Saugus football (4-1, 1-0) defeated the hosting Valencia Vikings (2-3, 0-1), 28-21, in the Foothill League opener on Friday.
Centurions wide receiver AJ Goodman made nothing but huge plays and led his team with four catches for 138 yards and one TD.
Saugus’ defense came up huge in the second half with a flurry of sacks and two picks. The team has now blanked an opponent in the second half in three games this year.
After two years of waiting and three years without a packed house of fans, these teams finally renewed their Foothill League rivalry.
Saugus was without their leading receiver Khai Ky-Yeith, who tore his ACL last Thursday against Simi Valley. The team has dealt with injuries and adversity all year and head coach Jason Bornn has been impressed with how his players have responded.
“They’re just a bunch of tough, hard-core, pipe-hitting kids,” said Bornn. “There’s kids out playing with injuries that would put most other individuals in the hospital. But they don’t care, they just want to get out and play.”
The Centurions got on the board first after quarterback TJ Cataldi hit running back Jacob Viger for a 17-yard strike. The Vikings trailed for hardly any time at all on the game clock. However, paramedics coming into the track to assist someone on the Saugus visitor side delayed the score for a few minutes.
Big gains on the ground from running back Aidan Hicks led the team into Saugus territory. Quarterback Trey Erickson went to his main guy, Brandon Boateng, on consecutive plays, leading to a big first down followed by a 7-yard score to tie the game.
The Vikings would contain the Saugus offense on consecutive drives even after temporarily losing two of their best in those drives. Defensive end Jake Pikor and linebacker Reid Farrell exited one drive each with minor injuries.
Valencia’s run game looked non-existent to start but it popped off in the second quarter. Running back Daniel Hernandez took back-to-back delayed draws up the gut for big yardage. Hernandez first rushed for 13 yards before taking a 35-yard rush to the house on the next play.
Like their opponents, Saugus responded immediately. Viger ripped a huge 58-yard run after a nasty stiff arm on a Vikings defender. The big play set up a 4-yard score for fellow two-way standout Vinnie Gallagher.
Cataldi was under a bit more duress than normal in his first game without his top receiver Khai Ky-Yeith. The senior looked solid until a huge pick-six from Valencia defensive back Tyler Thompson to give Valencia a 21-14 lead before the halftime break.
The Centurions controlled the third quarter, possessing the ball for nearly the entire quarter in just two possessions. Their long opening came up empty after two penalties knocked Saugus out of field goal range. However, defensive back Austin Treahy came up with a huge interception on Valencia’s quick drive.
Goodman then would cap off the next drive with his first score from 15 yards out. The senior wide receiver wasn’t done just yet and scored on the Centurions’ next offensive play. Goodman regained the lead for Saugus with a 75-yard TD reception.
Hernandez’s run came alive and led the team to nearly a game-tying score. The Vikings would work the ball all the way into the red zone but came away empty. Defensive end Dario Sandoval came up with a game-changing sack on third down that brought Erickson’s helmet off, forcing him to sit a play.
Valencia was forced into a fourth and long inside the 10 with its backup quarterback, Jackson Askins, needing to make a game-saving play.
The Centurions’ front knew they needed to make a play and brought the house, leading to a sack by Andrew Gomez.
Saugus would work the clock down but have to punt. Valencia had one last chance to steal the win. The Vikings worked the ball down the field but cornerback Jaden Lemmons came up with his second game-sealing interception.
“We just put in the work throughout the week and executed,” said Lemmons. “We did what we needed to do.”
The Centurions are back on track but will have another challenging test right off the bat. Saugus will take on West Ranch at College of the Canyons on Friday. Valencia will look to rebound back at home but as a visitor when they play Castaic.
“Just getting better day by day,” said Goodman on what he wants to see out of his team. “There’s things to work on and always room to improve.”