Head coach: Derrick Dunham
Third season at West (7-17)
Last season: 6-6 overall, 2-3 SYL
Playoffs: Lost in Central Section D-III quarterfinals
History: League titles (16); Section titles (4)
Assistant coaches: Brandon Parks, offensive coordinator; Seto Castaneda, defensive coordinator; Wyatt Ross, offensive line; Juan Zamora, special teams; Justin Neal, special teams.
Aug. 17 - vs. Tulare-Mission Oak
Aug. 24 - vs. East
Aug. 31 - vs. Foothill
Sept. 7 - BYE
Sept. 14 - at North
Sept. 21- at South
Sept. 28 - at Bakersfield Christian*
Oct. 5 - at Ridgeview*
Oct. 12 - vs. Independence*
Oct. 19 - vs. Golden Valley*
Oct. 26 - at Tehachapi*
Leauauna Laulu Jr., junior, RB/DE - Strong and intelligent. A powerful 5-foot-10, 245-pound runner who is very difficult to bring down. Punishes opposing tacklers. Rushed for 1,080 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Hard-worker. Leads by example.
Nick Garcia, senior, OT/DL - All-SYL last year. Anchor of an experienced offensive line. Equally adept at run and pass blocking.
DeVontae Sweeny, senior, WR - An excellent blocker on the outside. Possesses good speed and great hands.
Damani Jackson, senior, MLB/FB - Third-year varsity player. Two-way starter. Hard-hitter, who enjoys contact and is quick to the ball. Leader of the defense.
Despite returning 30 players, including seven starters on offense and six on defense from a team that posted a 6-6 record a year ago, West High’s success this season will be in large part due to how the Vikings handle changes to the team.
West has a few key open positions, including quarterback. The Vikings also have several transfers that are trying to work into their system.
“Our season will be defined by how quick the new guys can adapt to what we’re doing,” West coach Derrick Dunham said. “We are trying to get them up to speed on what West High football is all about.”
Last’s year’s win total was the most by West since 2010. There are many reasons to believe that this season the Vikings can continue their upward trajectory. Leauauna Laulu Jr., a 1,000-yard rusher in 2017, is back as are four of the Vikings five starting offensive linemen from a year ago.
West will also field an experienced receiving corps and a veteran defensive unit that is full of tough, gritty playmakers. West’s triple-option offense, which averaged 27.3 points per game last year, will have to fill the void left by the graduation of two-year starter Gabriel Salcido.
Three seniors (Treyvon Harris, Sean Biggs and Ray Espinoza) are competing for the starting quarterback job. The Vikings will be counting new players to fill other vital roles on the team.
“We’re going to try and build on the momentum of last year, but this is still a process,” Dunham said. “Obviously there are going to be learning spots during the season. We kind of refer to it as climbing a mountain. We don’t want to take one step up, two steps back. We want to consistently try to get up that mountain however we can do it. It might be a tiny step up, but we’re going to try and take a step up every day.”
What has changed?
Thirteen years ago, West High fielded a team that had three future NFL players on it (Ryan Mathews, A.J. Jefferson and Brandon Smith) plus Princeton McCarty, who went on to rush for 2,285 yards and 12 touchdowns during a four-year career at the University of Idaho.
The Vikings have always seemed to have talented skill players. Last season it was Donta Mason (1,078 total yards and 14 touchdowns). Three years ago, it was Josh Boyd (66 catches for 1,096 yards and 11 TDs).
The pipeline of ultra-talented running backs and wide receivers that have worn the green and gold has caused the Vikings to be perceived by some as a program that has relied heavily on its immense athletic ability to win games.
According to Dunham the success of his current squad, though talented, will be predicated more on its solid work ethic and team-first attitude.
“We’re a lunch box team,” Dunham said. “We’re blue collar. Some schools might eat steak. We eat mac and cheese. We just get after it. We come from hard places. We come from rough situations. We take the mentality that it’s not going to hold us back. That’s not going to define us. We’re just going to go out there and compete every play.”
If that happens Dunham believes the Vikings can achieve their goal of making the playoffs for a second straight year.
“West High has so much darn tradition,” Dunham said. “Valley championships. League championships. That’s still the expectation. We walk in our gym. We see the banners. We want to keep the tradition going.”