FOOTBALL: Valley’s No. 1 defensive ranking seems like a long time ago.
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Sports Editor
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for the Monarchs’ defense. It has truly been a tale of two halves of a season for a team that was ranked No. 1 in the state less than a month ago. Opponents have been beating the Dickens out of them since.
The Monarchs have been a sinking ship in their last four games—all losses—since their bye week, allowing opponents to score an average of nearly 37 points per game, including a total of 126 points in their last three games alone. That is a titanic collapse from their first five games where they were only surrendering a stingy 13.2 points a game—No. 2 in the state at the time.
“I think we got into ourselves a little bit,” said Head Coach Juan Navarro. “That’s why I tell [the players] never to look at the stats. You’ve got to stay humble to who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Valley also had to overcome several injuries on defense, specifically during their annual Victory Bell matchup versus rival Pierce College, Navarro points out. The team lost six defensive starters to injury in a game against the Pierce Brahmas alone.
Monarch defensive lineman Corey Ware – one of the team’s leading tacklers – still lauds the defense’s play despite injuries and a statistical decline.
“After the bye week, we were right in the teeth of our conference and our bodies were dwindling,” said Ware. “I still feel like our defense played at a high level, but we were on the field for too long; our offense couldn’t extend drives and put our defense in sticky situations.”
During Valley’s four-game plummet, the defense has conceded an appalling 19 offensive touchdowns to opponents, including eight against Pierce, where they surrendered a season-high 55 points — the nadir of the Monarchs’ decline so far.
Both Ware and Navarro cited miscommunications between players and coaches as the reason for the struggles; more specifically, for surrendering long, explosive touchdowns. That trend was magnified in Valley’s most recent game versus the Glendale College Vaqueros when they allowed touchdowns of 55 and 48 yards in a 26-17 loss.
“Being at the junior college level, we play high-caliber offensive talent every week,” said Ware. “The touchdowns given up by our defense were solely miscommunication.”
The team’s rough stretch doomed any hope at the playoffs, especially considering that the four teams that defeated Valley were all conference foes.
Now 3-6 (1-5), 7th in the American Pacific Conference and unranked in the California Community College Regional State Football Poll, the Monarchs will be playing just for pride in their final game Saturday vs. the West Los Angeles Wildcats (3-3 in conference).
“We believe in a positive attitude, and we have to go out there and respond with character, and relentless effort, no matter the opponent,” said Navarro. “We will not deviate from that.”
Update: Valley lost their final game of the season to West LA 38-28 Saturday afternoon at Monarch Stadium ending their year with a 3-7 (1-6) record.