Our Countdown to Kickoff series resumes with a look at a league that always seems to have a say in the NCS Division II playoffs – the Diablo Valley Athletic League. The question: Can anyone slow down Clayton Valley Charter?
Since 2012, when ClaytonValley became a charter school and Tim Murphy stepped in as head coach, the Eagles have morphed into a Division II power. Murphy’s offensive scheme has produced some big-time stats as well as numerous victories. The program is also posting monster numbers – this year there are over 200 players through the three levels, including over 70 on the varsity team. The Eagles have gone 23-4 over the past two years and have gone unbeaten in the DVAL over that time. Two of last season’s best players, running back Miles Harrison and FB/OL/LB Jax Carter, return.
But the program hasn’t been without controversy. Back in June, the league came down hard on ClaytonValley for practicing before the summer start date. They were originally going to lose August practice dates and have to forfeit their season opener in the Honor Bowl against Carson-CarsonCity (Nev.), but those penalties were altered. Now, Murphy will sit out the Eagles’ first two games and the practice dates will be lost in September.
ClaytonValley is also still waiting to hear back from the NCS on the eligibility of six transfers, including five-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie and his younger brother Jalen from De La Salle. What role will these offseason developments play in the Eagles’ DVAL title defense and beyond?
Meanwhile, across town, the Eagles’ bitter rival is back on the rise. Concord returns 18 starters, including QB Mitchell Daniels, WR Mason Knight, RB Malik Blackburn and several guys on the offensive line who paved the way for last year’s explosive offense. As an extremely young team last year, Concord went 8-4 and reached the NCS Division II quarterfinals. In the regular season, the Minutemen lost a shootout to ClaytonValley by a point. If anyone in the DVAL is going to take down ClaytonValley, Concord looks to have the best chance. The defense will have to take a step up, though.
What about Northgate, which won 19 games over the last two seasons? There’s no doubt the Broncos have turned into a solid program after struggling for many, many years. The guy who helped lead the turnaround, coach Justin Lowell, left to take over the Valley Christian-Dublin program. But the program isn’t starting over. Ben Ballard, Lowell’s longtime friend and defensive coordinator, steps in as head coach. He has some big holes to fill at the skill positions, but the offensive line is looking strong.
College Park always seems to be in the mix under veteran coach Bill Kepler. But the Falcons’ chances of dethroning ClaytonValley took a hit when standout running back Ray Jackson transferred… to ClaytonValley. Like the others, his eligibility is also still pending.