As the sun trickled down beyond Valencia High and the glare from a scattering of clouds produced a beautiful red plume, it was a reminder how much residents of the Santa Clarita Valley enjoy their Friday night lights.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Newhall Hart and Canyon Country Canyon used to have high school football duels before sold-out stadiums. In 1995, a new school opened, Valencia. By 2005, Larry Muir had taken over as head coach and copied the passing scheme of the Herrington brothers at Hart.
Fast forward to Friday night for the start of Foothill League play. Valencia students were wearing T-shirts that read, "Seven-peat." The changing of the guard is pretty much complete. For seven consecutive seasons, the Vikings have won or shared the Foothill League title. An "eight-peat" T-shirt could be soon on sale at the student store.
Not even a little Hart quarterback royalty could prevent Valencia from coming away with a 35-14 victory. The Vikings' defense recorded nine sacks against Hart quarterback Nick Moore, the brother of Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore. They also had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
"It's an evolution," Muir said of his program. "The players are making plays."
Valencia (4-2, 1-0) showed off an impressive group of athletes who figure to keep the Vikings winning far beyond this season. Sophomore Jayvaun Wilson, the brother of former Valencia standout Jay Jay Wilson (Arizona State), had two seven-yard touchdown runs and also had an interception.
"He taught me how to be tough," Wilson said of his brother.
Sophomore Mykael Wright caught a 16-yard touchdown pass, made an interception and had six receptions for 79 yards. Sophomore Kuan Glasgow had a 39-yard reception. Junior Moises Haynes rushed for 104 yards.
The triggerman was senior quarterback Aaron Thomas, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 213 yards with one interception. During summer passing competition, he got hints of how good his young receivers might become.
"It's awesome to see them grow," Thomas said.
In defeat, Moore certainly earned plenty of respect. A year ago, he was sidelined after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury and undergoing knee surgery. He somehow ran for 105 yards and one touchdown despite the nine sacks and passed for 181 yards and one touchdown.
I still remember back in 2001 when Matt Moore was throwing spirals for the Indians and Nick Moore was running around in diapers during summer passing competitions. He finally got pulled with under two minutes left after suffering a bloody nose.
Saugus defeated Golden Valley, 21-9, to go to 6-0, so there might be a team left to battle the Vikings for Santa Clarita Valley supremacy. But if Valencia solves its penalty issues (the Vikings had 11 penalties), beware.
Muir told his players afterward he was not pleased with the penalties. Then he let out a big smile, "You know what, it feels good."