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Prep football: New blood rising

Departures of key defensive players leave room for another talented crop

Posted: August 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.

From left, Valencia lineman Grayson Largman, defensive back Tedric Thompson and lineman Jake Solley will be counted on this year to follow up on a dominant defensive season for the Vikings in 2011 despite the graduation of top-notch talent.

Valencia football’s 2011 defense was one of the best the Santa Clarita Valley has seen over the last decade.
It held 10 of 11 opponents under their season scoring average.

It shut out three teams and held five under 10 points.

Two major reasons were CIF-Southern Section Northern Division co-Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Gorman and All-CIF defensive end Billy Shipman.

Valencia head coach Larry Muir recently described the linebacker Gorman as the type of player who rarely comes along.

His desire to win and sell out for the Vikings were main reasons for the team’s tenacious attitude on defense.

Shipman was an athletic defensive end — a combination of great size and strength with the ability to get to the quarterback at will and make big plays.

Both graduated in 2012, leaving the Vikings with a giant void.

“Oh, huge,” Muir said of those losses. “Gorman from the standpoint of the passion and the leadership. He had a raw toughness to him, the old-school (approach). He played sideline-to-sideline. He didn’t just tackle people, he blasted people.

“And Shipman brought a high standard for the defensive line,” Muir added. “He was so good against the run and the pass. He could do it all, which upped the game of a lot of the defensive linemen.”

Valencia doesn’t have a Gorman or a Shipman this year, and if there’s one identifiable strength with the Vikings in 2012, it’s the offense with its high number of returning starters.

So where does that leave the defense?

Actually, the news isn’t so bad.

The Vikings are relying heavily on four varsity veterans — defensive back Tedric Thompson, outside linebacker Anthony Costleigh and linemen Grayson Largman and Jake Solley.

The latter two players are expected to be the strength of the defense on the interior of the defensive line.

“Up the middle, we’re solid,” Muir said.

Largman is a three-year varsity defensive tackle who will line up next to two-year varsity nose guard Solley.
Both seniors are bulls — fast, contact-loving rushers with size that will present difficulty for teams who want to run up the gut.

Largman is 260-pound returning All-Foothill League second team lineman who benches 415-pounds.

Solley spent a lot of time at running back last season after a preseason injury, but the 216-pound senior will be looked at as a major contributor on defense this season. He will also play running back for the Vikings in 2012.

Solley said he doesn’t expect a huge dropoff from last season because of who’s coming back.

“We have leadership at every position — Grayson on the defensive line, Costleigh with the linebackers, and we have Tedric in the (secondary) to help all the young guys. And we have a lot of young talent,” Solley said. “We’re not going to be any less capable than last year. We have to put all the stuff (critics might be) saying to the side and do our job.”

Costleigh is another All-Foothill second-teamer and is considered one of the Foothill’s hardest hitters.

Thompson is one of the most talented football players in the area and was a first-teamer as a wide receiver.

The senior and four-year varsity player is the most experienced player on the team.

Those four will be surrounded by a group of inexperienced varsity players.

Valencia has seen this happen before where it has lost some key players, creating some doubt — most recently last season.

The Vikings graduated All-CIF running back Steven Manfro and All-CIF quarterback Alex Bishop and still came back to win the league title, as Gorman and Shipman stepped in to lead the team.

The Vikings should be led in 2012 by their offense, yet there’s still enough on defense to make it formidable.

“I think it’s going to be just how it was the year before. ‘Oh, we lost Bishop. We lost Manfro. Valencia’s not going to be good,’” Largman said. “But we came back and won a league championship. Now it’s everyone thinking, ‘Oh, you lost Billy. You lost Gorman. You don’t have a defense now.’ It will be just like last year. Everyone will underestimate us. They’re going to look past that and say we’re not good. We’ll show up and they’ll be surprised. We’re going to play great defense.”



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