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Season Outlook 

In a season filled with change, Valley Christian Academy is the only local high school that isn’t moving to a new section or league.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be major changes.

Their league — the Coast Valley League (CVL) lost one team.

“Shandon just doesn’t have the numbers so they’re not fielding a team,” said longtime defensive coordinator Randy Stanford. “So the CVL will have Coast Union, Cuyama Valley, Maricopa and us.”

And there will be major changes to VCA's team after the Lions were hit hard by graduation, losing five starters from their 8-man team.

Gone are starting quarterback/defensive back Trenton Lane and his longtime center and defensive nose tackle Joey Valadez along with offensive guard/defensive tackle Jarrett Smith and wide receiver/defensive back Kiernan Quinones.

VCA will also be without junior starting running back Adam Aldana, last year’s Coast Valley League offensive MVP and All-CIF first-teamer who transferred to Righetti High School.

With those five on the field, the Lions went 4-0 in the Coast Valley League (CVL) and 7-3 overall, making it to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section 8-man Division 2 playoffs.

“Even so, I think we should be back in pretty good shape to defend our CVL title,” said Stanford. “We lost a whole lot, including our entire offensive line but the kids who played behind them last year are stepping up.”

With lopsided wins in those seven victories, the backups saw a lot of action in 2017.

And three of last season’s starters — seniors Ethan McCoy and Andrew Sparlin and sophomore Matthew Holihan — are expected to provide leadership on the 2018 squad.

“Ethan McCoy was the league’s defensive MVP and was on the All-CIF first team,” said Stanford of his middle linebacker. “McCoy was our backup quarterback and was an outstanding running back and receiver.”

McCoy was penciled in as this season’s starting quarterback but that was before VCA found a new player had transferred into the school.

“Ethan’s younger brother Tyler transferred here,” said Stanford. “The two were fighting it out for the quarterback position but I think we’ll go with Tyler as the quarterback and keep Ethan as a running back and receiver and, of course, keep him in the middle of our defense. Ethan was a run-stopping machine. He made sure the defense was always in the correct set. He’s a real team leader.”

Sparlin is also back. The 6-foot-4 senior has been the team’s starting tight end and defensive end since his freshman year.

“Andrew was our big man on the strong side,” said Stanford. “We’re expecting another big year from him.”

And Holihan was a force on both sides of the ball.

“He had a great freshman year,” said Stanford. “He did a great job as our other tight end and defensive end. He’ll see even more playing time this year.”

Senior Juan Perez will take over as the starting center.

“He was our fourth lineman the past few years but he saw a lot of playing time and always did a good job,” said Stanford. “And we’re counting on AJ Davis and Jeo Limon to step into starting roles on both the offensive and defensive lines.”

The 2017 Lions made a living running the ball with Aldana and Lane running over and around opposing defenses.

“We definitely were a running team and rarely had Trenton throw the ball. We liked to play the way (legendary local high school and Hancock College coach) Barney Eames used to play — you know, three yards and a cloud of dust. If you’ve got the ball, then the other team can’t score,” said Stanford. “But this year, I think we’ll open it up a little more. Tyler and Ethan can both really throw so this year we’ll definitely mix it up a little more.”

But that doesn’t mean the Lions will abandon the run from their Double Tight I formation.

“Tyler is very accurate but he’s also quick enough that he can take off. Ethan can really pound the ball but Andrew is a big target so we won’t be as predictable this year,” said Stanford.

On defense, the Lions will stick with their 4-2-2 formation.

“We should be strong up front, tough to run on,” said Stanford. “I like to play as much man-to-man coverage as possible — maybe mix in a little zone coverage on third down.”

As an 8-man team, VCA didn’t begin practice until July 31 so head coach Pete Fortier and Stanford have to fill in their missing pieces quickly.

“8-man is such a wide open game. It’s not as physical as 11-man but that doesn’t make it any easier. Teams can score very quickly and getting 60 points a game is not unusual,” said Stanford. “But we’ll be ready for the season. I’m definitely excited. We’re looking for some big things from these kids.”

VCA kicks off the season on Friday, Aug. 31, with a 1 p.m. game at Santa Barbara’s Laguna Blanca.


Senior Sports Reporter