FOOTBALL: “The Victory Bell” matchup vs rival Pierce resonates on many levels this year.
By: Kevin Buckles Jr., Sports Editor
Two-thousand, one-hundred, and ninety days. Three hundred and twelve weeks. Seventy-two months.
For six exhausting years, Valley College’s trophy case has sat void of any significant achievements from the football team. Instead, particles of dust have accumulated to mark the time.
However, Saturday’s game against Pierce College will present the Valley football squad with an opportunity to blow that frustration away and reclaim a prized possession: The Victory Bell. And the Monarchs’ hopes rest largely on defectors who bucked the Brahama Bulls.
Former Pierce running backs coach Cordell Landers, who now holds the same position at Valley, as well as being the recruiting coordinator, told Pierce’s The Roundup News in May that the Monarchs will definitely have the advantage heading into the Bell matchup this season.
“I don’t think Pierce is going to have the coaching that Valley will have,” Landers, a former Valley football player from 1999-00, told Pierce’s newspaper. “We [the Valley coaching staff] have all been Division I, they have no one on that staff that has been at our level.”
Landers was not done.
The coach also criticized Pierce Athletic Director Bob Lofrano and Brahma Offensive Coordinator Jason Sabolic.
“Lofrano has no love for the football program,” said Landers. “They also have a bad offensive coordinator. None of the players respect Sabolic as a coach.
“We’re coming for the bell.”
Unfortunately for the Monarchs, the last five meetings against the Brahmas have been anything but competitive. Since 2009, Pierce has defeated Valley five times by an average margin of 19.8, scoring nearly 40 points per game.
But despite recent history, Monarchs Head Coach Juan Navarro — Brahma defensive coordinator in 2013 — is confident this time, the Bell tolls for Pierce.
“That’s the goal,” said Navarro. “The Bell would be a very prideful thing for all of us to have here. I really want [the Bell] for our kids, for our school, and for our program.”
Navarro’s offseason arrival, partially plundering Pierce’s staff for assistant coaches, may be just the spark that the Monarchs program needed to revive the rivalry.
“They’ve had [The Bell] for a couple years now,” said Valley free safety Chris Morgan, briefly a Pierce student last spring before transferring to Valley. “But we’re going to bring it home this year, period.”
The Victory Bell—actually composed of two bells, a small one perched on top of another one, twice its size—was built in the early 1970s to be bestowed to the winner of the annual football game between the perennial rivals.
Valley Athletic Director and football Offensive Coordinator Jim Fenwick spent his collegiate football days as a Brahma when the Bell was originally built, but has invested the last three decades in Valley’s program as a coach.
“I’ve been around a long time … I have kind of mixed feelings about [the Bell], knowing it historically,” said Fenwick. “But it’s part of the spirit, competition, sportsmanship of competition, and nice for our guys to experience.”
Not only will this game be played for bragging rights, but for conference implications as well, as both teams are just 1-3 in the American Pacific and each coming off losses.
For Monarchs offensive lineman Teddy Broadnax, those stakes only fuel the intensity of the matchup.
“I hate Pierce,” said Broadnax, “and now if we don’t beat Pierce, it’s a wasted year.”
The Valley College Monarchs face off against the Pierce College Brahma Bulls at John Shepherd Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m.