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Duo set to debut for Valencia

Valencia’s Bishop, Manfro give new look to experienced group of starters

Posted: August 29, 2009 10:48 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia junior quarterback Alex Bishop (3) and running back Steven Manfro will take over for Dominick Solley and Jordan Thompson in 2009. Bishop and Manfro will be two of the few new starters this season.

Everywhere you look, Valencia has returning players.

There are returnees in the receiving corps. On the lines. In the linebacking corps. In the secondary.

But there are two spots with new faces, and they may be the two most important spots on the field.

Juniors Alex Bishop and Steven Manfro will line up at quarterback and running back, respectively, taking over for a pair of first-team all-Foothill League selections.

Dominick Solley threw for 1,771 yards and 16 touchdowns last fall, while Jordan Thompson rushed for a staggering 1,672 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Both are gone, and it’s up to Bishop and Manfro to take their place.

“With a guy I don’t know as well, there might be a couple small errors,” Bishop says. “But with Steve, everything is smooth. We worked on the small stuff like that for over a year.”

Bishop met Manfro when he transferred to Valencia from West Ranch, which doesn’t run the ball as much as the Vikings.

Their shared sense of humor helped them hit it off.

“I could sit there and laugh for hours at that kid,” Bishop says. “Football’s such an up-tight game and so focused and intense. It’s good to have fun and just let loose with the guys.”

In fact, the two of them take pride in bringing levity to the football team.

“We’re both pretty funny,” Manfro says. “We tell jokes to each other and try to get through practice a little easier.”

Replacing the production of Solley and Thompson will be anything but easy.

Bishop got a taste of what’s to come last season, when he started three games after Solley went down with an ankle injury.

He came up from junior varsity to throw for 622 yards and seven touchdowns in those three games.

More importantly, Valencia won all three.

“It was a great experience to come up and get a few games under my belt in the middle of the season,” Bishop says. “It got me up to full varsity speed, just recognizing things a lot quicker, making a lot better reads.”

Solley is now the quarterbacks coach at Valencia, something else that will help Bishop.

“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Bishop says. “He knows a lot about the system. It helps having a young guy who’s been through the system who can talk to me.”

As for Manfro, he’s seeing his first varsity action inheriting more than Thompson’s spot. He’s inheriting his number.

And he hopes to inherit Thompson’s style.

“He’s a good running back,” Manfro says. “He’s good at cutting, too. I can still improve on many things. I can improve my speed, my cutting, probably my hitting.”

Beyond shouldering the bulk of the rushing yards this season, Manfro is aware of the burden of expectation surrounding Valencia.

“I feel some of it,” he says. “If I’m the running back, I’m part of helping (the team) out.”

Expectations are something Bishop and Manfro will face all year.

It is, however, a double-edged sword.

Valencia is loaded with returning talent, which Bishop and Manfro say has eased the transition.

“I’m blessed to have these guys around me,” Bishop says. “Steven, Brock (Vereen), Zach Tartabull, even the big guys up front. It’s great to be around them and have them help me every single day.”

Both Bishop and Manfro want to help Valencia to its most successful season ever.

Chemistry is a big part of that equation.

It’s also one they’ve already solved.

“I think if we didn’t know each other, we wouldn’t be good in the backfield,” Manfro says. “For things like exchanges and blocking for him, I care about it more because he’s one of my good friends.”



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