Most coaches love to be tested early against formidable opponent like a defending a state champion.
On Friday the Yuba City High football team welcomed in the reigning 4-AA state champs PV Vikings to town for an intersectional game between a pair of upper division powers.
Yuba City battled PV for much of the night, proving that it’s going to be a tough out on the defensive side all year. The Honkers limited PV to less than 50 yards of total offense in the first half and one offensive touchdown in a 17-14 loss in a defensive slugfest at Honker Field.
“It’s an incredible win for us against a team that has an awesome defense,” PV coach Mark Cooley said. “We just happened to make more plays tonight.”
One of the pivotal plays that aided PV (1-1) in the second half was when junior Ethan Alexander picked off Yuba City quarterback Mason Niccum and returned it 32 yards, setting up a Nathan Paddock 2-yard touchdown and PV 17-14 lead late in the third quarter.
Niccum would answer back in the fourth when he led Yuba City (1-1) on a fourth-quarter drive inside of 4 minutes left. The junior signal-caller scrambled for a first-down to near midfield, then hit Tre Henry for another first down, moving the ball down to the PV 15-yard line.
“Their offense did a great job of scrambling and keeping plays alive,” Cooley said.
PV adjusted its defense and hammered Niccum for a sack and forced fumble with just a minute left to preserve the game.
“We switched into a different defense, went into a dime set and that allows our guys to do a lot of different things up front for us,” Cooley said. “It creates havoc for the offensive line.”
For Yuba City coach Aaron Gingery, though disappointed in the result, he’s pleased with the effort, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“The kids didn’t quit,” Gingery said. “We got a number of things to work on, but it’s fixable issues. You can’t fix effort. These kids have the effort to be extremely successful this year.”
Yuba City grabbed its first lead in the third after it stopped PV’s fake punt attempt cold, then answered with 34-yard touchdown from Erik Palmquist to push the Honkers in front 14-10 with 4 minutes left.
Palmquist, though struggling much of the night against the PV defensive front with negative rushing yards through 24 minutes, showed his burst and athleticism on that one particular run to give Yuba City its first lead.
While the run game had its moments, Gingery knows the passing attack is still a work in progress in order to make this team a balanced unit.
“Passing is all about timing,” Gingery said. “Quarterback has to have perfect timing with the receivers, the line has to have timing with each other.”
Yuba City’s defense was the shining star all night, led by Emiliano Murrillo, Luke Afato and Brigham Lessard, who had a first-half pick setting one of a number of short fields for Yuba City.