Golden Valley senior Isaac Daniel has won only a handful of games during his high school football career. The three victories by the Cougars last year were the most in any one season.
“I haven’t been on a winning team since Pop Warner,” Daniel said. “Last year, we won a few games. We didn’t win much when we were freshmen or sophomores. I want to win bad.”
Despite the losses, the effort from Daniel and his senior teammates has never wavered. They know the younger players are watching.
“We want to set an example,” Daniel said. “No matter how hard things get, we will persevere. The last few years haven’t been that great, but we’re Golden Valley. I’ve always been a Cougar, and Cougars don’t give up.”
They easily could have added a couple more wins early last season. They let wins get away against Downey and Beyer. Depth played a key role in the losses, as players tired in the second half.
Don’t expect them to be pushovers this season.
“We expect to compete right off the bat,” Cougars coach Dennis Stubbs said. “We still don’t have the depth. We’ve got 40 guys, but we’ve learned how to develop some depth by practicing kids at two positions. We’ve found ways to get guys reps in practice at multiple positions. We did a lot better job of that this summer. That’s something we didn’t do a good job at last year.”
The Cougars have speed.
“We’ve got a lot of skill guys,” Stubbs said. “We’ve got a lot of players who can run. We’re young with a lot of juniors. Defensively, we like what we see. We’ve picked up the concepts. We have a lot of speed on defense.”
Only two players who saw significant playing time on offense return in Daniel at receiver and tight end Michael Souza. The Cougars will have five new starters on the offensive line, which could present some growing pains early.
Stubbs wasn’t shy last year when describing his excitement about the freshman class that went 7-3. Two of those players will be suit up for varsity this year: quarterback Armando Muzquiz and running back Isaiah Montenez.
“Both are really mature kids,” Stubbs said. “Armando has had an incredible summer doing the passing drills and seven-on-seven stuff. The sky is the limit with him. He’s a real student of the game and wants to get better. Isaiah is strong. He’s actually one of the fastest guys on our team.”
Defensively, the Cougars should be better. After leading Le Grand to four consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championships, Rick Martinez resigned as the Bulldogs’ coach to join Stubbs’ staff as defensive coordinator.
The Cougars should be strong at linebacker with Christian Belton, Lake Tucker and Desmone Borden. Players like Daniel, Andrew Bernal, Orland Robles and Montenez give Golden Valley depth in the secondary.
“We have some young guys coming up,” Belton said. “Our linebackers and defensive line is looking good. Last year, we were solid offensively. This year, we hope our defense can pick up the slack. We want to be the guys that win games for us. If we lose, it won’t be because the other team outworked us or out-conditioned us in the offseason. I feel we’ve outworked other teams.”
The Cougars should have an opportunity to win games early. Their five nonconference opponents went 19-35 last year with Clovis East, Stellar Prep and Chavez only winning two games each. Golden Valley played its other two foes – Beyer and Granada – tough last year.
“It would be really good to get off to a good start,” Souza said. “One of our coaches was talking about how it’s like a snowball. Once you get the taste of winning, it keeps building and building and it could lead to the playoffs. A winning season would mean a lot. We’ve put in a lot of work and always come up short. Hopefully, the payoff will be big this year.”
Candidate profile: Isaac Daniel
Golden Valley Cougars