Valencia and Golden Valley take distinguished paths to CIF title games

Valencia's Ben Seymour holds the football in the air after a fumble recovery in the CIF-SS Division 2 semifinals against Heritage at Valencia on Friday. Cory Pitkavish/For The Signal

Valencia and Golden Valley have extended their CIF-Southern Section seasons as far as they possibly can.

But the Vikings, a Division 2 team, and the Grizzlies, a Division 6 team, have gotten to their respective championship games in two distinct ways.

Last season, Valencia was a solid team but failed to be at 100 percent for all four quarters in some games. This season, it’s an all-out, all-the-time team that’s balanced at every position.

“I don’t think you see highs or lows, considerable strength or weakness,” said Vikes coach Larry Muir. “I think we’re pretty consistent across the board, which allows for a lot of consistency.”

Golden Valley, similar to their fellow remaining Foothill League team, always had the talent this year.

Golden Valley’s DeGabriel Floyd (1) dodges a tackle by Mira Costa as he returns a punt for a touchdown during the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 semifinal football game at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. Katharine Lotze/For the Signal

But while Valencia’s talent stomped straight through most of the season, the Grizzlies sometimes tiptoed, sometimes rollicked and sometimes might have just stood still.

But as soon as they rounded the corner into the playoffs, minds began to clear as an objective they had at the start of the season came back into focus.

MORE: Golden Valley punches ticket to first-ever CIF title game with win over Mira Costa

“You don’t know as a coach where your kids are mentally until you start hearing them talk at practice and hearing them talk in film and hearing them talk in the paper,” said coach Dan Kelley “… but right now at this point, everybody has one goal and that’s a championship.”

While each team has had a different path to the championship game, their primary commonality is that they compete in the same league. And not only is there talent on the field in that league, it’s on the sidelines, too.

“(There’s) a lot of great tradition and really good football in this community,” Muir said.

“I think it is terrific in terms of it challenges all the coaches in the area to be at their best and innovative and on top of their game, so when playoffs do come around, I feel like all the teams got better as the season went. I think that’s one of the things that makes this area terrific.”

MORE: Valencia football beats Heritage for a trip to the CIF-SS finals

Kelley echoed that sentiment and added that playing against teams with players and coaches like those at Valencia only makes his own team better.

While the SCV’s two remaining prep football playoff teams may be playing on different fields and competing in different divisions on Friday, they’ll remain united in their Foothill League identities.

“The Santa Clarita Valley, the Foothill League, is tough football,” Kelley said. “Believe me, I’ve been around and week in and week out it’s the toughest football you’ll face in this part of the county.”

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