Last year, the Scotts Valley High football team had a season full of uncertainty, not knowing if it’d get to play a game because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
They got through a six-game season in what would’ve been the Falcons’ spring training period, and head coach Louie Walters gave the team some time off in June to rest up.
But, he also knew this upcoming season would be a quick turnaround, which is why he made sure the players would stay active by getting them memberships at Scotts Valley Gym.
Nolan Smith, a third-year starting senior, said it’s already had a positive impact.
“Not only just getting stronger but spending that time with each other,” he said. “Especially when you have a smaller roster like here, it’s important to have that chemistry.”
Last year, the Falcons finished undefeated in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League “B” Division with a 6-0 record. Smith said the quick turnaround—their last game was in April—has made the transition seamless.
The skilled position players returned at the end of June and began working at least three days a week with Reggie Stephens, their defensive back coach and former NFL player who has plenty of knowledge to share.
“They’re getting after it,” Walters said.
The defensive unit has always been Scotts Valley’s backbone. They will continue to run a 5-2 style defense and have seven starters set to return this season.
Smith and Nic Erickson will lead the linebacker core, while defensive linemen Carlton Keegan and Matthew O’Brien-Rojo lead the way in the trenches. Seniors Isaiah Velez, Brock Siechen and Caden Stratton are set to return as the Falcons’ starting defensive backs.
“Our defense has always been the staple at Scotts Valley,” Walters said. “Our goal is to not turn the ball over, win the field position war and we trust in our defense.”
Stratton, who is the school’s only four-year starter in the program’s history, will take over the strong safety position.
“He’s the heartbeat of our defense because you know what he brings,” Walters said.
Stratton said he’s not taking anything for granted this year and is trying his best to become a stronger leader.
“I feel like I have a role that I need to play, so I gotta fill it,” he said.
Stratton mentioned that sticking with the same system helps tremendously because it keeps everyone on the same page.
Walters said the offense hasn’t changed much either. They expect to pound the rock with Velez, the reigning Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League “B” Division’s Most Valuable Player.
Siechen, a returning dual-threat at quarterback, is locked in a battle for the starting signal-caller position against Cole Leonard and Nicolas Sutter.
Walters said he has enjoyed the competition between the trio and that each one of them brings something different to the table.
“We’re going to use them all. We’re going to rotate them and see what we got in preseason and Brock will be our package guy” he said.
Joining them in the backfield is Smith—a tight end converted fullback—who will expect to see some reps throughout the season. He said he’s looking forward to playing a full slate of games after last year’s shortened season.
“Talking to some schools they want some senior year film, so this is the last shot for me,” he said. “I’m just ready to show out, work my hardest and be a leader, too.”
Walters said he is also excited to see what Brady Siechen and Lukas Murphy can do on the offensive side of the ball.
The Falcons have 10 games scheduled for the fall. They kick off the season on the road against Soquel High in non-league play on Aug. 27 at 7:30pm.
Smith said he’s feeling optimistic about this year’s squad because a majority of the starting defense is returning and those who are taking the new roles are ready to step up.
“I think that adversity with Covid that we had to face has made us just a better team when it comes to coming back for our senior year,” he said. “And it transitions with the whole appreciation that we have a longer scheduled season. I’m excited for that and I expect those returners and people ready to step up.”
Both Smith and Stratton said they’re not too concerned about the Delta variant, and that they’re hoping that Covid-19 will not affect the season, again.
Walters said they’re going to be Covid-19 conscious and follow the protocols given, including what the state tells them to do.
“Kids’ health and safety is our number one goal and more important than football,” he said. “But we feel we made it work in the spring, we feel that we can make it work this year.”
Scotts Valley football schedule
- At Soquel High, 08/27 at 7:30pm
- Santa Cruz High, 09/04 at 2pm
- South San Francisco High, 9/11 at 2pm
- Greenfield High, 09/18 at 2pm
- Watsonville High, 09/24 at 7:30pm*
- At North Monterey County High, 10/01 at 7:30pm*
- At Rancho San Juan High, 10/16 at 1pm*
- At King City, 10/22 at 7:30pm*
- Pacific Grove High, 10/30 at 7:30pm*
- San Lorenzo Valley High, 11/06 at 2pm*
*PCAL Cypress Division play