Playoff Preview: Vikings get another crack at Mountain Empire
Anybody who’s been to the multiplex in the last decade or so is keenly aware of the motion picture industry’s ever-intensifying fetish for franchises.
If a film makes even the tiniest incursion into profitability, it seems, a second installment is all but preordained (to say nothing of a third, a fourth, a fifth …).
But Hollywood isn’t the only place dealing with an acute case of sequel-itis.
A recent outbreak has taken hold right here in the Imperial Valley, where four local football teams are participating in postseason grudge matches.
The Holtville Vikings are one of those teams.
Tonight, they are set to meet up with the Mountain Empire Red Hawks in the second round of the CIF-SDS Division V playo s.
They enter the match riding a nice little three-week high, after ending the regular season with blowout wins over Manzanita League foes Vincent Memorial and Calipatria and being granted a round one bye as their division’s four seed.
But go back four weeks, and things get a little drearier.
That was when the Vikings were dealt one of their season’s two losses by — you may have guessed it — Mountain Empire.
It’s a game they’d really like to have back.
Playing on the road in Pine Valley, Holtville outgained the Red Hawks 344 to 144 and had an even starker advantage in time of possession.
Star running back Jose Devoux managed 205 yards all by his lonesome while the entire Mountain Empire team could only scrounge up 19 on 11 carries. Red Hawk QB Gabriel Hydorn was held under 50 percent passing.
But despite consistently dictating the terms of engagement, the Vikings couldn’t scrape a victory.
Their prolific run game and well-heeled defense were negated by a couple of broken plays (including a blocked punt TD) and inopportune turnovers as they went down 20-14.
Though they couldn’t have known it at the time, the loss would wind up costing them a shot at a Manzanita League title. The Red Hawks, not exactly a pre-season bettor’s delight, wound up taking that crown — following up their win over Holtville with two more of Calipatria and Vincent — despite not having fielded a winning team since 2013.
This combination of factors — the feeling of having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, the loss of the league title, etc. — has the Holtville side bolt upright in anticipation of the chance to bring the Red Hawks back to Earth.
Holtville head coach Jason Turner acknowledged there’s an air of excitement around the team, which is eager to avenge the earlier loss.
“We get a rematch at home. They won fair and square, but we let it get away from us. … We feel like the football gods are treating us very, very kindly,” Turner said, speaking late Thursday afternoon. He knows the Red Hawks his team faces later this evening won’t be the same one they matched up so well with in October — “They’re going to be a better team; the playo s are di erent” — but he still feels confident in the Vikings’ ability to survive and advance.
The first step in doing so will be containing Mountain Empire’s passing attack.
Hydorn was far-and-away the Manzanita League’s top regular-season tosser, completing 62 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns against only six picks.
“[They’ve made their living throwing the ball,” said Turner. “The key for us will be putting pressure on the quarterback and tightening our coverage.”
He noted much of the Red Hawks’ positive yardage in their first meeting came on long passes before reiterating the Vikings need to “stay on [their] spots.”
The Vikings will also have to keep an eye on senior RB Esteban Castillo, who had three rushing scores in Mountain Empire’s round one win over Army-Navy.
Turner is confident in his squad’s ability to take care of business, however.
“Having a bye, we’ve been able to polish up our offense and buckle down on defense,” he said. They’re raring to go.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Holtville High.
Jose Devoux (16) of the Vikings sti arms a defender during his team’s 20-0 win over the Vincent Memorial Scots on Oct. 18. Devoux has Holtville’s number one option on o ense all year, accumulating 1,501 yards on the ground. PHOTO AARON BODUS