The scariest aspect of Valencia High’s 35-14 win over Hart High on Friday, at least for other Foothill League teams, is that the game showcased the Vikings’ host of talented underclassmen on defense.
Valencia (4-2, 1-0 league) recorded eight sacks and forced six turnovers, and non-seniors had a hand in most of it.
Defensive linemen Josh Washington (three sacks) and Josh DeNeal (2 1/2 sacks) are juniors.
Safety Jayvaun Wilson (an interception and a fumble recovery) is a sophomore, as is cornerback Mykael Wright, who also had an interception and a fumble recovery.
Defensive end Ben Seymour was only credited with one tackle for loss, but the burly sophomore was in the middle of everything.
“We are really looking forward to how they develop through the years, because as of right now, they’re doing a great job,” said defensive coordinator Robert Waters.
Waters was speaking specifically about the defensive line of Washington, DeNeal and Seymour. But the statement applies to the young secondary, which took its lumps against a loaded Calabasas squad two weeks ago, learned, and then blanketed Hart receivers throughout the Foothill League opener.
What did they learn from the Calabasas game in which Coyotes quarterback Tristan Gebbia threw for 503 yards?
“Just the sheer speed of the game and the quarterback’s ability to get rid of the ball fast. There was so much pressure on the defensive backs,” Waters said. “It was pressure they needed to see.”
Wright, who had to sit out Valencia’s first two games after transferring in, was the Vikings’ player of the game that night, constantly tracking one of three NCAA Division 1-caliber receivers and making a one-handed interception in the end zone.
He started the year primarily as a wide receiver. But when senior Garlon Wizzard injured his knee against Chaminade, senior Ryan Haith moved to safety and Wright slid in at corner opposite senior Tim Wiggins.
The Vikings’ secondary is rangy and physical and, with Wilson and Wright as staples, built for the next several years.
But the team’s success Friday, beating Hart for the eighth time in the last 10 matchups, started with the underclassmen up front.
“One of the big issues with us is to make sure we control the line of scrimmage,” Waters said. “… We were successful with that. I felt we did control the line and stopped the run for the most part.”
The Vikings play Golden Valley at Canyon on Friday night.