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2012 Valencia football preview: The usual shift

The focus changes from defense last year to offense

Posted: August 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia football is out to try to win a fourth straight Foothill League title this season.

 

There’s a standard at Valencia High.

After three straight Foothill League titles, it doesn’t matter who’s gone, it matters who’s here. And who’s here is expected to help lead the Vikings to a championship.

That’s no different in 2012.

“The players know the standards that the ones before them set because of their leadership and accountability toward each other,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “When you have a really good football team, there’s a tremendous amount of accountability toward each other before it gets to me. If you have that, you get a sense of what that standard is here. We’ve grown to that point. There’s an understanding of not wanting to be like a (2012 Valencia graduate and All-Santa Clarita Valley and Foothill League player of the year) Ryan Gorman but to understand the expectation what Gorman set for the team. That’s translated from (2010 Valencia grad and cornerback) Brock Vereen to Ryan Gorman. It’s been passed down.”

It’s an interesting situation again at Valencia.

In 2009, the Vikings had a uniquely talented secondary led by Vereen, a current University of Minnesota cornerback.

That defense surrendered just 24 points in five Foothill League games.

Most of the key players graduated, leaving a huge question mark for 2010.

The Vikings answered that with one of the most dynamic duos the valley has seen over the last decade, running back Steven Manfro and quarterback Alex Bishop.

The 2011 team won the title, averaging 39 points per game in Foothill play.

Then Manfro and Bishop graduated, shifting the question mark to the offensive side.

Last season, led by CIF-Southern Section Northern Division co-Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Gorman, Foothill Defensive Player of the Year Billy Shipman and what Valencia coaches considered their greatest defensive line ever, the Vikings won the title again.

So this year again, one side of the ball is the question and the other side is expected to be the answer.

The Vikings have a formidable offense — one with a veteran quarterback who has multiple options to throw to.
On the defensive side, the depth isn’t what it was last year.

With that, the offense is expected to produce.

Senior quarterback Sean Murphy was a first-year starter last year who played more of a ball-control offense.
Muir said Murphy can air it out more and is accurate with the deep ball.

“Sean is a hard worker. That’s the one thing I love about him,” said second-year varsity wide receiver Jay Jay Wilson. “He never gives up. He’s a leader. If we’re tired in practice, he’s the first one to get us going. ... He’s improved so much.”

If he can throw that deep ball, he has the athletes who can make the big plays — the 6-foot-2 promising sophomore Wilson, fourth-year varsity veteran Tedric Thompson and 6-foot-2 junior Nick Jones, a varsity rookie who the coaching staff is high on.

And in the short game, Murphy has diminutive game-breaking running back/slot receiver Malik Townsend, who was a difference-maker for the Vikings late in 2011.

In the backfield, senior Jake Solley and sophomore Stone Jackson will carry most of the load.

Solley is the pounder, Jackson is the evasive one.

The line is solid, having gained experience last season.

Spencer Lochman (center), Jessie Heyer (left tackle), Davis Pitner (right guard) and Dillon Javier (right tackle) got a lot of playing time last season.

Marc Kraidman, a 6-foot-1, 285-pound guard, is a three-year starter.

But if the Vikings have to play some defense, there are some veterans who definitely have experience at playing it at a high level.

Up the middle, the Vikings are solid.

Interior linemen Grayson Largman, a 260-pound returning All-Foothill Leaguer, and Solley are aggressive players who can stop the run.

Behind them, Anthony Costleigh, who will play mostly outside linebacker, will keep runners from breaking away down the sidelines.

Thompson is tall, fast and has a nose for the ball and will see time at cornerback and safety.

“On the defensive side, there’s talent there, but we have to get the inexperienced guys to get some games under their belt,” Muir said. “Their talent will come out.”

A slew of unknown faces in the Foothill League are looking to make names for themselves — defensive ends Jacob Ruprecht and Jesse Heyer, linebackers Alex Tapia, Justin Son and Jourdan Nguyen and defensive backs Spencer Hixon, Michael Carter, James Berkley and Cole Chadwell.

That’s a lot of guys with a lot to prove.

Reason for concern?

Not for a Valencia program used to reloading.

“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.’ But we came back and won a league championship,” Largman said. “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. We have a tough schedule. They’re going to look past that and say we’re not good. We’ll show up and they’ll be surprised.”

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