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2016 football training camp series: Golden Valley High

New Grizzly quarterback used season as varsity backup to prepare

Posted: August 18, 2016 11:16 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2016 11:16 p.m.
Golden Valley quarterback Josh Valano warms up his throwing arm at practice on Friday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Golden Valley quarterback Josh Valano warms up his throwing arm at practice on Friday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Golden Valley quarterback Josh Valano warms up his throwing arm at practice on Friday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Golden Valley quarterback Josh Valano warms up his throwing arm at practice on Friday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze. Golden Valley quarterback Josh Valano warms up his throwing arm at practice on Friday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
Golden Valley quarterback Josh Valano warms up his throwing arm at practice on Friday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze.
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Senior Josh Valano didn’t have any touchdown passes last year for the Golden Valley High football team.

The backup signal caller only appeared in two games while learning behind starting quarterback Victor Corona, who led the Grizzlies to their most successful season in program history, helping them nab the first and second Foothill League victories in program history and a program-best six wins overall last year.

Those are some pretty big shoes to fill for a quarterback who went 2-for-2 for 12 yards in 2015.

But Valano isn’t worried. In fact, he’s been waiting, patiently, for his chance.

“Last year I was Victor Corona’s backup, and I didn’t really see the field that much but I got a lot mental reps while he was on the field,” Valano said. “I basically learned the offense a lot faster that way so now as I’m on the field as a starter, I know exactly what I’m supposed to do on offense. I know all the plays, I know what everyone is supposed to be doing and all the positions. I’m pretty prepared for whatever we go against.

“I’ve been waiting since I was a little kid (for this). I’ve always wanted to be that star player that everyone comes out and watches. Hopefully, I get to prove that I can actually do that this year.”

MORE football training camp series: Canyon / Trinity / SCCS

Valano might have been dreaming about being the No. 1 starter since he was a little kid, but he hasn’t actually been playing quite as long.

The first time he ever played football, or any team sport, was his freshman year at Golden Valley.

He first lined up as a receiver but soon got a chance to be the go-to guy.

“The only reason I became quarterback was because our starting quarterback was hurt and we didn’t really have a backup,” Valano said. “He basically said, ‘Go try out Josh Valano, he can throw.’ And I ended up starting.”

That’s actually when Golden Valley coach Dan Kelley said Valano showed promise.

And it’s not just Valano’s throwing ability that Kelley has always been impressed with.

“He wants to be the guy,” Kelley said about his new starting QB. “If I told him to be here at seven in the morning to throw the ball, he was there. He does the little extras that you want your quarterback to do.

“He’s a student of the game. We intrasquad scrimmaged last week and he’s texting me, ‘Hey coach, play 32 on Hudl, did they run the right backside route?’ He’s watching the film when you don’t think he’s watching the film.”

Although his first starting job came due to an injury, this year things were a little different.

Valano took the invaluable lessons he’d learned about the speed of the varsity game and earned the starting job. It then turned into a successful spring and summer camp, where he worked to perfect his overall game.

He helped lead Golden Valley to a No. 2 seed in bracket play at the annual Saugus Under the Lights seven-on-seven passing tournament back in June.

But even still, Valano is continuing to develop.

And teammates — like Grizzlies starting running back and linebacker KJ Maduike — are starting to notice.

“Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of improvement,” Maduike said about Valano. “At the beginning, I’ll admit it was a little shaky, but now what I see, it’s a huge difference. The way he makes his decisions, he doesn’t just look at one receiver. If he doesn’t see the person, he’ll look at the check-down, and I’ve seen a lot of improvement from that.”

Valano though also knows he’s been successful because of Maduike, a talented receiving corps and an experienced offensive line.

Right guard Fernando Bajo, left guard Joe Ibrahim and left tackle Michael Hawley are all returning starters on an O-Line that will try to buy some time for Valano.

“I’m not the fastest quarterback, and I’ll admit that,” Valano said. “I really rely on my O-line because it starts with them. But having an experienced O-line is a big confidence booster. It makes me more confident, and they know what they’re doing.

“I don’t really have to worry about other people getting through because they were really good last year.”

Despite not starting a game on varsity, Valano’s confidence hasn’t wavered.

“Everyone says this is our year, but you can’t just talk about it. We have to go out and actually do it,” Valano said. “Most all of our guys are motivated to actually go do that. It’s actually the first time in school history that we’ve actually had this chance so we’re really going to take it and hopefully fulfill it.”

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