At a photo shoot earlier this month, decked out in his home uniform and shoulder pads, West Ranch senior Dylan Joscak acknowledged the Wildcats’ ultimate goal is a playoff berth. Then he quickly refocused on the task directly ahead. “Right now, we’re just keeping our eye right on Simi,” he said. West Ranch’s matchup with Simi Valley is set for tonight at 7 p.m. at Valencia High. And Joscak and Co., wearing those home uniforms, will be out for revenge. The Pioneers, after all, ripped the postseason away from the Wildcats a year ago.
In the 2016 opener, Simi Valley beat West Ranch 28-26. By years end, the Wildcats were 4-6, and a .500 record likely would have lifted them to the postseason. A perfect preleague run this year would go a long way toward making sure that doesn’t happen again. It starts, of course, with a Simi Valley team coming off its own 4-6 campaign, after which the Pioneers graduate their quarterback, running back and leading receiver. Friday will also serve as the Santa Clarita Valley debut for senior quarterback Colton Mitchell, who transferred from Texas last spring. In four games at Leander High in 2016, Mitchell completed 17-of-40 passes for 141 yards, five interceptions and no scores. The NCAA Division 1 prospect, however, has impressed West Ranch teammates with his leadership and arm talent. He plans to keep it simple tonight. “I’m not looking to do too much, not looking to be Superman,” Mitchell said. “I’m just trying to run the offense the way the coaching staff has it in place.” That offense will miss running back Jake Rice, a 2017 graduate who totaled close to 1,000 yards as a senior. Filling his shoes will likely be senior LaRon Huff, who impressed Varner with his work ethic over the offseason. The offensive line is also new, but it will be counted on to give Mitchell time to find a wealth of receiving weapons. Twins Ryan and Jovan Camacho are back at wideout, as is junior Jared Staub.