Valencia football prepares for battle against Mater Dei

Valencia receiver Jaden Holmes (R) outruns Saugus defender Matthew Ballentine for a third quarter touchdown. Tom Cruze/For the Signal
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Valencia football is preparing tonight’s CIF-Southern Section Division 1 first-round playoff game against Mater Dei of Santa Ana the same way it has prepared for all its other games this season.

“But with more intensity,” said receiver and safety Kohler Shockley.

The Monarchs are currently the No. 2 team in the country according to the latest USA Today Super 25 Expert Rankings. St. John Bosco of Bellflower is ahead of them in the No. 1 spot.

“They’re definitely a high-profile team, but we just try to just focus in on the game,” said linebacker Owen Hand. “There’s a lot of talk about it, but just focus in on the game and just try to ignore it, really. Try to ignore the hype.”

The Vikings enter the game fresh off their 10th consecutive Foothill League title, which came by way of a 42-13 win over West Ranch.

Although they nabbed the win, the Vikes came out flat against the Wildcats, allowing a touchdown halfway through the first quarter. Valencia didn’t answer with a touchdown of its own until the second stanza.

“We’re trying to preach just come out firing on all cylinders,” Shockley said. “Be ready right when he clock starts. Like we’ve got to be ready to go because this team, if we come out in the first half like that, this team is going to take advantage of that real quick.”

Bryce Young heads the Mater Dei offense at quarterback, completing 150-of-215 passes for 2562 yards and 28 touchdowns.

His primary target this season has been Bru McCoy, the No. 2 recruit in the state of California according to McCoy has 52 catches for 916 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“Try to limit the breakdowns in the coverage so (Young) doesn’t have any open receivers to throw to,” Hand said, “and try to get the D-line to get there so he has pressure and then really just play our rules so he doesn’t have anywhere to throw the ball.”

As for the Valencia offense, running back Jake Santos had an exceptional game last week, rushing for 236 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. On defense, he returned an interception for a touchdown and had one tackle for a loss.

He’ll have support from Nick Pham, Luring Paialii and Jayvaun Wilson on the ground against an aggressive, big Monarch defense.

“This will probably be the strongest, biggest team we faced all year,” Shockley said. “So its something we haven’t quite seen yet, so that’s probably going to be the biggest surprise for us so we’ll need to get used to that.”

Valencia will host Mater Dei at 7 p.m. tonight.

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