Valencia and Calabasas to meet in battle of Division 2 powers

FILE ART: Valencia's Moises Haynes (43) is the last man standing as he heads for the end zone during a football game against Chaparral of Scottsdale, Ariz. on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

While not entirely unique, Valencia and coach Larry Muir have a simple way of dealing with games like Thursday, when the Vikings hit the road to play unbeaten Calabasas to close out preleague.

Well, it’s how the Vikings approach all their games.

“For us, we don’t change a thing,” Muir said. “We want go 1-0 every week and that’s been our mantra. I don’t think that’s one of those things we just say to sound good. We truly buy into that scheme and it’s going to be important to have that mindset for this one.”

Valencia (4-0) has climbed to No. 2 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 polls but it takes on seventh-ranked Calabasas, a team loaded with NCAA Division 1 prospects and coming off a Division 5 title.

“We love the challenge. We love having Calabasas on our schedule,” Muir said.

“A lot of the preleague is about finding your strengths and weaknesses and addressing them. But we know how big of a game this is, so it’s going to kind of be a balancing act of trying to solidify our group while seeking out a huge win.”

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Calabasas defeated Valencia 37-21 last season and the Coyotes exploited Valencia through the air, throwing for over 500 yards and three touchdowns. The Coyotes feature a new quarterback in sophomore Jaden Casey, but return a stellar group of receivers featuring sophomore Johnny Wilson and senior Hunter Nichols, along with Oaks Christian transfer Mycah Pittman.

“That’s going to be the focus for us,” Muir said. “They have such an efficient passing game and they get the ball out really quickly. It also looks like their new quarterback has fit in well. We definitely need a big game from our secondary and guys like Mykael (Wright).”

Pittman has already received offers from the likes of USC, UCLA and Michigan State, while Wilson, who comes in at 6-foot-3, is ranked as the fourth-best wide receiver in his class in the country, per 247Sports.

The Vikings offense has taken on different forms in each win but counts on senior running back Moises Haynes being focal point once again. He rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown in last year’s loss to Calabasas.

Haynes leads the Vikings with 583 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground, averaging 9.9 yards per carry.

“He’s such a big part of what we do and he helps us get that balance we always strive for,” Muir said.

While striving for balance, the postseason is always the true goal. And Thursday’s clash of Division 2 powers serves as an appetizer for two teams expected to be in the heat of things come November.

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