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Valencia ready for upcoming Calabasas challenge

Players unfazed by Coyotes' star power

Posted: September 28, 2016 10:16 p.m.
Updated: September 28, 2016 10:16 p.m.
Bakersfield defensive back Isaiah Jernagin, 25, wraps up Valencia’s Zion Dunson but the Viking wide receiver held onto the ball for a first down. Photo courtesy Felix Adamo/The Bakersfield Californian. Bakersfield defensive back Isaiah Jernagin, 25, wraps up Valencia’s Zion Dunson but the Viking wide receiver held onto the ball for a first down. Photo courtesy Felix Adamo/The Bakersfield Californian.
Bakersfield defensive back Isaiah Jernagin, 25, wraps up Valencia’s Zion Dunson but the Viking wide receiver held onto the ball for a first down. Photo courtesy Felix Adamo/The Bakersfield Californian.
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Valencia wants to be 1-0 at the end of every week.

“It’s cliché, but we always talk about 1-0 around here,” said Valencia coach Larry Muir. “That’s the great thing about our non-league games is that you get challenges and it forces you to concentrate on this week. There’s no looking forward to someone else because the team in front of you is terrific.”

The “terrific” team this week is Calabasas High, the reigning CIF-Southern Section Western Division champion and the top-ranked team in Division 5.

In the opposing corner is Valencia, seven-time-defending Foothill League champion and No. 5 team in Division 2.

“We know that Calabasas is a really great team and during meetings, coach talks about it,” said running back Moises Haynes. “Honestly, we just have to execute offensively and defensively. If we just play as a family, we have a chance against Calabasas.”

The Coyotes have a stud offense with four-star wide receiver and Nebraska commit Keyshawn Johnson, five-star uncommitted receiver and corner Darnay Holmes, and four-star Nebraska commit and quarterback Tristan Gebbia.

But the Valencia players refuse to bow to the hype.

“They got there because they worked hard,” said receiver Zion Dunson. “We’ve got to work just as hard to come out with a win.”

Johnson has 19 receptions and 281 yards in five games this season. Holmes has 18 catches for 437 yards in the same amount of games.

The orchestrator of the pass-heavy offense, Gebbia, has thrown 87 passes for 1,384 yards and 19 touchdowns with 4 interceptions.

Muir said preventing big plays will be critical, which includes containing Gebbia and swarming to the ball, and the team has bought into this method.

“I’m focused on doing my job of firing off the ball and staying fast,” said nose guard Josh Washington, “getting past their O-line and stopping their pass and stopping their run.”

“We’ve been doing drills to keep the quarterback from getting out of the pocket,” he said.

The Vikings have been cultivating a dangerous offense of their own.

They have multiple talented receivers in Dunson, Brendan Adam, Tim Wiggins and Mykael Wright. On the ground, Haynes, or “Mighty Mo,” as he’s known to Muir, has racked up 524 rushing yards on 74 carries in his junior campaign.

“At practice he runs offense and he also runs the scout offense,” Muir said. “So he’s always going. But he works and he works really, really hard. As the season has gone on, if you look at him from week one to week five, he’s just gotten better.”

Quarterback Aaron Thomas has been embracing his role as a leader on the team. Through four games, he’s completed 80 of 125 passes for 1,173 yards.

“He’s one of those quiet leaders,” Haynes said. “But he’s a great leader, especially to me. I follow him and I really love Aaron Thomas. Yes, he’s a quiet leader, but he’s a great leader. He’s not the one that talks every time but he shows with actions.”

A win this Friday would catapult the Vikings into league play, which begins against Hart on Oct. 7.

“It’s a great last challenge of the non-league season,” Muir said. “They’ve got great athletes. They’re really well coached. Game 5 is a game where you really want to have the big challenge and so we’re excited for it.”

Valencia takes on Calabasas Friday night at home. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

 

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