Previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in California: No. 23 Valley Christian Warriors (San Jose)

SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Even with the season on hold, we will continue to highlight the best teams, players and coaches in California. Here’s an inside look at the Valley Christian Warriors of the CIF Central Coast Section, the No. 23 team in our countdown.

MORE: PRESEASON TOP 50 PREVIEWS

VALLEY CHRISTIAN TEAM PAGE | 2021 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

VALLEY CHRISTIAN HEAD COACH

Mike Machado, 26th season

2019 AT A GLANCE

  • Overall record: 11-2
  • League record: 6-1, 1st in West Catholic League
  • CIFCCS Division 1 Playoffs: defeated Saint Francis 25-3, defeated St. Ignatius 28-7, lost 17-0 to Serra San Mateo in section championship game

2020-21 SCHEDULE

All games are at 7 p.m. unless noted otherwise.

  • Jan. 8 @ Wilcox
  • Jan. 15 vs. Capital Christian
  • Jan. 22 vs. Pittsburg
  • Feb. 5 vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep (location TBA)
  • Feb. 13 vs. St. Ignatius
  • Feb. 19 @ Saint Francis
  • Mar. 6 @ Archbishop Mitty
  • Mar. 12 vs. Bellarmine Prep
  • Mar. 20 @ Archbishop Riordan

ALL-LEAGUE PLAYERS DEPARTED

RB Isaiah McElvane – Running Back of the Year
FB Michael Corini – Fullback of the Year
OL JT Reed – Offensive Lineman of the Year
OLB Anthony Madrigal – Outside Linebacker of the Year
DB Kavir Bains – co-Defensive Back of the Year
WR/LB Moon Ashby – First Team
WR/DB Deven Vanderbilt – First Team
QB Cory Taylor – First Team
OL/DL Michael Jorgensen – Second Team
OL/DL Arjun Ghuman – Second Team
TE/DE Jackson Stewart – Second Team
OL/DL Jessai Synegal-Gonzalez – Honorable Mention

PLAYERS TO WATCH

TE/DL Tyler Roberts – SR.

The nationally-ranked TE/DL signed with Lafayette on Early Signing Day. He’s one of the top run-blocking TEs in Northern California, and made 19 tackles (five for loss) on defense last season.

TE Sam Roush – JR.

Another one of the Bay Area’s top tight ends, Roush is a 4-star prospect and Stanford commit.

RB Chase Laubach – SR.

Last season, Laubach was second on the Warriors with 923 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

Coach Machado: “He’s a power runner. Runs hard and will run over you, he’s tough. In our system, he’s been a good fit.”

DE/OLB Dominic Oliver – SR.

A versatile 3-star San Diego State signee, Oliver’s likely position at higher levels is OLB, but he plays more DE for Valley Christian. Last season he had 62 tackles and was third on the team with 15 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

ILB/K Will Cuddie – JR.

Machado called Cuddie “the captain of [their] defense.” He led the Warriors with 116 tackles as just a 5-7, 170-pound sophomore, and was second on the squad with 18.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, winning WCAL ILB of the Year. Cuddie also did kickoffs, registering 25 touchbacks and nearly 3,200 yards.

WR Jurrion Dickey – SO.

Dickey was Valley Christian’s leading receiver as a freshman, going for 541 yards and seven touchdowns in the air, plus 126 yards on kickoff returns. He’s since received at least five Division I offers, primarily Power-5, and a 4-star rating. Dickey also won WCAL Freshman of the Year.

QB/DB Jakson Berman – JR.

In 2019, Berman was a rotation contributor in Valley Christian’s secondary, plus its primary kickoff returner with 226 kick return yards. Now the Warriors’ QB1, he won’t start on defense, but will still play some DB situationally.

Coach Machado: “He’s an incredible athlete, a speed guy. Gives us an opportunity to keep plays alive.”

RB Jake Ojegbu – SR.

Ojegbu was in the mix last season at tailback while coming back from a major injury with 249 yards and two TDs rushing in eight games. Coach Machado expects him to be a star his senior year, now fully healthy. He describes him as a “big-time back, big-play guy with breakaway speed.”

SB/S Charlie Kinne – SR.

A nationally ranked ATH prospect, Kinne is a big two-way breakout candidate coming into his senior year. Machado calls him an exceptional athlete, and he will have significant opportunities on both sides of the ball. While Kinne will be featured as a slot receiver on Valley Christian’s offense, he’s also a standout QB.

CB/WR Andi Etok – SR.

Coach Machado said Etok has been impressive in preseason workouts since transferring from Oak Grove. He’s been offered at the college level at corner, and is also a likely factor at WR.

**Coach Machado also named several more players likely to break out or excel in upgraded roles: DLs Nehemiah Musika, Tim Foster, and Max Dickson, OLs Sione Reed and JaYuan Dickey, WR Jamarr Morris, CB Carmelo Rivera, and LBs Darius Saunders and Elijah Garcia.

HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED VALLEY CHRISTIAN FOOTBALL

COVID-19 has affected every high school football team differently. Coach Machado shares how COVID-19 has impacted Valley Christian football over the past few months:

“It’s hardest on the kids. We’re on the field, then told to get back off, then on, then off (around Thanksgiving). We worked out 2 hours a night prior to that for about a month and a half. For practices, we were allowed to have a scaled-down version of football. No one-on-ones, no linemen next to each other, so we had to ad-lib. We did the best we could to still get football techniques, movements, timing. We worked on things specific to position. The school set up the weight facility around the end zone of the football field in a 120 x 45 foot tent. We were able to work out, continue weight training. The rest of it is just, hurry up and wait.

“Our main thing was try to stay safe, make sure we didn’t have any cases, breaches. We did very well – we were lucky not to have any football player get coronavirus.

“The hardest thing for me is what’s happening to the seniors. The NCAA delaying until April but extending eligibility for another year tells them that the recruiting process will not be an advantage for them. It’s good for the kids already in college, but what about the spots that are usually for walk-ons and late scholarships? I can’t tell you how bad I feel for kids both here and across the landscape waiting for this time in their life, getting opportunities to pay for college by playing football … that’s a gut punch.”

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

If all goes right, the Warriors could very well go undefeated and win both their league and a Central Coast Section championship. That would put them in great position to win a bowl game at the CIF Division 1 state level depending on what the postseason looks like this spring.

The run-heavy Warriors have a FB/TB duo in Laubach and Ojegbu that they trust to get them where they want to go offensively. They are supported by one of NorCal’s best run-blocking units. That includes a huge, athletic O-line led by 6-3, 340-pound OT Marcus Failla, and outstanding blocking at TE by Roush and Roberts. And while Valley Christian will likely be a run-oriented team as usual, its passing game will be dangerous as well to keep defenses honest.

Defense and special teams have a promising combination of returners and breakout candidates as well. Valley Christian is dangerous as usual.

MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO

While Valley Christian would have to make it out of a very competitive CIFCCS Division 1 to win a section title, the Warriors’ chances look about as good as anybody’s.

After making their first two 2019 playoff wins look easy against great teams in Saint Francis and St. Ignatius, they were only a few scores away from a section title. With tons of talent ready for the 2020-21 season, the odds are strong that they’ll be around the top of the pack again this season – maybe at the the top of it.

COACH SAID

Coach Machado said that the program’s concern for seniors with heavily impacted senior seasons is so high that for now, getting them on the field is the only pressing goal coming into the season.

“We’re looking at the possibility of a 4-team season. Archbishop Mitty, Bellarmine, Saint Francis, maybe Serra if they let teams play teams from neighboring counties. It’s just, let’s have a season, and take whatever we can get. League play would be very competitive. Our emphasis is on the seniors, even non-college level guys, to get on the field some, have some resemblance of a senior year.

“Things are going to be different than usual. I think a big part of this season is about the seniors who worked in your program and put themselves in a position to maybe have been recruited by now. Get them some film. That’s what I’m concerned with.

“What we are, and tend to be, is fast and athletic. On defense, we’re going to line up right and get to the football. We will read, react, and get to the football. Offensively, we’ll be athletic up front, stay on our blocks, come downhill and run at you all day and all night long. We use play-action and have big-play guys in the passing game.

“The competition you get every year here … we came here for that. Since 25 years ago when we got here, we’ve averaged 9 wins a season. We’re proud of that, proud of the young men who’ve gone on at the college level. We’ve got kids all over the place playing football who have come out of our system. Those are things that gives our community a sense of pride.”

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