Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 | 2 a.m.
First-year Valley High coach David Durham has a simple goal for this season — be competitive.
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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer try to contain their excitement for the start of the football season enough to get through the first slate of games. They also discuss the two defending state champions, Bishop Gorman and Faith Lutheran.
Last year, the Vikings surrendered more than 42 points in each of their seven defeats to miss the playoffs, giving up 47, 57, 56 and 59 points in Northeast League losses. They finished 2-7 overall, never really having a legitimate chance to be a postseason qualifier.
“What we have to do is get back to the fundamentals of blocking and tackling,” Durham said. “Winning will come from there.”
Changing the direction of the program won’t be easy, but players say they are rejuvenated with Durham leading the charge. Participation numbers, one of Valley’s weaknesses in building its program, are starting to improve.
“There is no slacking,” Valley running back and wide receiver Kyler Jackson said. “Coach Durham is pushing us and making sure we do everything correctly.”
Jackson and sophomore quarterback Iyen Medlock will lead the charge offensively, operating Durham’s pistol-offense attack. There’s always a learning curve with a new offense, but Durham feels optimistic with the strides players have made during the offseason.
“These guys are working hard right now,” Durham said.
Defensively, Valley is led by senior lineman Jason Johnson-Keppo, who is one of the Northeast’s top players. Durham has asked his senior class to take charge of the team, and Johnson-Keppo has shouldered the responsibility of being a leader.
“We have to be a wall,” Johnson-Keppo said of the defensive line.
Asked his place in that wall, he responded, “I’m the whole wall.”
Help could be on the way for Valley in future seasons. Durham will give some underclassmen valuable experience this fall, giving them the reps needed for future seasons. While the gesture might not translate into immediate success, it could set the table for future seasons.
“We have a good young group that is coming up,” Durham said.