The Valley Christian Academy Lions are preparing for life on the road.
The Lions will be the visiting team in five of their eight games in the 2019 season.
VCA is the two-time, defending Coast Valley League champion but even there, the Lions play two of their three league games away from home.
“We’re trying to get one more home game,” said head coach and Athletic Director Pete Fortier. “We only play Laton, Coast Union and Laguna Blanca at home so we’ll be putting a lot of miles on the team bus.”
The Lions play that unique version of high school football known as 8-man.
The Valley Christian Academy Lions are preparing for life on the road. The Lions will be the visiting team in five of their eight games in the…
Designed for small schools, it’s a wide open, high scoring game.
The CIF Southern Section also limits 8-man teams to a nine-game regular season.
VCA was the last school to take to the practice field, opening fall practice on Monday, Aug. 13.
“School hasn’t even started yet. We don’t start classes until Aug. 27,” said Fortier. “We’ll hold our Carnival before that, on Saturday, Aug. 24.”
The Carnival is something else that’s unique to the world of 8-man.
Every year, Valley Christian hosts its CVL opponents for a league-wide, round robin scrimmage, usually on the weekend that 11-man schools play their Week Zero games.
“Coast Union, Cuyama Valley and Maricopa all come here and (non-league team) Laguna Blanca is coming again this year,” said Fortier.
“We have 18 players and we could add a couple more before the season begins,” said Fortier. “Some of these schools might only have 15 players so they don’t have enough for a full scrimmage against themselves. This gives all of us a chance to have some live action. We have a pretty good idea of who our starting eight will be but we’ll have a better idea after the Carnival.”
Tyler McCoy is back to lead the Valley Christian offense.
“He started every game for us last year,” said Fortier. “I think he was the first sophomore in VCA history to start every game at quarterback.”
The Lions lost four key players from last year’s squad – Ethan McCoy, Juan Perez and Andrew Sparlin graduated and Adam Aldana has decided not to play this year.
“With Adam, we were more of a run-oriented team last year,” said Fortier. “This year, we’ll have a more balanced attack.”
Matt Holihan will line up in the backfield as the team’s fullback. After taking last year off, Jamin Magness returns to share the running responsibilities at tailback.
Magness will spend time at receiver along with Timmy Trenkle and Jared Moore.
The offensive line is anchored by A.J. Davis, Josiah Heller and Caleb Kerley.
“The defense will look a lot like the offense,” said defensive coordinator Randy Stanford. “A.J. Davis, Timmy Trenkle, Caleb Kerley and Jack Adam, who played a lot for us last year as a freshman, will be on the line. Connor Anderson and Matt Holihan will be linebackers, Jared Moore is our defensive back and Jamin Magness is our rover. In 8-man, we don’t have safeties and only have two linebackers. My goal is to mix and match so we don’t have to play kids both ways the whole game.”
“We’re not going to have the size we had last year but I think as a team, we’re faster,” said Fortier. “Tyler had a great sophomore season. He’ll be even better this year and we’re trying to have him play only on offense. Timmy had a great year last year at receiver. He’s also our kicker. A.J. is our center and nose guard. He’s already shown he’s quicker this year.”
Valley Christian opens the season at Lebec Frazier Mountain on Friday, Sept. 6 before hosting Laton on Sept. 7.
The Lions then hit the road for four straight games – two of them Saturday afternoon contests at Monterey Trinity Christian and La Verne Calvary Baptist followed by two CVL matchups at Cuyama Valley and Maricopa.
The Lions wrap up the regular season at home against Coast Union in their CVL finale and with a non-league game against Laguna Blanca.
“I think Coast Union is the team to beat (in the CVL). They have most of their core group back from last year,” said Fortier. “Cuyama Valley is always tough. They’ll have 16 or 17 kids and they’ve got size and speed but we’ve got some size and speed so I think we’ll be alright.”
In winning their second straight CVL championship last season, the Lions went 3-0 in league and 7-3 overall, making it to the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS 8-man Division 2 playoffs.
“Our goal is to play good solid football and the wins will come.” said Fortier. “I believe football will help these young men in life. If they’re tired, aching, sore – they’ve got to keep going. If they fight through it and don’t quit, then they won’t quit on life.”