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Valencia's Malik Townsend slotted for success

Posted: August 28, 2013 8:24 p.m.
Updated: August 28, 2013 8:24 p.m.

At 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 155 pounds, Valencia's Malik Townsend uses a combination of speed and shiftiness to seperate from defenders. His skill set has allowed him to become arguably the Vikings' top slot receiver in school history.

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The proliferation of the spread offense in the Santa Clarita Valley dates back to the 1990s when Hart High School annually had one of the state’s most prolific offenses.

Valencia High took it to a different level in the 2000s with the state’s all-time passing yardage leader Michael Herrick.

It’s the only offense we’ve seen out of Canyon under current head coach Rich Gutierrez.

Saugus, which has been defined under the head coach Jason Bornn-era as a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense, has even fiddled with it.

Bornn even called it a couple of years back the offense of the Santa Clarita Valley and at some point, his teams would have to adapt to its style.

That offense is often characterized by four-receiver sets — two on the outside, two on the inside.

Ask NFL teams like the New England Patriots, who recently saw little Wes Welker become the No. 1 pass-catching option in their offense despite his 5-foot-9-inch frame, how important the guys on the inside are.

These slot receivers are quick options, linebacker mismatches and downright annoying to defenses.

Check, check and check — that’s Valencia’s Malik Townsend and more.

“Malik is definitely the best all-around (slot receiver we’ve had) because of his speed,” says Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “It’s much different than what we’ve had. He makes people miss. You put him in space and that messes with people.”

The numbers from last year sort of speak volumes.

Townsend led the Vikings with 54 catches and 12 receiving touchdowns and was second with 1,066 receiving yards as a junior.

But the visuals were even more impressive.

His combination of speed and shiftiness regularly turned short catches into long plays.

He had receptions of 40, 41, 44, 52, 60 and 78 yards last season — the 78-yarder coming in a clash against a Canyon team that was, like Valencia, 3-0 going into the game in Foothill League play.

Townsend is just 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 155 pounds, but sees that as an advantage

“If I go behind the line, I get lost,” Townsend says. “If I get the ball, I can run out easily. Since I’m so low to the ground, I can get a lot of leverage. It is hard for (defensive backs) to spot me on the field.”

Muir sees a huge advantage to having a guy like Townsend in the offense.

“The two slots are highly underrated,” says Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “You usually have this big outside receiver type of guy and there’s a lot of them who are talented (out here). But those slot guys a lot of times get mismatches on linebackers. You can do a lot with them and you can move them in a little bit and get the ball to them quick like a sweep. The more versatile they are the more dynamic your offense is. We’ve had slots in the past who were bigger tight end guys, but I’ve always felt our offense was at its best when we had smaller, quick guys inside. It made things much, much different for our offense.”

Last year is an example and Valencia had a couple of strong slot receivers under prolific passer Alex Bishop in 2009 and 2010 in Max Rodriguez and Blake Anthony.

Even Herrick had a pair of dependable slots in 2004 when Valencia last reached a CIF championship game in Jason Trujillo and Jason Engelberg.

But those players weren’t on par with Townsend, who could turn any catch into a touchdown.

It’s not just his speed and shiftiness that makes him a threat — it’s his strength.

Nine players in Vikings history have reached Golden Elite status.

Golden Elite is the top four all-time lifters at the school in bench press, squat, clean and jerk.

Townsend is one of them, having done it in his weight class two different years.

On top of that, Townsend is extremely well-rounded.

He’s a 3.5 GPA student, a lacrosse player, an avid fisherman and one of the nicest kids, Muir says, he’s ever had.

“He is the nicest kid in the world, there’s no doubt about it,” Muir says. “The thing about Malik is his maturity. There could be a thunderstorm around him, but he’s as calm as can be.”

Muir points to the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division semifinal Nov. 23 last season when Palos Verdes’ offense was unrelenting.

Townsend turned short catches into 33- and 54-yard scores in an eventual 50-33 loss.

The thunderstorm will come soon enough.

Valencia will have a first-year starter in senior quarterback Jake Wallace.

Think he’s concerned?

“Malik is so quick. He can get away from everyone,” Wallace says. “He’s going to be open at least half the time just because of his speed, and he can separate from people. I have great, great talent surrounding me.”

There’s something about the slot position that’s helpful to a new quarterback, almost security blanket-like because of how he lines up inside.

With all Malik Townsend is, he makes quite a special security blanket.

 

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