Valencia’s Mykael Wright wanted to go harder this year.
“Last year I was like, kind of intimidated because I was a sophomore so it was like, my first year on varsity,” said Wright, “so I improved on like being calm and just like, don’t let anything get to you or anything like that.”
With a junior season that included 55 receptions for 1,137 yards and 18 touchdowns in addition to 341 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries, it’s safe to say he accomplished that.
On top of his offensive contributions, he had four interceptions and two caused fumbles on defense.
Wright cites the competitive atmosphere of Vikings football, including encouragement from receivers and strength coach Matt Nyberg for his improved performance.
“I like competition because it makes me work harder and like, it pushes me to do better and do my best,” Wright said. “If I’m going to go against like, someone that’s not going as hard, then I’ll just like slack off or not go 100 percent that rep.”
The drive to succeed for Wright and the rest of the Vikings pushed Valencia to their ninth consecutive Foothill League title and an appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 finals.
In that game, Valencia lost to Oaks Christian 20-19.
“I learned that playing a lot of games will get you like, tired and like, drain you a lot,” Wright said of this year’s playoff experience. “But it was a fun run. Especially like, since last year we made it semis, so getting to the CIF finals was a great push for us and hopefully we can get back there again next year.”
Not only was there a buzz surrounding the Valencia team as a whole, but also around Wright as an individual. The recruiting process heated up for the receiver and defensive back he pulled in nine Division 1 offers from schools including Tennessee, Oregon, Nebraska and UCLA.
Wright says that he’s likely to pick a Pac-12 program or one that is located in the Florida area, although he hasn’t received an offer from a Florida school as of the publication of this article.
“It’s an exciting experience,” said Wright. “Once you see a college coach tell you to call him or something, you get the biggest smile on your face because you know what’s coming.”
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Regardless of all the background noise that the recruiting process creates, Wright stays focused on what he’s been doing all this year when it comes to game time: going hard.
“I just try to like, move everything out of my head of it doesn’t have to do with football or like, being calm,” he said.
“Like, say I do a bad play or stuff’s not going how I want it to go, then it’s just like, take a deep breath and just think about all the good things that have been. The good things that are going the way I want it to.”
First Team Offense
Connor Downs, Valencia, Senior QB
Downs was the Foothill League’s Offensive Player of the Year and had the keys to a Vikings offense that scored early and often this season. The lefty made the most of his one year under center, throwing for 3,254 yards and 30 touchdowns to four interceptions, while completing 60.2 percent of his passes. Downs also rushed for 298 yards and six touchdowns.
Moises Haynes, Valencia, Senior, RB
Haynes was certainly in the running for the Foothill League’s Offensive Player of the Year but missed two league games due to injury. The bruising running back led the Vikings with 1,669 yards rushing and 20 rushing touchdowns, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. In Valencia’s CIF-SS Division 2 quarterfinals win over Norco, Haynes had a season-high 288 yards rushing to go with two touchdowns.
Quinn Sheaffer, Saugus, Senior, RB
Sheaffer was the centerpiece of a Saugus rushing attack that it relied on heavily on its way to the CIF-SS Division 6 semifinals. He tallied 1,334 yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns, including eight games with at least 100 yards on the ground. He also had 243 yards receiving, along with a touchdown.
Jalin Lewis, Golden Valley, Senior, WR
Like many of his Golden Valley teammates, Lewis got consideration for first-team all-purpose due to his contributions in the secondary, special teams and on the ground. Lewis had 54 receptions, 20 more than any other play on the Grizzlies, and 817 yards receiving to go with six touchdowns. Lewis, who holds an offer to Wyoming, averaged 15.1 yards per catch.
D.J. Palmer, Hart, Senior WR
Palmer and JT Shrout connected a bunch this season — 47 times to be exact, for 807 yards and 11 touchdowns. His best game of the year came in a win against Golden Valley, when he hauled in four passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Palmers was one of three Indians to take part in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
Zachary Semko, Valencia, Senior, WR
Semko was an unsung hero of the Vikings offense, asked to block on many occasions for their potent rushing attack. He still caught 32 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Semko caught touchdown passes in four of five league games.
Nathan Bradder, Hart, Senior OL
Like Palmer, Bradder took part in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl. Bradder holds a handful of offers to Division 3 schools. Staring at center, Bradder helped lead the way for Hart’s 19 rushing scores through 12 games.
Justin Aguirre, Valencia, Senior, OL
Valencia racked up over 3,600 yards rushing this season behind the likes of Aguirre and others in the trenches. Aguirre totaled 18 pancake blocks on the season.
Cole Edwards, Valencia, Senior, Ol.
Royce served as one of Valencia’s captains through its run to the CIF-SS Division 2 final. Edwards had 10 pancake blocks and helped the Vikings average 259.5 yards rushing per game this season.
Nathan Tripp, Senior, Saugus, OL
Tripp was a first-team All-Foothill League contributor and helped provide stability for the Centurions’ offense at center. Saugus tallied 18 rushing touchdowns through 13 games.
Tanner Brown, Saugus, Senior, K
Brown led all Foothill League kickers with a field-goal long of 47 yards this season. Brown hit 7 of 11 field-goal attempts and converted 16 of 18 extra points. He was named to the All-Foothill League first team as well.
Second Team Offense
JT Shrout, Hart, Senior, QB
Shrout’s offseason has been tinged with drama after decommitting from Cal and committing to Tennessee. During the season though, the quarterback’s arm was always steady when it came to launching long passes. He completed 211 of 414 passes in his senior campaign for 3,064 yards, 27 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
Ben Rosen, Hart, Senior, RB
In his first year as starting running back for the Indians, Rosen became a reliable option on the ground. Although Hart favored the passing game, Rosen managed to gather 604 yards and 14 touchdowns on 189 carries. He also had 31 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown.
LaRon Huff, West Ranch, Senior, RB
In eight games, Huff accumulated 706 yards and seven touchdowns on 119 carries for the Wildcats. His best game of the season was against Simi Valley when he ran for 179 yards and three TDs on 16 carries.
Jovan Camacho, West Ranch, Junior, WR
Both Camachos burst onto the scene as sophomores and continued to perform as juniors. Jovan notched 40 receptions for 590 yards and five touchdowns in nine games. He also added 189 rushing yards and one touchdown on 16 carries.
Da’Von Jones, Hart, Senior, WR
In his senior campaign, Jones was a favorite target of Shrout’s. But his highlight of the season came against Golden Valley when he returned a punt 70 yards for a 34-27 lead over the Grizzlies with just 13 seconds left in the game for the win.
Carson Strickland, Canyon, Junior, WR
Strickland caught 23 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns in his first year on varsity while rushing for 148 yards on 19 carries. Strickland also had a special chemistry with quarterback Shawn Gallagher, whom he has known since childhood.
Jacob Lopez, Canyon, Senior, OL
The 6 foot, 240-pound lineman was key in opening lanes for quarterback Shawn Gallagher, who was always ready to run. According to Canyon coach Rich Gutierrez, Jacob “carries great explosiveness at the point of attack and finishes every play with strength and power.”
Marc Caporal, Hart, Senior, OL
Caporal was key on both the offensive and defensive lines this season. He and the rest of the o-line helped the Indians to 921 rushing yards and 3,064 passing yards, according to MaxPreps.
Dylan Joscak, West Ranch, Senior, OL
While LaRon Huff rushed, Joscak and the Wildcats offensive line stood firm. Joscak and the line allowed West Ranch to total 3,160 total yards of offense in nine games.
Tanner Miller, Valencia, Junior, OL
At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 295 pounds, Miller was one of several great linemen for the Vikings. He had nine pancake blocks in his junior year.
Jake Calver, Valencia, Senior, K
Valencia has a lineage of fantastic kickers, and Calver is the latest. He went 44-for-49 on PATs and hit three of five field goals for a total of 53 points.