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WEEK ONE FOOTBALL: VALLEY CHRISTIAN REBOUNDS TO PUT TOGETHER NEAR FLAWLESS WIN AGAINST GAHR

 

Valley Christian High senior running back Major Brown was a key factor in his team’s 42-9 win against Gahr High last Friday night. Brown rushed 17 times for 56 yards and scored twice, and caught three passes for 24 yards. PHOTOS BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

August 31, 2022

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Valley Christian High was looking for a better performance than the one it had in its 35-0 season-opening loss to El Dorado High in the debut of first-year head coach Nick Walker. Gahr High was looking to begin the new season on a high note, but longtime head coach Greg Marshall saw something he wasn’t expecting.

The Gladiators sputtered on offense all night, leaving a frustrated Marshall to come to the conclusion his team was emotional, out of shape and tired after three plays. The Defenders took advantage and crushed its Artesia Blvd. neighbors 42-9 last Friday at V.C. After surrendering a safety compliments of a bad snap from center nearly five minutes into the contest, the hosts scored 42 unanswered points and received a balanced offensive attack.

“Obviously, we want to be aggressive,” said Walker. “So, our philosophy is ‘get to them first before they get to us’. If we get to them and put them in a position to have to punt or third and long, we’re in a great position. We obviously think that we can win games if we get them in that position.”

“We just weren’t very sharp tonight, obviously,” said Marshall. “I think we did some good things [but] I don’t think we did a very good job getting the kids ready. Some of the things are just hard to figure out who we are. We have some guys, but we’ll see on the film where we just didn’t execute some plays.”

V.C. got on the board with 4:36 left in the first quarter when senior running back Major Brown scored from 10 yards out. Following Gahr’s second punt of the stanza, senior quarterback Kaden Struiksma launched a 41-yard strike to senior wide receiver Nick Bozanic for a 14-2 lead.

The Gladiators had the ball for 6:15 of the quarter but could muster 22 yards on 13 plays and it would get worse in the second quarter as they were limited to 19 yards on a dozen plays thanks to V.C.’s stingy defense. Senior defensive back Casey Bouma returned an interception 60 yards for a score nearly midway through the quarter. Then another three-and-out resulted in sophomore running back Josiah Apisala scoring on a five-yard scamper late in the half.

“The resilience, the way we handled business,” said Walker of the turnaround from the El Dorado game. “We came out and made a statement. We continued to trend on defense to zero points. Offense gave up those two points [and] we gave up those seven at the end. But for the most part, we were resilient in what we were doing.”

The defense kept its foot on the pedal in the second half and after senior defensive end Micah Maurer partially blocked a punt from junior Calvin Thomas III, V.C. ran eight plays in 4:16, ending in a 12-yard score from Brown. The final points of the game for the Defenders came early in the fourth quarter when Maurer caught a 38-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Keiran Edmundson.

 

Gahr High senior Tyvon McGirt (#12) and junior cornerback Natt Flowers (#2) try to bring down Valley Christian senior wide receiver Micah Maurer in last Friday night’s 42-9 V.C. win. Maurer caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Keiran Edmundson late in the game.

 

Brown gained 56 yards on 17 carries while Apisala added another 36 yards on seven touches. In addition, Brown caught three passes for 24 yards from Struiksma, who completed nine of 12 passes for 90 yards.

“It’s a two-headed monster,” said Walker of his running attack. “So, we just want to be able to get to it; make sure we are being consistent with the run. We have a two-headed monster. Let’s pound, then hit outside. Let’s go inside, go outside, go inside, go outside; try to figure it out and see where they’re going to over pursue and see if we can get some cutback angles.

“He’s coming along,” Walker later said of Struiksma. “Obviously, we would have liked that last week. But he’s coming along; he’s putting his best foot forward and he’s learning. It’s his first year, he’s a senior, so we’re coaching on the fly.”

Freshman linebacker Cole Hefner had a great night on defense with six tackles while Apisala added five and a half tackles and Casey Bouma another two and a half tackles with a fumble recovery and that interception. V.C. will host Aliso Niguel High tonight with one team getting its second win while the other dropping to 1-2. The Wolverines blanked Rancho Mirage High 26-0 last week as quarterback Hunter Najm has thrown for nearly 400 yards this season. Luke Jones has rushed for 114 yards on 22 carries and scored once and Jack Gill has caught 10 passes for 187 and two of the four touchdowns thrown from Najm.

Walker says his team needs to work on turning everything in on defense in order to be successful against Aliso Niguel and the Defenders need to hit their stuff immediately on offense.

As for Gahr, junior running back Kalen Montgomery rushed 11 times for 61 yards and scored from 27 yards with 5:50 left in the game. Senior running back Tyvon McGirt added 43 yards on seven carries while junior Ethan Whiteman, making his varsity quarterback debut, completed five of 17 passes for 39 yards.

“We have enough guys because Tyvon and [junior wide receiver] Evan [Spurlin-Renfroe] are good, and so is [Kalen],” said Marshall. “That’s three guys in a high school football game. We just have to figure out how can we get those guys the football and how to be more successful.

“It’s a learning experience for him,” Marshall later said of Whiteman. “He kind of got locked in on some things and I don’t think we gave him too much. But he just has to try to get better. Evan would be open, and he was throwing to the wrong guy. He just didn’t focus on what we needed him to do. It’s his first time out, but he just didn’t execute on offense.”

One of the positives from the game, according to Marshall, was he thought the kids played hard, didn’t give up and didn’t chip with each other when a lot of times [in these] games, they start pointing fingers.

The Gladiators will face Heritage Christian High tonight, winners of its first two games. The Warriors edged Harvard-Westlake High 21-20 before trouncing Riverside Prep 42-8 last Friday. In order to pull off the upset, Marshall said there needs to be better work on the communication from the sideline to the offense.

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