Valley Christian Trojans
Division V, Section II
Coach: Kevin Allen
Last year’s record: 1-9, did not make Div. V playoffs
Returning offensive starters: 5, including junior quarterback T.J. Widner. He was thrust into the role of starter last year due to injuries and grew up a lot in just one year. He threw for 1,895 yards and nine touchdowns.
Returning defensive starters: 6, including junior defensive end Dayton Nussle. Didn’t put up a lot of tackles last year as a sophomore, but was worked hard in the offseason to bulk up his 6-foot-3 frame. Will be the anchor of the Trojans’ front line.
Aug. 24 vs. Canyon State; Aug. 31 at Tempe Prep; Sept. 7 vs. Bourgade Catholic; Sept. 14 at Casa Grande; Sept. 21 at Coronado; Sept. 28 at San Tan Foothills; Oct. 5 vs. Phoenix Christian; Oct. 12 vs. Combs; Oct. 19 at Scottsdale Christian; Oct. 26 vs. Arizona Lutheran
Aug. 24 vs. Canyon State: For a team coming off a 1-win season, getting that first victory is important for team morale. Last year the Trojans lost to Canyon State for the first time and it had a lingering effect, something this year’s team does not want to duplicate.
Oct. 5 vs. Phoenix Christian: The Trojans hope to have more than a couple wins under their belt by the time their annual rivalry matchup with the Cougars. Phoenix Christian rolled up 70 points in this game last year, and the Trojans will remember that.
Oct. 19 at Scottsdale Christian: Another long-time rival, but this time Valley Christian hopes to be in a position to get a playoff berth, not just playing out the string.
The Valley Christian football program experienced something new last year and it didn’t like it. The Trojans had a team small in numbers and short on experience and that played out in a 1-9 campaign.
With the school enrollment dropping from a high of over 400 students just three years ago down to its current level of 300, third-year coach Kevin Allen has had to walk the halls, recruiting as many kids as he can to boost the programs’ numbers.
“Last two years, I’ve had to talk to many of our kids into coming out for football,” Allen said. “Some kids, 10 to 12 of them, this year are out for the first time. And some are going to get to play, we need them to play.”
One of those players Allen talked into playing last year is receiver Spencer Richardson, who turned into a key performer, catching 31 passes for 601 yards and three touchdowns. Now a senior, Richardson will be a crucial component of the Trojans’ offense, along with quarterback T.J. Widner and running back Cory Kasperson.
As a sophomore last year, Widner was supposed to bide his time behind starter Josh Pineda, but an injury forced Allen to use Widner. He responded by throwing for 1,895 yards and nine touchdowns, including a 364-yard, 4-touchdown night against Phoenix Christian.
This year, Allen said Widner is ready for his role as leader.
“We’re going to go as far as he goes,” Allen said. “He’s really matured as a quarterback and we’re really looking for him to take us to the next level.”
The 6-foot-4 Widner must improve his accuracy (he completed just 48 percent of his throws) and his turnovers (he threw 21 interceptions) in order to take the Trojans back to the Div. V playoffs.
How the season will go will depend heavily on how the Trojans open the year. Allen said. last year’s 40-21 loss to Canyon State in the season-opener had a long carryover.
“I think the psychological effect really had a big impact and I don’t know if we really recovered from that,” Allen said. “We talk about the things that happened last year that we don’t want to repeat and we challenged our kids and coaches.
“If you win your first one, that’s huge.”