Play­off Pre­view: Vikings get an­other crack at Moun­tain Em­pire

Imperial Valley Press - - SPORTS - BY AARON BO­DUS Sports Ed­i­tor

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

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