May 26, 2024

On a warm, pleasant Friday night in the Santa Clarita Valley, where football stars used to be as well known as the roller coaster rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia High might have another player to rekindle the excitement.

Sophomore running back Brian Bonner is the first Valencia player to wear No. 34 since Shane Vereen, who left to play college ball for California in 2007, then professionally with the New England Patriots. Like Vereen, Bonner is fast, having run 100 meters in 10.85 seconds as a freshman. As he blossoms, so will the Vikings.

“He’s a special player,” coach Larry Muir said.

There were hints of Bonner’s talents during a 42-14 rout of West Ranch that has Valencia (7-1, 4-0) on track to win the Foothill League. He had a 56-yard touchdown reception and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown before it was nullified by a penalty.

“I always wore the number as a kid,” Bonner said of 34. “I found out it was worn by Vereen and it’s an honor to wear his number.”

Valencia scored four touchdowns over a dominant opening 13 minutes that included four interceptions and a fumble recovery. There also was a blocked field goal by Jordan Cardenas, resulting in a touchdown return by Nick Seymour that gave the Vikings a 35-7 halftime lead.

Valencia was called for 22 penalties, and that left Muir a little stunned when addressing his players afterward.

“That’s about as ugly as football as we’ve played in a long time,” he told them.

Muir has revised his offense this season with more shifts. Mostly gone are the spread-offense days that helped Valencia win 11 consecutive Foothill League titles, the last in 2019.

“We got stagnant,” Muir said. “We had to reinvent ourselves.”

Valencia also was hurt by the pandemic. In 2020, the Vikings couldn’t do their year-round training, particularly in the weight room. It affected their culture.

“We went through the COVID thing and it threw us off,” Muir said.

They didn’t win league titles in 2021 or 2022. But with a reinvigorated senior class, led by linebackers Reid Farrell and Tony Testa, it’s a return to playing “Viking football.”

Valencia's Gavin Corbet runs with the ball after picking off a West Ranch pass in the Vikings' win.

Valencia’s Gavin Corbet runs with the ball after picking off a West Ranch pass in the Vikings’ win.

(Craig Weston)

They upset Bishop Amat and gave unbeaten Rancho Cucamonga one of its toughest games before losing 22-20.

On Friday, Isaac Shin, Cardenas, Gavin Corbet, Farrell and Luke Cruz all had interceptions.

“I feel good where we are at,” Muir said.

Valencia is projected to be in the Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. And wait for the Vikings to turn loose Bonner.

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