Experienced Apple Valley ready to take next step

Two years ago, the Apple Valley football team felt that it was snubbed out of an at-large berth in the CIF-SS Eastern Division playoffs, as the 6-4 Sun Devils were left out for a 5-5 Riverside King team. Last year, however, Apple Valley’s exclusion from the playoffs was certainly deserved.

A young Sun Devil squad had its share of ups and downs, eventually finishing with a 4-6 record and a fourth-place finish in the Mojave River League. But the Apple Valley youngsters are a year older and with 16 starters returning, this could be the year that the Sun Devils return to the playoffs.

“We got a lot of guys coming back that know what to expect, which is only going to help us,” Apple Valley coach Frank Pulice said. “Last year we were learning a lot of new things and weren’t able to run all the things that we wanted to. You’ll see us doing more things and executing out of different formations.”

One thing that won’t change is Apple Valley’s reliance on the running game. While quarterback Justin Brookshire will throw the ball a bit more, expect the Sun Devils to ride senior tailback Daron Mosley and an experienced offensive line. With nine starters coming back on offense, including four offensive linemen and tight end Shaun Golike, there should be plenty of holes for Mosley – who ran for 1,141 yards last year – to roam.

“Daron is going to be a force,” Pulice said. “He’s big, he’s fast and he works hard. We are pretty excited to see what we can do.”

The Sun Devils also have plenty of experience returning on the defensive side of the ball, with seven starters returning. Most of those also see time on the offensive end, though 300-pound road grader Andrew Leifi spends most of his time on the defensive end. Junior Kyle Jerkins will be besides him as Apple Valley will attack from a variety of formations, deviating from their “50″ defense a bit more than they have in the past. Whether that gets the Sun Devils back into the playoffs remains to be seen.

Apple Valley’s schedule (Home games in CAPS, league games with *)

Sept. 11 – KAISER
Sept. 18 – RIDGECREST BURROUGHS
Sept. 25 – at Victor Valley
Oct. 2 – at San Bernardino
Oct. 9 – SAN GORGONIO
Oct. 16 – GRANITE HILLS
Oct. 23 – SERRANO*
Oct. 30 – at Rim of the World*
Nov. 6 – at Sultana*
Nov. 13 – HESPERIA*