East County Sports

Valhalla looking to returnees for guidance

NOTE: This is the 11th of a 13-part series that will take a look at each football team that East County Sports.com covers.  Each day, we will look at a different school, leading up to the final preview which will be published on the day that most of the teams in East County have their scrimmage leading into the 2015 season.  This edition we look at how the Valhalla High Norsemen will are cautiously optimistic about having a substantial number of returners back.

By Chris Davis
© East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (8-19-15) — Last year the Valhalla Norsemen were three games better than in 2013. This year, “Orange Nation” is looking to be three games better again.  If they do that, it would give them seven wins and almost assure themselves of a playoff spot.

When you have as many starters as the Norsemen do coming back, you can be as optimistic as they are out in Southeastern El Cajon.

Roster breakdown:
Quarterbacks: Senior PHILLIP NASEH (55% completion percentage, 1,998 yards, 12 TD’s) will continue as the starter.  “He is a blue collar kid,” head coach CHARLES BUSSEY complemented his quarterback.  “That is not an insult, I don’t think he was a natural quarterback growing up. But, he has worked his way into being one of the better quarterbacks in our league.”

Photo courtesy of Dan DeMars

Photo courtesy of Don DeMars

Naseh is getting some interest from Ivy League schools and USD closer to home, since he has a 4.0+ GPA those class schedules shouldn’t be a problem for him next year.  Backing him up will be sophomore BRIAN MADRIZ.

“Brian may be young, but he led us on the second day of South County passing league and we got all the way to the semifinals,” Bussey said about his backup quarterback.

Running backs: JEROME JOHNSON (Jr, team high 820 yards, team high 11 TD’s) and RAHSHAUN SHARPE (Sr, 672 total yards, three total touchdowns) will be a good tandem of backs.  Johnson will be the “thunder” and Sharpe will fill in the “lightning” of the age old Thunder and Lightning attack.

“We can run the power game at you with Jerome and then we can get you in space with Rahshaun,” Bussey pointed out.

Wide receivers: CONNOR CHAMBERLAIN (116 yards on 18 catches), NEEVER KRYAKOS (10 yards on a pair of balls), KEVIN FRANCIS (45 yards with five catches in 2014), RAHNYAE STEPHENS (21 yards on a pair of catches) will all provide leadership in the group.  Newcomers to the corps will be BRANDON FULLER (Jr.) and CONNOR MOSER (So.) will add even more consistency to the passing game.

“Fuller has really shined well in camp,” Bussey commented.

Offensive line: Another good line – as has been the case in several Grossmont Hills League teams – as the Orange have three players returning to the line.  RYAN BURKE, NEIL McKLINNEN and TYLER EASTLICK are returning to form a solid group to build from.  JON WASHAM, JACOB SMITH and JAKE SINES are all competing for two spots for opening night.

Defensive line: DANIEL BENDER (who is getting a lot of looks from Division I institutions), CHRIS YOHE and up-and-comer JOSH McNISH-HEIDER will fill the bill.  McNish-Heider is only a sophomore but has shown that he can play with the varsity.

“I think that our defensive line might be one of the better in the league,” Bussey boasted.

Linebackers: LOGAN BAKER (133 total tackles, 25 TFL’s, four sacks) is the leader of the linebacking corps.  But he is being pushed by CADE BAKER (115 tackles, 16 TFL’s, two sacks), TREY SCHIMKE (46 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions), LUCAS WALZ (49 tackles, five TFL’s and a fumble recovery) and BRENT BURNETT have been making waves in training camp.

“Our front seven is a real strong suit of our defense,” Bussey claimed.

Defensive backs: JORDAN ELLIS, DASHAWN KINISTON, DANTE CARNESSALE and JJ MEIER provide lots of experience for Valhalla in the secondary.  Fighting to join them is ANTHONY PORTILLO, COLE HOPKINS and DJ MADARA are all in a battle to join the veterans.

“I think our veterans in the secondary are going to take advantage of our quicker pass rush,” Bussey proposed.

Special teams: JACOB PAAPE will return for his second go round on the varsity team.  Last season Paape hit a 50-yard field goal as his long.  On

Photo courtesy of Don DeMars

Photo courtesy of Don DeMars

kickoffs, Paape last year was pretty consistent on getting it to the 2- or 3-yard line.  Coach Bussey mentioned that with all of the leg work that he has been putting in the weight room, the team is hoping that translates into more touchbacks this season.

“We always pride ourselves in trying to have one of the better special teams units in the county,” Bussey insisted.

The Norsemen already have a strong schedule just by being in the Grossmont Hills League.  So with that the preseason schedule didn’t need to be hard, but Bussey wants to know where his team is heading into league action.

August’s lone game will be against a team that will be rather familiar with East County squads once the season is over.  Otay Ranch will welcome the Norsemen on opening night.

September will begin with a short road trip, like 10 minutes with traffic long.  Granite Hills will welcome their neighbors to the South.  After a week three bye, Orange Nation will welcome the team to their first home game of the season against the Mariners of Mar Vista.  The month will wrap up with a trip to Patrick Henry on the 25th of the month.

The rest of the season will be against East County schools, beginning with a home game against Grossmont Valley League rival West Hills on October 2nd.  One week later Grossmont Hills League action begins with a contest at Mount Miguel.  Week eight will see the Vaqueros come to Valhalla Stadium for Homecoming 2015.  The second to last home game of the season will be on the 23rd against the Scotties of Helix. Halloween Eve will be another short road trip as Valhalla will travel 4 miles down Jamacha Road to Steele Canyon.

To put a bow on the regular season, Grossmont will be the opponent on Senior Night on November 6th.

“We are playing three of the top Division II teams and keeping local rivalries,” Bussy commented.

With nine of the teams the Norsemen will face this season coming off playoff berths last year (the lone exception would be Mar Vista), the Orangefaithful and team will know where they stand in Division II.

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