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Who's hot so far in preleague

Teams kick into gear as the Foothill League season draws closer

Posted: January 2, 2014 10:16 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2014 10:16 p.m.

Golden Valley's Francisco Perez dribbles the ball as a Pete Knight defender pursues. The Grizzlies boys soccer team is 5-6-2 to begin the season.

 

Schools are out for break and Foothill League play for winter sports is still a couple weeks away.

But this is the time of year some of the top teams and athletes are establishing themselves during preleague play.

There are already several storylines emerging in the weeks leading up to the opening of the Foothill season for basketball and soccer on Jan. 14.

One of the more impressive individual players so far in the Santa Clarita Valley prep scene is Golden Valley senior soccer player Samantha Jehnings.

After deciding not to play varsity soccer last year, Jehnings has returned to the high school game with force.

She has 13 goals in just six games played and has helped Golden Valley spring to a quick 6-1 record to start the year.

“Having a girl like Sam on the team, she’s going to put goals in the net,” said Golden Valley girls soccer head coach Adam Yassaman. “In Foothill League, I don’t care what defender is going up against her, Sam is going to put goals in the net.”

Yassaman said he’s remaining cautiously optimistic about the chances of Golden Valley, which has just one Foothill win in school history.

As for the defending league champion Valencia Vikings, perhaps no soccer team is hotter.

The Vikings are the only locally ranked team, at ninth in CIF-Southern Section Division II, and for good reason.

Valencia is 10-1-1 with wins over Oaks Christian, Westlake and a non-league win over Hart in the championship game of the Hart Soccer Showcase.

On the boys basketball side, Hart and Canyon appear to be the winners in preleague play.

Hart, anchored by the talented guard combination of Myles Franklin and Lewis Stallworth, is 8-1 coming off an impressive win over Righetti to win the Hart Holiday Classic tournament on Monday.

Crosstown rival Canyon has posted an even more impressive 13-1 mark with wins in its own Canyon Classic tournament and a championship in the Ventura Kiwanis tournament last week.

“Overall, it’s just guys have more understanding of what they’re about as a team and what they want to accomplish,” said Canyon basketball head coach Sean DeLong.

Hart is ranked fourth in CIF-SS Division IIA and Canyon is eighth in CIF-SS Division IIAA.

In girls basketball, the four-time defending league champion Canyon Cowboys don’t seem to be slowing down much.

That’s despite the graduation losses of Alia McCoy and Jaya Schultz, a pair of stellar four-year players.

Now led by senior guard Kali Vittallo and junior center Delaney McCann, Canyon is ranked tied for fourth in CIF-SS Division IA and off to a 11-2 start.

Valencia is the only other local team to appear in the latest CIF rankings, coming in at 16th in CIF-SS Division IAA.

Canyon and Valencia split the league title last year.

On the individual side, West Ranch senior guard Whitney Branham is already showing why she’s a Foothill Player of the Year candidate.

She’s routinely lighting up the scoreboard by putting up 33 points against Oaks Christian, 32 against Grant and 28 against Santa Barbara.

Branham is averaging 27.5 points per game and has helped West Ranch to a 9-6 record.

In soccer news, first-year Golden Valley boys soccer head coach Juan Paolo has his squad playing well against tough competition, carrying a 5-6-2 record so far.

That includes a 3-3 tie against perennial powerhouse Pete Knight High and wins over Clovis and Lancaster.

Golden Valley sophomore midfielder Francisco Perez looks like one of the area’s brightest emerging stars with seven goals through 11 games played.

Paolo took over as head coach in April, and said the team’s attitude has changed a lot since then.

“The talent is there and somebody had to push their buttons a little bit and I think I’ve done that,” Paolo said. “They needed some guidance.”

Last week’s Hart Soccer Showcase provided somewhat of a preview of the league with five of six Foothill teams participating.

The most impressive team to come out of it was tournament host Hart, which made it to the championship game for the third straight year before losing 2-1 to Crescenta Valley in double overtime.

Still, the Hart Indians are a league-best 6-2-2 so far and will head into Foothill play as a top contender.

If the early portion of the season is any indication, the SCV is in store for an eventful slate of winter sports in 2014.

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