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Tafuna, defense key Villa Park's victory
PLACENTIA - Villa Park football coach Dusan Ancich wasn't expecting the sharpest performance from his team Thursday at Valencia.
The Spartans had four players out because of injuries, including three who were banged up in a season-opening victory at Righetti of Santa Maria.
No. 14 Villa Park hurt itself with penalties but received a spark in the second half from its defense and running back Meki Tafuna to post a 24-7 victory against the No. 23 Tigers.
Tafuna rushed for 110 of his 151 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to lead the Spartans. Both of the senior's scoring runs came after interceptions by Villa Park's secondary.
The Spartans (2-0) overcame 14 penalties for 124 yards.
"We kind of had that kind of a week of practice, so it's nice to come in here and get a win," Ancich said. "Our defense played really well. ... I'm proud of the guys who filled in for other guys."
After a scoreless first half, Villa Park capitalized on two picks from its secondary early in the third quarter to open a 14-0 lead.
Tafuna (6-foot-0, 225 pounds) broke a 30-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead just two plays after an interception by Derek Kendrick at the Valencia 33.
On the ensuing Valencia possession, Villa Park's Ralph Valle intercepted a pass at the Tigers 41. Ten plays later, Tafuna scored on a 1-yard touchdown run as the Spartans opened a 14-0 lead.
Valencia (1-1) quickly responded as quarterback Matt Ruff rolled slightly to his right before throwing back to his left for an 80-yard TD pass to Gabriel Perez on the first play of the Tigers' next possession.
But Valencia's response was short-lived. The Tigers didn't score again.
Villa Park held Valencia to 86 yards rushing and 116 passing. The Spartans also forced three turnovers. Perez finished with 38 yards on 10 carries.
Kendrick, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior, shined at cornerback. He had a sack and a few big hits.
Villa Park extended its lead to 21-7 early in the fourth as junior tight end Luis Vecchio capped a 61-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Dylan Osborne with 9:10 left in the fourth.
Vecchio, also a defensive end, also had a sack and a fumble recovery.
Tafuna also played well at linebacker and finished with 27 carries. He credited his offensive line of Dimitri Medenas, Nick Whitton, Chad Buller, Chaz Murakami and his brother, Juni Tafuna.
"It feels good to run behind my line," Meki Tafuna said. "To be able to come out on top and beat these guys, it's a great blessing."
Villa Park had the best chance to score in the first half. With 50 seconds left in the second quarter, Osborne completed consecutive passes to drive the Spartans from their 43 to the Valencia 15 with 20 seconds left. But Valencia's defense forced two incomplete passes as the first half ended scoreless.
Next week, Villa Park takes on Edison in a duel of Southwest Division contenders.