All of Golden Valley High’s jitters that came along with competing in the program’s first ever football playoff run have subsided.
“That first game was uncharted waters, and they didn’t know what to expect,” said coach Dan Kelley. “I think they were nervous and on edge, but they settled down last week and played a really good game so we’re looking for the same thing this week.”
But the Grizzlies (8-4) can’t get too comfortable, especially when they face San Gorgonio of San Bernardino (9-3) in a CIF-Southern Section Division 7 semifinal matchup at Canyon High tonight.
Spartan quarterback and Oregon State commit Kaleb Hayes threw for 237 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s victory against Tustin High last week. On the season, he now has 1,513 yards and 12 touchdowns in addition to 1,154 rushing yards for 16 touchdowns.
“We’re going to have to play assignment football and have someone assigned to him on every play,” Kelley said. “That’s what we’ve been working on in practice this week.”
The Grizzlies defense has faced similar dual-threat field generals throughout the season, particularly Hart’s Nick Moore and, in preleague, Antelope Valley’s Morrell Osling III.
“With our defense, we know how to turn it up a notch to keep any quarterback contained,” said safety DJ McIntyre. “We’re hoping that we can do that this Friday and just ball out.”
In two playoff games, the Grizzlies defense has held the opposition to two touchdowns. The offense’s performance has matched that with strong performances from running back KJ Maduike, wide receiver Jalin Lewis and quarterback Josh Valano.
“I think we’ve become harder to defend with KJ running the ball as well as he has and Jalin doing what he’s doing at wide receiver,” Kelley said. “And Josh has done a good job, especially last game against El Segundo managing our offense.”
Maduike has rushed for 1, 342 yards and 12 touchdowns. Lewis, a junior, has 1,029 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Valano checks in at 1,995 passing yards and 14 touchdowns.
“I knew Josh since I was in seventh grade,” said Lewis, who needs one more touchdown catch to match Isa Bey’s single-season program record of 10, set in 2010. “And we’ve got a lot of chemistry. He just throws it up and I go get it.”
While the nerves have disappeared, GV’s desire to continue proving their power has not.
“We’ve proven a lot already,” McIntyre said. “We’ve proved enough to show that we’re not the same Golden Valley. But now we’re trying to prove for ourselves that we’re good enough to take that next step and get that ring within the first three years that coach Kelley has been here.”