Golden Valley didn’t seem out of place at Monday’s CIF-Southern Section Press Conference Luncheon, featuring the 26 teams who had either won, or were preparing for CIF-SS title games this week.
CJ Ravenell and DJ Turner unabashedly went back for seconds at the quasi-Thanksgiving feast like seasoned veterans of the event.
When coach Dan Kelley received a microphone to introduce his team, there weren’t looks of shock around the ballroom at The Grand Long Beach.
“It makes you feel like you’re a part of something,” said Ravenell, as the Grizzlies get set to host Bishop Diego on Friday in the Division 6 championship.
Just four years ago, the idea of being a part of the luncheon seemed like a laughable proposal for the Grizzlies.
When Ravenell, along with Jalin Lewis and Ahvie Harris, arrived on campus after playing together in junior high, Golden Valley didn’t have a playoff appearance or league win to its name.
“There weren’t any expectations,” said Lewis, who picked up his first collegiate offer Tuesday from Wyoming. “People didn’t think much of our team. Nobody believed we could get here.”
The evolution, Ravenell says, started with the team’s first-ever Foothill League win, which came two seasons ago against Canyon.
Golden Valley added to its nucleus the following season, with Turner, a running back-linebacker combo, transferring in from Sylmar. Not only did the Grizzlies make their first playoff appearance last year, they made it to the Division 7 semifinals.
“They took me in from day one and embraced me into their crew,” said Turner of Ravenell, Lewis and Harris. “I never felt like an outsider.”
The crew grew by a member this season, with five-star USC commit DeGabriel Floyd transferring in from Hawkins.
“This dude comes in and tells us he has like 25 offers,” Turner said. “We didn’t believe him at first. But then we did a little research on the recruiting websites and found out he wasn’t lying at all.”
Floyd entered Golden Valley with the five-star credentials, but never acted like it. That made him an easy choice to join their crew. He leads the team with 13 total touchdowns, despite playing in only 11 of 13 games.
“It was almost exactly like how they took me in,” Turner said. “Now, he’s one of our brothers.”
The Grizzlies’ fivesome stars on both sides of the ball, with Floyd, Lewis and Harris finding the end zone, and Lewis picking off two passes in last week’s semifinal win over Mira Costa. Ravenell leads the team with 13 sacks and is featured at left tackle. Turner leads the Grizzlies with 755 yards rushing.
“We take that same chemistry onto the field,” Ravenell said. “That follows with the rest of our teammates. Having that atmosphere helps in all facets.”
The group is understandably elated with where they’ve come and the history they’ve made. While Ravenell was discussing the feeling of their hard work paying off, Turner, with a half-smile, nearly cut off his response.
“We’ve got to finish it,” he said.