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Loren Kopff’s 2023 Football Preview – Young Valley Christian Squad, With New Head Coach, to be Tested With Strong Schedule

August 7, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


6-8 overall last season, 1-4 in the Ironwood League, fifth place, lost to Lancaster High 44-42 in the Division 12 championship game

32-25 overall last five seasons

Head coach: Brendan Chambers (first season)

Lost six seniors out of 33 players from the 2022 opening day roster

Last time missed the playoffs: 2018

2023 schedule                                                                                   

Aug. 18           @ El Dorado (7-4 overall last season)        

Aug. 25           Gahr (3-7)

Sept. 1            @ Aliso Niguel (5-6)                                      

Sept. 8            @ Chino (6-6)                                                

Sept. 15          Sierra Vista (7-4)                                           

Sept. 22          BYE

Sept. 30          @ Heritage Christian (6-5)                           

Oct. 6              @ Ontario Christian (9-3)                             

Oct. 13            Aquinas (10-3)                                                                       

Oct. 20            @ Big Bear (4-6)

Oct. 27            Village Christian (8-3)                                   

After getting to the CIF-Southern Section Division 12 title game last season despite winning three regular season games, Valley Christian High made yet another coaching change with its football program as Brendan Chambers becomes the third head coach in as many seasons and seventh since 2017. Last season, Chambers was an assistant at St. Margaret’s High and before that, he the head coach at Saddleback Valley Christian High for seven years. 

“I’m very excited to be taking over the program with such rich tradition,” said Chambers. “I love the opportunity to speak life into these young men and be able to do that in a Christian school setting. It’s huge for me. What makes things different about Valley Christian is the tradition they have. They’ve been around for…this is their 89th year, so players’ parents have played in this program who have played for [former head coach Mike Wunderley]. 

“Hearing just the tradition is something that gets me excited,” he continued. “When I was at Saddleback Valley Christian, we never had that. It’s a new school about 15-20 years old. So, to have former players be dads supporting their sons is huge. It brings a lot of values and traditions that makes Friday night lights special.”

Chambers, who was hired in April, said when he was at C.V.C., he had a little insight about the Defenders and the school because former V.C. head coach Erick Streelman (2007-2012) was his receivers coach for a season and taught him a lot about V.C. Based on some of those talks, Chambers became aware of the longtime rivalry with Ontario Christian High. For added measure, Chambers is also connected with former V.C. boys basketball head coach Tom Lewis as the two were on the same coaching staff at C.V.C., and former V.C. standout Trent Berkenkamp is on this season’s coaching staff.

One advantage Chambers has for his first season with the Defenders is that V.C. graduated only half a dozen players from last season’s team. Even with the departure of a few other players, Chambers still sees some good things on the horizon for the program. The varsity team will have 30-35 players with about the same number as the junior varsity team.

“It definitely is good to have a lot of returning players,” said Chambers. “There are some kids who have left the program and did so before I took over. But I think the guys that we have are Valley guys and are buying into the culture of the program and the culture of the school. And I think the good news as a head coach is we only have 10 seniors in this class and only 11 juniors. So, we’re just really, really young…and some of our best players are underclassmen and it’s going to take them a little while to get going. But once they get going, I think that we’re going to be all right.”


The Defenders scored 349 points last season, including four games of at least 40 points. They were shutout twice and held to 14 points three other times. On top of that, three games decided by three points or fewer, one of them was a 35-34 overtime win at Portola High in the quarterfinals. V.C. returns both of its quarterbacks from last season-senior Joe DeYoung (131 for 258, 2,219 yards, 17 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) and junior Keiran Edmundson (13 completions, 301 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions) with the former taking over the starting gig a few games into the season. While both quarterbacks have been battling in the offseason as they did prior to last season, Chambers has tabbed DeYoung as the starter for this season.

“Joe played very well down the stretch [last season],” said Chambers. “Both of them have done a great job. Joe has a super strong arm, and I wasn’t here last year, but just some of the stuff I’ve heard and watched on film…he looked like he was a little bit timid running the football. It doesn’t look that way at all [this season]. He’s looking to run the football a little bit. He’s very accurate with his throws; doing a great job with his progressions and reads. And Keiran is doing a great job understanding the offense. It’s a whole new system they have to learn, and Keiran has come a long way with his progressions as well and has been very accurate with the football, too.”

One of the players not returning who was a major force in V.C.’s backfield last season is JoJo Apisala, who carried the ball 129 times for 849 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. DeYoung now becomes the leading returning ground gainer (17 carries, 55 yards, one touchdown), but replacing Apisala and the team’s second leading rusher, Major Brown, will be senior Dylan Sawai and sophomores Tyson McNeese and Lucas Witt. Senior Isaiah Jordan may see some time running the ball but will be primarily used as a slot receiver. Last season, he caught 30 passes for 411 yards and scored three times. 

In addition to Jordan, expect DeYoung to be throwing to senior Grant Hefner, who was a tackle last season but is expected to be a tight end this season, junior Austin Abrahams, sophomores Oliver Boateng, Sean Bouma, Cole Hefner, another tight end, and Dylan Teays.

“We’re just really young,” said Chambers. “I think there’s some talent there for sure, but a lot of inexperience at the varsity level. We’ll kind of see how that goes.”

The most experienced department on the offensive side, which is a plus considering the inexperience of the skill players, is the line and will be handled by junior left tackle Noah Klistoff, who was on the right side last season, senior left guard Tyler Hayes, senior center Jack Van Hofwegen, junior Logan Johnson or sophomore Isaac Morales at right tackle and junior right guard Noah Voecks. Johnson, Morales and Voecks were on the junior varsity team last season which went 9-1.

“I definitely love the offensive line; I love the depth of the offensive line,” said Chambers. “We’re about seven or eight deep and we’re all over 200 pounds. At a small school like us, you always try to find guys like Grant that are bigger and say, ‘hey, you have to go down and play offensive line’. And that’s not the case this year. We have a bunch of guys who actually want to play offensive and defensive line. We’re actually lighter at the skill position, which I think is a huge advantage because every high school wants an offensive line. We’re all fighting for offensive [linemen] because it’s hard to find them, and especially quality ones.”


As explosive as V.C.’s offense was, the defense couldn’t hold its own in many games, allowing 383 points, including five games of at least 35 points. In fact, the Defenders were involved in eight games in which the decision was over 20 points, losing five of them. Grant Hefner will be playing at one end of the defensive line with Hayes, McNeese, Morales, and Van Hofwegen among those who are in the mix. Chambers says he and the coaching staff are still figuring out but just like the offensive line, there is depth on the defensive side. 

The secondary will be led by Abrahams (57 tackles last season), Jordan (47 tackles), Teays at cornerback and junior Jayce Shields, another cornerback. Despite losing Apisala, who had 135 tackles last season, V.C. is still strong in the linebacking department with Sawai (40 tackles), Witt, Cole Hefner (82 tackles) and junior Jack Nichol.


The Defenders enjoyed their friendly confines eight times last season but in 2023, they will be home only four times in the regular season. The first four opponents are the same as last season, where V.C. began with a 1-4 mark. The game with Chino High was a 17-14 loss and in the other two setbacks against El Dorado High and Aliso Niguel High, the Defenders allowed 25 points each. Eight of V.C.’s opponents went to the playoffs with Ironwood League opponent Aquinas High advancing to the Division 5 semifinals. The1-5 league record last season marked the third time since 1998 that V.C. had won one league game and the fifth place finish was the third time since 1998 that the program had lost at least four league games.

“It’s going to be a tough one for sure,” said Chambers of the season opener. “They’re a very, very good team; really well-coached and they have some guys coming back. They’re going to give us trouble and like I said, we’re going to be put to the fire early. We’re going to see how we respond. I think it will be a closer game than last year.

“It’s definitely a tough test,” he continued. “It’s probably one of the tougher games we’ll play in the five games we play before league. Once we get to league, obviously we have some really good opponents in there.”

The coaching staff recently was talking about how the first five games are no joke with four of those opponents going to the playoffs in higher divisions and Gahr High tying two other teams for the Mid-Cities League title. Chambers joked about having a second bye week between the Aquinas and Big Bear High games so the Defenders can regroup and finish the season because the first three league games will be extremely tough. Last season, Chambers saw St. Margaret’s get trounced by Ontario Christian 35-7. 

“I expect to go out there and compete in league,” said Chambers. “I think we’re going to kind of lay the foundation for this program and the culture under coach Chambers. I know it’s a tough league. Aquinas is a very good football team. Ontario is a great football team, right? My biggest thing is how we finish-second place, third place, and making a playoff run like we did last year. Those first five games are going to be time for us as coaches to evaluate what we have and get those guys an opportunity to go out there and be successful and see where the pieces to the puzzle lie as we get into league play.”


The Defenders fell to longtime rival Ontario Christian 40-18 in last season’s homecoming game, just the program’s third homecoming loss since 1998. This season, V.C. faces Sierra Vista High, its first non-league opponent since 2013 for this festive game and someone it hasn’t faced in at least 25 seasons. The Dons, who hail from Baldwin Park, have had five winning seasons since 2004. Sierra Vista lost to Lancaster 28-16 in the first round of the playoffs last season.


“I want them to enjoy their time in this program,” said Chambers. “They’ve been through a lot of turmoil-third head coach in three. and we had some kids that didn’t really want to play this year. My biggest thing when I first met with them was that this program is going to be built on love and love is the cornerstone and that I’m going to treat them as human beings and not just a roster number.”