The East Union High Lancers delivered on the challenges late in Friday's homecoming game against Johansen.
In the end, they held on for a 20-13 victory.
"It came down to how we responded each time," said East Union coach Willie Herrera of the pressure applied by the much-improved Vikings at Dino Cunial Field.
The first of those tests for the Lancers (3-1) came at the start of the fourth quarter moments after Johansen (2-1) scored to cut the lead to a point.
East Union blocked the extra-point kick.
The Lancers came back with junior running back Carlos Alvarez scoring the second of his two touchdowns. He racked up a game-high 126 yards on 11 carries.
Next up was the East Union defense being tested not once but twice late in the game.
The first Viking drive was squashed out by junior linebacker Lane Cefalo's fourth-and-long sack.
Johansen threatened one last time, trying a last-ditch flea flicker that was finally snuffed out by senior defensive tackle Alex Yang.
Herrera was relieved to see his team persevere.
"I'm super elated with the win — there's still a few things we have to fix," he said.
His team opened the scoring in the second quarter.
After missing on previous opportunities — the Lancers recovered a fumble in Vikings territory in the opening quarter as a result of a bad snap but couldn't cash that in — East Union needed just one play with Johansen pinned down deep in its own territory.
Eric Morales found some daylight, racing 70 yards for the score.
The Lancers wasted little on their next possession.
Alvarez made most of his blockers by sprinting 42 yards to pay dirt. Morales ran in the two-point conversion, making it 14-0.
The Vikings made it close before the intermission, with quarterback John Romero sneaking it in from a yard out. He kept that drive alive by twice hitting his big tight end Isaiah Knight on long pass plays.
Knight caught five passes during the game for 95 yards.
Down 14-7, Johansen dodged a few bullets in the third quarter, including an interception by Tyler Dias and a 31-yard field goal try by Tyler Torres, which struck the crossbar.
The Vikings put together a drive that extended to the beginning of the fourth. Jesse Arriola powered his way in from 12 yards out to cut the deficit, 14-13.
But East Union not only blocked the extra point try but later came up with a much-needed insurance touchdown.
Next up for the Lancers is Oakdale next week to kick off Valley Oak League play.
Johansen 0 7 0 6 – 13
East Union 0 14 0 6 – 20
E — Eric Morales 70 run (pass failed), 8:30
E — Carlos Alvarez 42 run (Morales run), 5:55
J — John Morales 1 run (Emanuel Gomez Arismendi kick), 17.3
J — Jesse Arriola 12 run (kick blocked), 11:55
E — Alvarez 42 run (run failed), 7:45