SCV Fall Football Preview
September, 2010 - Issue #71
Valencia Quarterback Alex Bishop
Valencia Quarterback Alex Bishop
It's that time of year. No offense to Christmas, but 'round these parts, there's more than a few people who might say that high school football season is the most wonderful time of the year.

You can sense the excitement. The race for the 2010 Foothill League title is up in the air. That's what happens when young players dominate the landscape. Most teams in the Foothill League took some significant losses to graduation after the 2009 season.

Question marks for the teams abound. Will Valencia be able to repeat as league champs? Can the Vikings win in impressive fashion as they did in 2009, when they went undefeated in league and made a run to the CIF Southern Section-Northern Division semifinals? Will Golden Valley and West Ranch take steps forward and make an impact on the league race? Can Saugus rebound from a tough 2009 season and recapture their 2008 form when the Centurions won their first-ever Foothill League title? Will any Foothill League team make a serious run in the playoffs?

As anyone who has been around the Foothill League the last few years will tell you, anything can happen. But one thing seems to be clear. Any team that wants a shot at the crown will have to go through Valencia.

It is common belief that football games are won from the inside out. Even though the offensive and defensive linemen don't always get a lot of credit, they are vital to the success of a team. "All of the schools have some young talent," said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. "Really, [the Foothill League is] going to be won or lost in the trenches."

And it is on the line, both offensive and defensive, that Valencia will have to answer some questions. On the offensive line, Valencia has quite the task in front of them. The Vikings need to replace four starting offensive linemen in 2010.

Fortunately for the defending champs, they will be returning some serious talent at the skill positions. Quarterback Alex Bishop is back after notching the third-highest completion percentage (74.6) in state history for the 2009 season. Bishop threw for 3,431 yards and 36 touchdowns, a school record, to lead Valencia to an undefeated record in league play. He also ran for 511 yards and four more touchdowns.

Another star returner for Valencia is senior running back Steven Manfro. Manfro rushed for more than 1,600 yards in 2009 and finished with 34 touchdowns.

The Vikings seem to be set at those positions, but the team is relying on some young talent to step up. For example, a key to their defense will be the play of cornerbacks Edmund Darko and Ricky Vega. "They are talented, but young," Muir said. "When we get into August and September, they will have to take a step forward." If some of this inexperienced talent does step up, especially in the trenches, Valencia is going to be difficult to beat.

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Five Games to Watch
If you can only make it out to five games this year, these are the ones not to be missed.

5. Golden Valley at West Ranch > Oct. 22
Tired of the same old rivalries? Go check out the newest Foothill League members square off in a game that will feature two programs that are making strides.

4. Notre Dame at Valencia > Sept. 10
The Vikings won't get much of a warm up before having to play at their best. Valencia will host perennial powerhouse Notre Dame Sherman Oaks. League play for the Vikings opens at home against West Ranch on Friday, October 15.

3. El Camino Real at Hart > Sept. 3
The Indians lost 33-28 to the Conquistadors (12-2 record in 2009) in their opener last season. The team is hoping to change things around this year. This promises to be a great game with two top Southern California programs.

2. Hart at Canyon > Nov. 5
The classic Santa Clarita rivalry game will add another chapter the first week of November. Last year Hart won 45-27, so the Cowboys will try to even the score in a match up of 2009 playoff teams.

1. Hart at Valencia > Oct. 9
This is a game always loaded with talent and features the top two teams in the Foothill League from 2009. Valencia has breezed past Hart the last two seasons (56-7 in 2009 and 38-7 in 2008), so the Indians will be looking for revenge in a game that will certainly have league title implications.
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