Immediately after warming up on Friday nights, as the rest of the Valencia football team heads to the locker room for one final pregame talk, Moises Haynes, Jayvaun Wilson and Luring Paialii can be founding kneeling at the 20-yard line, praying.
“Last year (during) the Canyon game, I had a neck injury on the 20-yard line,” Wilson said. “So now every game I pray on the 20-yard line just so stuff like that won’t happen to me or my teammates.”
Each of the three take a turn saying their part in the prayer with words that vary little from week to week.
The Vikings running backs are harmony in this moment, but they’re also a near-perfect system on the field.
Haynes and Wilson work in tandem to create a grueling ground game for the Vikings. The former bulldozes, while the latter cuts and shifts with ease.
Although their abilities are on par with each other, Haynes is the main ball carrier during games, since Wilson splits his time between offense and defense, where he plays safety.
Haynes, a senior, currently has 14 touchdowns and 1,006 yards on 114 carries, while Wilson, a junior, has 13 touchdowns and 420 yards on 44 carries.
MORE: Valencia football earns 30th straight Foothill League victory with win over Saugus
The pair was forced into action last season when then-senior starting running back Effie Davalos broke his leg on the first day of fall camp.
“All the sudden they had to step up and immediately, Mo’s leadership and just passion and he just is constantly just trying to ask for ways to get better,” said running backs coach Sean Pollere.
“He didn’t cruise once he got (the starting job), he was actually kicked it into higher gear and worked even harder.”
Wilson, who was experimenting with other positions before, put in more work at running back and it quickly became apparent that he was meant to be at the position.
Paialii and Jake Santos are also being developed at running back, and receiver/defensive back Mykael Wright saw time at the position last week against Saugus when Haynes was out with an ankle injury.
Wright scored two touchdowns and totaled 146 yards on three carries in the game.
“Mykael, he’s an athlete,” Wilson said. “You can play him at any position and he’ll do great at it. Even if it’s on d-line.”
Haynes improved his speed in the offseason while competing on the track team. His goals for the rest of this season include working on making moves to avoid defenders instead of plowing straight through them.
He’s also hoping to bounce back from his ankle injury quickly. According to head coach Larry Muir, he’s a game-time decision for this week’s game against West Ranch.
“I always feel like I can do better,” Haynes said. “I feel like I’m still like just a good player. I’m trying to be great.”
Pollere also noted that pass-blocking is an area he’d like to see the running back corps improve on, although he said Haynes is already pretty aggressive in the backfield.
On every Viking’s mind, however, is the ever-present goal of a CIF championship ring. Just in its run game, Valncia is marching through the regular season to accomplish that objective.
“We sweat for each other, we bleed for each other and we do what we can to get that ring,” Wilson said.