When West Ranch coach Chris Varner stares across the sidelines Friday night, he’ll find someone he regards as one of his dearest friends, Canyon coach Rich Gutierrez.
Varner previously served as the Cowboys’ coach before ceding the job to Gutierrez prior to the 2010 season.
The two will meet as opposites Friday as the Cowboys (3-2) and Wildcats (4-0) meet for their respective league openers at Valencia.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Varner said. “Knowing him so well, I know he’s going to bring over a tough, gritty group. They’re going to be the best team we’ve seen so far this season.”
The Cats are off to their first 4-0 start since 2011.
They’ve never opened a season with five straight wins.
“We’ve gotten out to as good of a start as we possibly can, but there’s no disillusions, we know how much the talent level is about to tick up,” Varner said. “We can’t rest on our laurels and think we’ve already accomplished everything we set out for.”
Varner had high praise for Cowboys quarterback Shawn Gallagher, who was instrumental in Canyon’s come-from-behind win against Simi Valley two weeks ago. The Cowboys are coming off back-to-back wins and are ranked ninth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 poll.
“(Gallagher) is bigger than some of our middle linebackers,” said Varner with a laugh. “What impresses me most about him is his ability to extend drives. You see them get to 3rd-and-15’s and he’s able to extend plays with his feet.”
Gallagher had 62 yards and a touchdown on the ground against Simi Valley.
For West Ranch, it’s been a plethora of pieces making up the offense.
Ryan Camacho and LeRon Huff have paced the rushing attack while Jovan Camacho, Kuan Glasgow and Jared Staub have been effective pass-catchers.
“We like it that way,” said Varner of the versatility. “We haven’t given teams a person to key in on and I think that’s been huge for our success.”
The Wildcats enter ranked fourth in the Division 9 poll.