FOOTBALL — The Monarchs will have to look to a new head-coaching regime for the upcoming fall season, again.
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Editor in Chief
Entering its 66th season, Valley College’s football program will once again have to come face to face with what is becoming an annual reality – a new head coach.
The team has decided to move on from Head Coach Juan Navarro after a disappointing 3-7 (1-6) record in his first season holding the position.
“It was really shocking,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback Patrick Tyler on Navarro not returning. “[Navarro] put so much into the program and so many players were behind him 100 percent. It was definitely frustrating to hear he wasn’t going to return as the head coach.”
A new head coach has not been named yet, and will not be able to join the team until early July when a hiring is made official. The hiring will mark the second straight summer a new coach will be brought in, making it three different head coaches in three seasons for the Monarchs.
“You’ve established something, you’ve worked so hard, and lay the foundation, only for stuff not to work out,” said Navarro. “It’s just unfortunate. The culture is changing, and I hate to see it go, but it’s a business, and I understand that part. Nevertheless, there is still a very good outlook in terms of the guys who are coming back and the program overall going forward.”
The good outlook Navarro refers to includes Division 1 scouts from universities such as USC, Arizona State University, and Louisville attending their spring practices in the last couple of months. The program also had four players from last season transfer to Division 1 schools on full scholarships (Idarius Ray to Louisville, Ellis Richardson to Alabama State, Mark Finau to UNLV, and DeLane Hart-Johnson to the University of New Mexico).
Though continuity with the coaching staff has been lost, the Monarchs will still return nearly 80 percent of last year’s roster this season, according to Navarro.
In 2014, Valley’s defense was a dominant bunch, finishing seventh in the state in total yards allowed and was the top-ranked unit after the first five weeks.
“The defense is stacked,” said sophomore cornerback Eric Jenkins, who led the team in interceptions last year. “We can use improvements at our [defensive-line] position, but that’s about it, the defense is ready.”
The offense on the other hand struggled mightily. The unit only averaged 217.9 yards through the air per game, good for 44th in the state (out of 69 teams); the running game was even worse, only contributing 83 yards per game, ranking a lowly 63rd in the state.
Valley will also have to replace quarterback Ellis Richardson who put up impressive numbers while only starting the second half of the season. Richardson threw for over 1300 yards, nine touchdowns to only three interceptions, while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes last season.
Tyler, who will be competing to be the starting quarterback this season, attributes last year’s offensive struggles to lack of cohesion and to learn the system in a short period of time.
“Just everyone being on the same page [will make the offense more successful],” said Tyler. “Last season a lot of players came in late and the offense was a little difficult to pick up. This year everyone has a head start on picking up the offense so there shouldn’t be any reason to not be better than last year on that side of the ball.”
The redshirt sophomore expects no lull from the team despite going through another coaching change this season, as it is on the players themselves to get the job done on the field, regardless.
“At the end of the day it’s still football, so not much has changed but leadership. Once everyone gets comfortable with the new head coach we’ll be fine. Our mindset will still be the same…compete everyday, get better, and win. That’s what it’s all about.”