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2012 Golden Valley football preview: A clean slate

Golden Valley has new players to match new attitude

Posted: August 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 27, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Golden Valley players from left, Chase Lewis, Michael Crossley, Chris Hamilton, Kyle Edwards and Ryan McNerney will play pivotal roles for a rebuilt Golden Valley team still looking for its first Foothill League win in school history. Is this finally the year?

New uniforms and a few new helmets may seem like only superficial changes for the Golden Valley football team, but they’re part of a bigger movement on head coach Robert Fisher’s squad.

What went largely unnoticed during 2011’s 1-9 season was the culture change that reverberated throughout the team.

What started out as a team of individuals, some still learning the basics of the game, blossomed by year’s end into a cohesive unit.

And this summer has been all about continuing that transformation.

“That’s everything we’ve been about is trying to change the culture, get the kids on board, get the parents on board, get the coaches on board,” Fisher said. “Really just trying to be one big family. We’ve really spent a lot of time on the team concept.”

Lost to graduation were the team’s top passer, quarterback Reid Soliman, leading rusher, Earl Johnson, and No. 1 wide receiver, Isa Bey.

Replacing those three presents unique challenges, as the Grizzlies are the only team in the Foothill League to suffer the loss of its leading passer, rusher and receiver.

“You can’t replace those guys,” Fisher said. “Those guys did a lot of great things for us. We’re just trying to build on their success and build on things they were able to accomplish.”

Aiding in that building process is the accumulation of some new, and in some cases refocused, weapons — particularly on the offensive line.

The Grizzlies’ biggest issue last season, and the thing that led to many of its losses — little depth at the offensive line position — looks to be a thing of the past.

Ironically, the line should be one of the Grizzlies’ biggest strengths in 2012, with the depth necessary for success in the Foothill League finally in place.

“The biggest strength is probably our line,” Fisher said. “Last year, it was one of our weaknesses and they’ve really kind of stepped up. We’ve got some size and depth. It instantly makes you better because a lot of games are won on the front. That’s where it all starts out. You win and lose a lot of games in the trenches. It’s definitely very important for us.”

With the inclusion of a solid line and a few talented skill position players, the Grizzlies are ready to turn the final corner — finally winning a Foothill League game.

The team was close last season, taking a 22-14 lead over West Ranch into halftime before ultimately losing 28-22.

“It was a really close game. We were up at halftime 22-14, and we didn’t finish,” said senior defensive back/punter Tyler Lewis. “We need to finish this year. We need to come out hard and just finish.”

One thing that should help the transformation is the fact that this is Fisher’s first full year as coach (He took over just before the 2011 season started and was not able to run offseason drills).

A renewed priority on offseason conditioning and team unity has helped bring the squad closer together this offseason.

“The guys didn’t communicate (last year),” said starting offensive and defensive lineman Juan Cervantes. “This year, we communicate; we help each other out.”

It’s unlikely the team will compete for a league title in 2012, but earning its first Foothill League win looks possible.

Senior Chase Lewis should be the team’s go-to guy, as the all-around athlete has come into his own during summer workouts and is expected to move around the offense at quarterback and wide receiver.

“He’s going to be a big part of (our offense),” Fisher said. “He does a lot of different things offensively based on where we put him. He might be a little bit flexible at quarterback, running back, safety, slot. He can be in a few different spots.”

Filling in for the departed Johnson at running back will be a combination of Daniel Jeon, Ryan McNerney and newcomer Leon Jacobs.

Jacobs, a transfer from Bishop Montgomery High in Torrance, has impressed the team despite not playing football since his freshman season and is described as a pure athlete.

Defensively, the Grizzlies look to be strong as well, with a core group that includes Chase Lewis at safety, Cervantes anchoring the defensive line, along with Deon Webber, and McNerney joining Michael Crossley at linebacker.

Aiding in the special teams game is returning all-league punter Tyler Lewis, who will provide the Grizzlies with a key weapon in the field-position game and could see time at defensive back, as well.

One thing not working in the Grizzlies’ favor is the 2012 schedule.

Four of their first five games come against Pac-5 competition in Royal, Agoura, Notre Dame and Simi Valley highs before kicking off Foothill League play with contests against Canyon and Hart, followed by West Ranch, Saugus and closing the season with Valencia on Nov. 2.

There’s not a lot of football lore on the Golden Valley campus, but the 2012 team is certainly ready to start writing its story.

“We’re up there with (the rest of the league). I think we’re just as a competitive as them and just as thirsty as they are,” Chase Lewis said. “We want a ‘W.’ They want a ‘W.’ We’re known as a team they’re going to beat, so this year they’re going to have to hold onto their ‘W’ and really fight for it because we’re coming out hard.”



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