Building up program the goal at Valencia
As the summer ends, the barren land near Valencia High School is being prepped for the building of a solar facility. Up the road, second-year coach Kevin Jolley and his staff are done prepping.
In 2013, they want to continue building.
Valencia is a year removed from the six-year-old school’s first playoff run. When Jolley took over for former coach Kelley Lee, he did not look at the job as a rebuilding project.
“We wanted to continue what those previous coaches and players had set before us,” he said. “They made it to the playoffs, they worked hard. We wanted to continue their success.”
The young Jaguars were game to continue that success in 2012. But a tough pre-district schedule took a toll and, by the time they faced Valencia County foes Belen and Los Lunas in the final two weeks, they were spent and dropped from undefeated in District 6-4A to out of the playoff picture.
For Jolley and his players, 2013 is where they learn from that experience.
“It was tough, but I think it helped us grow as a team,” said junior running back Josh Burbank. “I feel our district is an open field.”
The Jaguars bring back nine starters from 2012 on both the offense and the defense. And while a lack of depth has VHS using a lot of players both ways, Valencia believes it has the tools to contend.
“Expectations are high for us,” said running back/defensive back Joe Heneghan.
Heneghan and Burbank are part of the Jaguars strength — the offensive and defensive backfield — along with juniors Nate Nash and Tyler McClarran and seniors Martin Aragon and Estevan Gallegos, who is returning from a knee injury.
Burbank said the team’s biggest edge is its overall speed and agility.
“We’re not the biggest team, but I guarantee we’ll be one of the fastest in the state,” said Burbank.
“We’ve got a good backfield,” said Heneghan. “I think that’ll come through for us pretty good this year. We’ve got a lot of playmakers.”
In the preseason, quarterbacks D.J. Haybourne, a senior, is competing with juniors Colton Cash and Garrett Gibson for time under center, but the offensive line, anchored by senior center Greason Heartline, should be strong.
Jolley and new defensive coordinator Joe D’Arezzo are weighing a switch from last year’s 4-3 defense to a 3-4 — but only if they can find a suitable nose guard. Offensive-line standouts Porfie Baca, Jason McClung and Nathan Jolley are expected to be assets on the defensive line. Linebackers Orlando Lucero and Lyndol Burks bring experience, strength and consistency behind them.
“We’re going to see a lot of kids play both ways,” coach Jolley said. “We won’t platoon until we get the numbers up and we have 110, 120 kids out there. But have enough kids that we’ll rotate a bunch through.”
That strength-in-numbers approach is a key, as Jolley said avoiding injuries is a must for Valencia to return to the playoffs.
“We’ve got to learn to fight through every game and not take one game off or look ahead,” Jolley said.
Burbank said the Jaguars need communication and focus to make it back to the playoffs.
“If we focus as a team, we can really get after it,” he said. “If we have the same mind set, working like clockwork — one team, one heart, one mind — we can get it done. ”