valley Vista football coach Derek Wahlstrom his defense played well Friday.
And no one needed to tell Willow Canyon coach Justin Stangler he looked frustrated when describing his team’s offensive struggles against the Monsoon.
“Our defense was golden from the first snap to the last,” Wahlstrom said after the Monsoon shut out the Wildcats (0-2), 14-0, on Willow Canyona’s field, holding the hosts to 89 total yards, in unofficial statistics.
Stangler said his offense’s early problems meant the Wildcats were fighting not just to put the ball in the end zone, but simply to build momentum.
“We just could not get anything going offensively,” Stangler said. “Our defense, that’s the best we’ve played all year. I told our defense, if we play like that every week, we’ll go 8-2.”
The Monsoon (1-1) dominated time of possession and field position to beat the Wildcats for the 10th time in the past 11 years (the rivalry trophy went unclaimed last year as the teams didn’t face each other in a COVID-19-shortened schedule).
That domination started about two minutes in the game. Senior defensive back Carter Price intercepted Willow Canyon quarterback Xereque Parham’s first pass of the night, thrown into heavy traffic, and Valley Vista started its first possession at the Wildcats’ 30-yard line.
That was the first five possessions of the night the Monsoon would start in Wildcat territory.
However, the hosts played solid defense most of the night. After a 3-yard touchdown run by Damian Zuniga on the Monsoon’s first drive, the visitors wouldn’t score again until just before halftime, and Willow Canyon shut out Valley Vista in the second half.
Ethan Espinoza scored from one yard out with 9 seconds left in the second quarter for the game’s only other touchdown. That was set up by a well-executed, fourth-down draw play in which senior Meven Obregon burst up the middle for 8 yards.
Willow Canyon only ran 17 offensive plays in the first half.
Mikel Henderson, who made both of his point-after kicks, missed a 25-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.
Obregon led the Monsoon in rushing with 90 yards on only 15 carries. Valley Vista quarterback A.J. Crespin, a junior, was 10-of-17 in the game for 88 yards and, perhaps most importantly, no interceptions.
Valley Vista senior defensive back John Keenan intercepted two second-half Willow Canyon passes — one by Parham in which he jumped a bubble-screen route in the third quarter, and got his feet down after a sideline pick thrown by Parham’s replacement, sophomore Calvin Mathews, in the fourth.
“On the first one, I trusted the cornerback to do his job, and he did,” Keenan said. “And on the second one, I was playing everything from the hashmark to the right sideline. It’s so great when we all work together and all do our jobs.”
Parham and Matthews combined to 6-of-13, unofficially, for 39 yards with three interceptions. The teams also rushed for only 50 yards.
A dropped Mathews pass, by a wide-open downfield receiver, in the game’s final minutes, epitomized how things went in the game for the Wildcats.
“Defense really kept us in the game,” Stangler said. “It had gotten us down in the past to lose a rivalry game by 30 or 40 points. Our motto is to play 48 minutes. We did that tonight.”
Willow Canyon hosts Yuma Kofa on Friday, Sept. 24, while Valley Vista hosts Cesar Chavez.
Friday, Sept. 17
VALLEY VISTA 14, WILLOW CANYON 0
V. Vista 7 7 0 0—14
Willow 0 0 0 0—0
Scoring: VV, 6:34 1Q, Damian Zuniga 3 run (Mikel Henderson kick); VV, 0:09 2Q, Ethan Espinosa (Henderson kick).
Rushes-Yds: VV 33-130; WC 24-50. Passing: VV 10-17-0—88; WC 6-13-3—39. Total Off: VV 218; WC 89. 1st Dowwns: VV 14; WC 6. Pen.-Yds: VV 8-70; WC 4-35. Fumbles-lost: VV 2-1; WC 2-0. Punts-Avg: VV 3-32.66; WC 4-33.5. Rec.: VV 1-1; WC 1-2.