Foothill League boys’ soccer winter break outlook: Hart and Valencia close in on Foothill League title

Won Choi, 9, walks back to his field position during a non-conference match between Valencia High and Granada Hills Charter High Schools at the Hart Indians Football Field on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. The Vikings lost to the Highlanders 2-1. Chris Torres/The Signal

By Ryan Menzie 

Signal Sports Writer  

The always-competitive Foothill League once again shows a high level of intensity with three league games in the books before the winter break.  

The Hart Indians and the Valencia Vikings currently lead the way, but with more than half the season left to play, the Foothill League title remains up for grabs.  

Here is a look at how the Foothill League has panned out so far: 

All records are according to the CIF website and MaxPreps from the day this story was published.  

Valencia High School 

The Vikings are off to a quick 4-0 start (5-3-1 overall) to sit on top of the Foothill League and look to dethrone the reigning Foothill League champion Indians. The Vikings came up short in the 2021 season but are confident they can earn the top spot this season.  

“The expectations are to continue to get better as we continue to complement our program and our systems together,” said Vikings head coach Ken Claborn. “We were implementing a new system last year with all new coaches and playing styles. The goals now are to remain focused and competitive at all times.” 

Hart High School 

The 2021 Foothill League champion Indians currently hold a 3-0 league record (3-0-1 overall) and are sitting right behind the Vikings. The Indians are starting off strong but head coach Gio Salinas believes there is still some chemistry missing to take them to the next level.  

“Going through the season we’re going to get more chemistry between each other,” said Salinas. “The group of boys we have this year is a good group. Last year being my first season, the boys had to learn how to understand how I wanted them to play. They now have a better understanding and are hungry to compete in the CIF finals.”  

The Indians are led by junior Trent Rickard and senior Sebastian Ramirez. Rickard models his game after Erling Haaland and sees that hard work in practice has paid off for them so far, so he looks to keep the momentum going.  

“We have good players individually,” said Rickard. “Once we learn to play as a team we should be solid. We had a good run last year so we hopefully do the same, if not better, this year.” 

Ramirez looks to get better each day and be the best version of himself as possible.  

“We want to play as a team to the best of our ability,” said Ramirez. “When we play together, I feel like we can compete with anybody. Hopefully we can win league and go far in the CIF playoffs.” 

Saugus High School 

The Saugus Centurions finished fifth in the Foothill League standings in the 2021 season and look to turn their luck around and currently are third in the Foothill League with a 2-2 league record (3-2 overall).  

Golden Valley High School  

The Golden Valley Grizzlies were similar to the Centurions last season, finishing at the bottom of the Foothill League, but now hold the fourth spot in the Foothill League with a 1-2-1 league record (3-3-1 overall).  

Injuries have plagued the Grizzlies but it doesn’t slow down the Grizzlies in reaching their ultimate goal at the end of the season.  

“We started with 21 players and of those 21, we got 14 that can play,” said Grizzlies head coach Stephen Evison. “We will be replacing players’ minutes but you will still see us fully competing and fighting for a playoff spot. As long as the team can find energy in themselves and see it through, we will be in good shape.” 

West Ranch High School 

The West Ranch Wildcats found success in the 2021 season, finishing third overall, but now hold the fifth spot in the standings with an 0-2-1 league record (1-1-2 overall). 

“The expectations are to try to keep getting better and to improve each game,” said Wildcats head coach Mike Kane. “The fact that we played in the playoffs last year means we want to try to repeat and do a little bit better. They really put in the work and train hard so there’s nothing they don’t do.” 

Canyon High School  

The Canyon Cowboys find themselves in the sixth spot of the league standings after finishing fourth overall in 2021. The Cowboys hold an 0-1-2 league record (1-1-2 overall). 

Tyler Mora, 6, splits two Lakeview defenders during a non-conference match between Canyon and Lakeview Charter High Schools at the Hart Indians Football Field on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021. The Cowboys shut out the Lions 4-0. Chris Torres/The Signal

Cowboys head coach Robert Benavidez still expects the team to compete at the highest level and hopefully compete for a championship. 

“That’s what we’re striving for. We want to continue to get better each game out,” said Benavidez. “Hopefully by the end of the season we’re in the discussion for playoffs and hopefully the league championship. We need to stay together and work hard as a team.” 

Castaic High School 

Last but not least, the newest member of the Foothill League, the Castaic Coyotes, enter their first season and currently sit at the bottom of the league. Nothing for a new program to be ashamed about, especially in as tough a league as the Foothill League. 

“Our expectations are to have a team that competes and demonstrates growth over the course of the season,” said Coyotes head coach Adam Yassaman. “This year we are looking at results as a secondary outcome of the process that we’ve been looking from year one. We want to have a successful first year on varsity. We know what we are capable of when we have success on the field.”  

The Coyotes are led by juniors Luke Lichenstein and Luka Hodge. Lichenstein doesn’t model his game after any particular player, but appreciates any athlete who goes out to do whatever is necessary to win. 

“It is really important for us as a team to stay motivated and get together to be where we want to be as a team,” said Lichenstein. Being at such a new school, one of the benefits is being able to play together since we were freshman which is an opportunity not a lot of other high schools have. The chemistry and bonds with this team is something I’ve really enjoyed.”

Hodge plays soccer because it’s something he has enjoyed for a long time and is something he feels he has gotten pretty good at. 

“As a program, I know we don’t really focus on the score or results right now as we look to build our program and improve in the following seasons,” said Hodge. “The differences from last season to this season are a significant change in the score differential. We’re starting to see the difference a lot more. For a team of juniors, we’re doing an impressive job.”

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