Walking onto Golden Valley’s football field with the speakers blasting Gucci Mane, Drake and Soulja Boy tracks on Tuesday, one thing was clear: it’s football season.
Monday marked the first day that the Grizzlies could hit the field and practice as a complete team in order to evaluate what spots need to be filled and what players should be inserted before the start of the season.
The Grizzlies lost 15 seniors from last year’s squad, but have another batch of returning players like skill players Johnathan Kaelin and Tyler Walker, and linemen Lendale Cervantes, Darnell Musgrove and Daniel Morales.
“Johnathan Kaelin is a three-year varsity player for us so I would have to put him up there and Tyler Walker, who is also a three-year varsity player, at corner also plays some running back and wide receiver,” said Golden Valley head coach Dan Kelley. “Some of our linemen, Lendale Cervantes, Joseph Lahn, Daniel Morales and then Darnell Musgrove, that’s where I think we are going to be strong.”
Returning a strong core from last year’s team, the Grizzlies turn their attention to filling one spot in particular, quarterback.
After losing two-year varsity quarterback Zack Chevalier to graduation, the Golden Valley quarterback competition boils down to two players, senior-to-be Austin Garcia and sophomore-to-be Jaxson Miner.
Garcia served as the Grizzlies’ backup quarterback behind Chevalier last season and took advantage of the role, studying the position and learning from Chevalier.
”He taught me how to read defenses and how to get used to the speed of the game,” Garcia said.
Since the end of the season, Garcia has taken advantage of every opportunity to get better, perfecting his craft as well as building a rapport with his teammates.
“I felt like I’ve gotten together with a lot of my boys to practice and play a lot more,” Garcia said. “Our bond is crazy we are all brothers. Chemistry is everything, it defines you guys as a team. You guys win together, you guys lose together.”
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Miner gets the call up from the junior varsity team after helping lead the team to a 9-1 overall record as a freshman, but still has some things to work on to reach his full potential.
Miner characterized himself as more of a pocket passer and says that Garcia is a mobile quarterback that can get out of the pocket and scramble if need be.
Crediting his defensive line, Miner says he is adjusting to playing at varsity-level speed.
“The defensive linemen are helping me because they are putting a lot of pressure on me, which is making me move in the pocket a lot more,” Miner said. “Getting used to varsity is important because of how fast it is.”
Time will tell who the starting quarterback will be, come the first regular season game against Burbank High School on Aug. 30, as Kelley agrees that he needs to see a little bit more from the two in order to make a decision.
“Things move a lot faster at the varsity level so both these quarterbacks are going to have to show who can manage the game, who’s going to be able to play at the varsity and make those quick decisions and they are going to battle it out,” he said.