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A mid-league season title clash?

valencia (7-0, 2-0) at hart (5-2, 2-0), 7:30 p.m.

Posted: October 29, 2009 9:49 p.m.
Updated: October 30, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Valencia and Hart have played some of the most meaningful Foothill League football games this decade.

So it’s fitting that their meeting at the end of the decade might very well be this season’s Foothill League championship game.

It is the midway point of the league season, but it’s hard to argue against the point.

Valencia, no argument, has been the class of the Foothill League this season.

Hart, despite a couple of bumps in the road, has been the valley’s next best team.

With the other four league teams still battling through struggles that have plagued them all year, tonight’s 7:30 game at College of the Canyons figures to be the contest that will have the largest effect on the league standings.

“In the road to a Foothill League championship, this is the hill you have to climb. This game, the kids are excited and ready to play — the familiarity of each other — it’s a big game,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington.

One surprising fact about this series is Valencia (7-0, 2-0) has defeated Hart (5-2, 2-0) only twice — ever.

That second Vikings’ victory came last season when Valencia won 38-7.

The one before that, though, was a very big one.

Valencia defeated Hart 29-10 on Oct. 29, 2004, ending the Indians’ 65-game Foothill League winning streak.

Both games matter little to this year’s contest, though.

Valencia will go in as a favorite.

The Vikings have been an offensive juggernaut this season, having scored at least 35 points in every game.

If there’s one player to key in on, it’s running back Steven Manfro.

The Foothill League’s rushing leader scored five touchdowns last week.

He has failed to reach the 100-yard mark once this season — a 98-yard performance against Loyola Oct. 10.

Yet the 1,063-yard back showed something more last week — his ability to make the big play when catching the ball.

He caught three Alex Bishop passes in last Friday’s 49-0 win over Golden Valley for 103 yards.

Hart doesn’t plan on being so generous.

Yet Herrington said stopping or limiting Manfro isn’t necessarily the goal.

“He’s done a great job, but they have so many weapons,” Herrington said.

Defensively, though, Valencia is hurting.

The Vikings have had to turn to backups at many defensive positions recently because of injuries.

Trevor Smyth and Connor Howell have stepped up at the linebacker positions, said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. Yet he still has concerns.

“They’ve got to stop — no more injuries,” Muir said.

Valencia also has to worry about a running back in Hart’s Jake Stephens.

Stephens scored four touchdowns in last Friday’s 45-27 Hart win over Canyon.

“We can’t let Stephens get downhill on us,” Muir said.

Hart, similar to Valencia, has also been defined by the play of its quarterback and receivers.

Valencia has Bishop throwing to Zach Tartabull and Max Rodriguez, while Hart has C.J. Reyes throwing to Ty MacArthur, Blake Borland and Da’jon Hairston.

All of those players rank near the top in many statistical categories at their positions.

Yet they won’t necessarily be the difference in this game, Muir said.

“Week in and week out there are playmakers that make a difference. But the offensive and defensive lines, the ones that are performing better, will end out on top,” Muir said.

Whoever plays better tonight has the inside track on the Foothill League title.



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