FRESNO - Kingsburg has shook up the Valley.
With a dominating defensive performance in the second half, the Vikings (1-0) held off an explosive San Joaquin Memorial (0-1) offense to pull off a 17-14 upset in a non-league road game on Friday night. It was Kingsburg’s first opening season win since 2013.
“I think we were the only people in the whole Valley that we thought were going to win and we believed it,” quarterback Jett Jackson said. “We came out fired up.”
In a week one matchup that featured two Valley championship contenders in their respective divisions, the go-ahead score came from the foot of Vikings kicker Brian Jimenez, who nailed a 33-yard field goal with 1:53 to play. It was his second field goal attempt of the night, missing a 23-yarder by a couple of inches earlier in the fourth quarter.
After missing his first attempt, Jimenez said his teammates kept him confident on the sideline.
“It’s my first time playing football, ever, playing in a game,” Jimenez said. “I couldn’t have done it without these guys. They’re always pushing me.”
Jimenez’s teammates soaked him in a celebratory Gatorade bath during his post-game interview.
After Jimenez’s field goal, Kingsburg’s defense was tasked to have one more stop against a Panthers offense that features receivers Jalen McMillan and Mac Dalena. McMillan is a Washington Huskies commit while Dalena is a Fresno State commit. McMillan didn’t cross the endzone and Dalena was shut down after two first half touchdowns.
“I got to give credit to coach [Ryan] Dias,” Jackson said. “He put up a great scheme this week to neutralize their athletes and we executed great.”
On their final defensive drive, the Vikings forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs with 48 seconds to play.
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“When the kicker made that field goal, I knew our defense had it,” Kingsburg linebacker Cole Dias said.
Cole and Josh Jackson led a pass rush that constantly pressured quarterback Finn Collins. The Vikings’ pass rush helped the defense get three turnovers - two interceptions, one fumble recovery- and not allowing a San Joaquin Memorial lead.
“You to tip your hat off to the defense, they kept us in the game,” Kingsburg head coach David Wilson said. “You could name a lot of guys, but as a collective group, they kept us in the game and we had just enough plays on offense to get a win.”
The Vikings started the game with a methodical drive that ended in a 12-yard touchdown run by Jett Jackson. The dual-threat quarterback used his speed several times on the first drive that took 5:55 off the clock.
The Vikings entered the second quarter with a 7-0 lead, but the Panthers tied it up after Collins threw a 26-yard touchdown pass down the middle to Mac Dalena, who outran the KHS defense to the endzone. The Vikings muff a punt return prior to the San Joaquin Memorial touchdown. Dalena had another second quarter touchdown in similar fashion that was a 48-yard score.
Later in the quarter, Jackson, who also plays safety, intercepted Collins in the endzone and was five yards away from having a pick-six. On the ensuing offensive drive, Jackson threw a 2-yard touchdown to Micah Spomer to give Kingsburg a 14-7 lead. The scoring play happened on fourth down. Dalena's 48-yard touchdown was the final score of the first half.
It was the second-straight opening season game between these two teams. The Vikings fell 42-28 in last year’s meeting at home against a Panthers team that eventually won the Central Section Division III title, along with being the CIF State Division 2-A runner up. San Joaquin Memorial were moved to Division II this season after a 14-1 record last year.
Kingsburg will seek its first 2-0 start since 2013 when the Vikings face Washington Union (1-0) on the road at John Ventura Stadium this week. In last year’s meeting, Kingsburg defeated the Panthers 48-13 at home. Last week, Washington Union defeated the Madera Coyotes 42-14. Kickoff between the Vikings and the Panthers is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday.