Amid all the weapons Valencia High football boasts at the skill positions, another aspect of the Vikings’ repertoire caught the eye of Canyon High coach Rich Gutierrez on Tuesday during an 11-on-11 practice at Valencia.
“Their best weapon is their line, trenches wise,” he said.
On defense, that means the return of ends Ben Seymour and Josh DeNeal and nose tackle Josh Washington, all of whom caused trouble for Foothill League opponents in 2016.
On offense, that means the return of five of the team’s top six blockers from 2016 when running back Moises Haynes rattled off more than 1,600 yards.
Rising senior Parker Kernek is back at left tackle, with rising senior Justin Aguirre again at his side at guard.
Rising senior Cole Edwards has moved from right guard to center, his natural position, replacing the graduated Eric Lieberman. Rising senior Cody Paul remains at right tackle.
Tanner Miller, the team’s super sub last season as a sophomore, will now take over full time at right guard.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Miller, a 6-foot-2, 290-pounder. “I got the taste of it, and I’m really looking forward to playing this year.”
Miller believes the group’s experience gives it an edge.
“When things get hard, we know what to do. We know what (a high) level of competition is like. We know how hard it is to compete and stuff,” said Miller, who praised Edwards for a mostly seamless transition to center.
“He’s playing it well over the summer,” Miller said. “I like him. I trust him as a guy beside me, making the calls and making sure everyone knows what they’re doing.”
Behind that line, Valencia returns Haynes and Jayvaun Wilson. Wilson ran for 378 yards and eight scores on 39 carries last season before suffering a season-ending injury in the regular-season finale against Canyon.
Valencia’s backfield also features Alhambra transfer Luring Paialii, who ran for 912 yards and 12 TDs as a 215-pound sophomore last year, according to MaxPreps.
Read and run
Gutierrez praised Canyon rising junior quarterback Shawn Gallagher on Tuesday night for his running ability.
“I thought Shawn did a really nice job on his inside zone,” Gutierrez said of Gallagher riding a fake handoff up the gut of the defense and then pulling the ball out and running. “There’s times when he fooled everybody.
“He’s a dynamite running quarterback.”