Valley Vista will try to turn the power of numbers into the school’s first winning football season.
The Monsoon enter their fifth year of varsity competition with the most depth and fastest squad since Jason Wilke made the coaching move from Glendale High School to Valley Vista prior to the 2007 season.
“We’ve got a few two-way players, but we are two- and three-players deep on the depth chart at all positions,” said Wilke, a Michigan native who has an overall 11-30 record in four years at Valley Vista. “We’ve got competition at every position and no job is safe.”
The Monsoon have four returning offensive starters and seven returnees on defense.
The offense will be led by junior quarterback Dalvin Richardson, who played linebacker last season.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Richardson succeeds his brother, Diante, who started at quarterback in 2010.
“Dalvin is a lot like Diante, only bigger,” said Wilke, who guided the Monsoon to a 3-7 mark last year. “Dalvin also brings a linebacker’s mentality to the position.”
The new quarterback possesses plenty of athleticism, which will be incorporated into the offense with several option-style plays designed to give Richardson a choice to run or pass.
“We’ve always believed in a lot of multiple-style offenses,” Wilke said. “We will take what the defense gives us.”
A bevy a players will share the running duties, including Brandon Bendele, who gained 278 yards last season, and C.J. Palmer, who also will play linebacker.
The Monsoon also anticipate the return of junior Jonathon Everett, who has struggled with some preseason back woes.
“Jon has the potential to be a 2,000-yard rusher,” Wilke said of the 6-foot, 182-pound Everett, who has 4.38 speed in the 40-yard dash. “We just need to get him healthy and get him some reps on the field.”
Three talented receivers represent solid targets in Gio Pascasio, Jonah Seifert and tight end Travis Grover.
Pascasio, the deep threat, caught 23 passes in 2010 while Seifert, a possession receiver, had 17 catches last season.
The offensive line will be anchored by senior center Kyle French.
On defense, Valley Vista made strides last season under new defensive coordinator, Josh Sekoch, who was previously the head coach at Shadow Mountain.
The Monsoon defense reduced its points allowed by a touchdown, but still permitted an average of 27 points per game in 2010.
“We have really emphasized our speed and our ability to get to the ball on defense,” Wilke said. “I think our defense is a strength of this team.”
Jack Hastings will move to middle linebacker, replacing Cory Trufant, who transferred to Dysart.
Jacob Bukowiecki had two sacks as a strong safety in 2010 and will be paired with free safety Myles Spearman in the secondary.
“Myles was having an all-league type season until he got hurt and had to miss the last four games,” Wilke said. “He went to a Boise State camp this summer and he is poised to have a big season.”
Zac Newman will start at one cornerback and Austin Jardine will play outside linebacker.
Senior Jeremiah Oakley will be used as a pass-rushing specialist after posting 2½ sacks last season.
Three sophomores are expected to play key roles: Roberto Roman will play offensive line; Terry Juniel, the brother of former Valley Vista star Tirelle Turner, plays cornerback; and J.T. Moore handles one of the linebacker spots.
Wilke said it has taken four years to build a foundation for success at the Surprise school.
“We have a coaching staff that has been here the entire time and have led these kids by example with their work ethic,” Wilke said. “We have kids who are vested in the program as well as parents, boosters and school officials who have been supportive of us as we’ve gone through the process.
“We’re up to the challenge.”