Golden Valley wins Duel in the Jewel 

Photo Courtesy of Golden Valley Football

By Justin Vigil-Zuniga 

Signal Sports Writer 

Grizzlies football made some noise on Saturday, going undefeated in the Duel in the Jewel tournament at Glendale High School. 

Golden Valley won all seven of its games in the one-day tournament marathon. 

The tournament hosted 16 teams in a nearly 10-hour day of seven-on-seven football. Senior Ajani Smith was awarded tournament MVP after his impressive day at wide receiver and cornerback. 

“There weren’t very many plays he missed,” said head coach Dan Kelley. “He’s one of those players you got to account for. He makes amazing catches and does a good job on defense.” 

The last time Smith took the field was in Golden Valley’s 35-29 loss to La Mirada in the postseason last year. Smith finished the game with four touchdowns, one being a pick-six. 

The Grizzlies found wins against all seven of their opponents in San Marino, Los Altos, L.A. Wilson, Hart, Leuzinger, Glendale and Valley Christian. 

Golden Valley has had some solid wins this summer and Kelley thinks his team’s chemistry has been the biggest part of their success. 

“The chemistry of the team, just seeing how the kids work together really well,” said Kelley. “They motivate each other and play as a team. We’re excited about that. A lot of these kids have been playing together since freshmen.” 

Smith had his biggest game against San Marino. The two-way man had four touchdowns as well as an interception. One of his scores came off a third and 20, where Smith got the score coming off a post route. He also got his interception on third down.  

This was the second of three times Golden Valley will face Hart this summer and the first time they beat the Indians. It would come down to the wire in overtime but the Grizzlies prevailed in their semifinals matchup. 

Golden Valley secured the tournament and their perfect record with a nice win over Leuzinger. 

“I’m feeling great about the team this summer,” said Smith. “Everything is going in the right direction. Our chemistry is beyond what I thought it was going to be and we always have high energy for each other.” 

Ajani Smith. Photo Courtesy of Golden Valley Football.

The Grizzlies are looking strong with a good number of new faces in the mix.  

Senior Chris Melkonian is another two-way standout from last season and has transitioned well into becoming the Grizzlies’ starting quarterback. 

“Chris Melkonian at quarterback has done an amazing job for us,” said Kelley. “He’s really developed into a guy we can count on. The last two years he’s played wide receiver, corner and safety. I think we’re going to have a lot of options with him at quarterback. He’s really got the ball to a lot of guys out there.” 

Smith is one of three receivers to keep an eye on at Golden Valley, with Kelley noting William Hake and Brian Jones as impressive players. Kelley was also pleased with his running backs’ catching abilities and both his offensive and defensive lines’ development. 

“To go undefeated is not easy,” said Kelley. “The kids played well. They competed and executed, and that’s what you want to get out of seven on seven.” 

The team played well all day, which allowed some of the starters to sit and get the bench players some experience in multiple games. 

Golden Valley is nearing its dead period with some serious strides and will return for fall camp in late July. 

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