Dons Football Open League Play With Win Over Monroe
When is a rout, not a rout? When the winning team takes its eyes off the opponent and stops playing with intensity, allowing the losing team the chance to get back into the game. It was a valuable lesson the Verdugo Hills Dons can learn, as they held on to defeat the Monroe Vikings 24-14 on Friday night. The win gives the Dons a 1-0 record after that opening contest of East Valley League play.
As they have all season, the Dons let their defense hold serve as the offense found its groove. Despite an early fumble adding pressure for the Dons, the defense shut down the Vikings, not allowing them to get into any real dangerous field position. The Vikings best offensive threat of the half was shut down by a big interception at the Dons 18 yard line from Senior Defensive Back Ian Yanez. Verdugo Hills scored with 37 seconds left in the first half as Senior Running Back Nicholas Cisneros punched the ball in from the 1 yard line. Quarterback Dane Iversen ran the ball in himself for the 2-point conversion to give the Dons a 8-0 lead. A successful onside kick gave them a chance to extend the lead going into halftime. Iversen found Cisneros with a short pass that was turned into a 35 yard gain to put the Dons well within striking distance. Iversen eventually scored on a 5 yard run as time ran out, and then found Senior Wide Receiver/Linebacker Luke Waters for the conversion to give Verdugo Hills a 16-0 lead at halftime.
With the Dons set to receive the second half kickoff, the belief was there would be more of the same play that saw them enter the half up multiple scores. Instead, the opening kickoff was fumbled, and the Vikings appeared to gain hope that they were still in the game. “It started at the start of the second half when we fumbled the opening kick,” Coach Sean Jackson said regarding the Dons giving life to the Vikings. Verdugo Hills leaned on its defense and was able to keep Monroe from threatening to score, and the Dons broke through for their third touchdown early in the fourth quarter as Senior Running Back Max Solis scored from the 1 yard line. Iversen found Sophomore Wide Receiver Ben Emery for the 2-point conversion to bring the score to 24-0.
The Vikings were now able to find holes in the Dons defense and they drove the field and scored. A defensive penalty gave Monroe a second opportunity at the 2-point conversion, and this time they succeeded in cutting the lead to 24-8. After the Dons recovered the onside kick, they gifted the ball right back to the Vikings on the very next play with a lost fumble. Monroe scored quickly, and all of a sudden a comfortable 24-0 lead was a tense 24-14 edge with under 5 minutes left in the game. The Dons were able to run the clock down to under 2 minutes, and gave the ball back to their defense which has been their strength so far this season. Despite a late defensive pass interference penalty, the Dons held firm and walked away with the victory.
Though they came away with the win, the Dons coaches emphasized that there was still a lot of work to do. Offensive Coordinator, Chad Runnels said that the overall effort was “...not good enough. Not good enough at all.” Coach Jackson spoke to the team about their larger goals and how they need to close out every game, “We can’t let teams hang around and get hope. We need to close, on offense and on defense.” The Dons are back on the field at Turner Stadium hosting Van Nuys next Friday, September 24.