After going winless in Year 1, the Caleb Smith era in Valley Center saw the team win three games and lose three by less than a touchdown in Year 2.
Will Year 3 be the season where the Hornets push for a winning season?
“We’re hoping so, but we haven’t gotten to the point where we’re a program that is consistently going to be a winning team,” Smith said. “We’re still in the building process, so we’re going to have to fight for every win we get.”
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Expectations have been tempered due to the graduation of an influential senior class that changed the culture of the program. It also left Smith looking for 16 new starters, including a quarterback, running back and an entire offensive line.
The defense has playmakers such as Demarco King (cornerback), Don Boone (linebacker), and Chase Crawford (safety) returning, but no one on the defensive line has much experience.
“And that’s kind of scary when you play in a league that’s a run-first league,” Smith said. “A lot of young guys are going to have to grow up pretty quick.”
But Smith is confident that in Year 3 his system is fully ingrained in his players. They know what he expects, in the classroom, in the weight room and on the field.
That alone, Smith hopes, should keep Valley Center competitive.
“It seems like everybody is on the same page and we are running all of our plays really well,” senior tight end Andrew Skaff said. “I can definitely tell a difference there. We just know what to expect.”
Valley Center resides in arguably the toughest district in Class 5A with Bishop Carroll, Maize, and Maize South. Competing against the best takes time and Smith is encouraged by the progress shown by his program.
If anything, this season will teach Valley Center how to reshape itself in Smith’s mold after experiencing drastic turnover.
“I’m excited about where we’re at in our program,” Smith said. “The kids are definitely way ahead of where we were our first year. Our kids are growing leaps and bounds in our system and I think we’re getting there in building a program where we can compete year-in and year-out.”