When Tim Connavo was named the Yucca Valley football coach in 2007, he had what many thought was a long building process, as the Trojans hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2003 and were stuck in a league with perennial powers Twentynine Palms and Big Bear.
But Connavo didn’t agree. Yucca Valley was a game away from the playoffs his first season, as it lost a halftime lead to Big Bear in the season finale with a playoff spot on the line, before kicking down the postseason door in 2008. The Trojans surged to a 7-5 record, a De Anza League co-championship and a win over Bishop in the first round of the East Valley playoffs.
“Things are a lot different here now than they were at this time last year,” Cannavo said. “You can feel the confidence, feel the energy. We made some strides last year – getting to the playoffs, winning a playoff game on the road – and everyone is excited to see if we can build on that even more.”
Cannavo even mentioned the 1996 season, when the Trojans won a CIF title, as inspiration for his team this year. That may be a lofty goal, but Yucca Valley has quite a few key players returning and has seen increasing numbers of kids coming out to the program.
Among returners is much of the starting backfield, with senior quarterback Dennis Gray and senior running back Jermaine Nelson expected to handle much of the load in Yucca Valley’s power running offense. Senior David Jaquez is the primary receiver, when hulking 6-foot-8 offensive lineman Walker Madden anchors the Yucca Valley offensive line.
Like most schools in the De Anza League, Yucca Valley will have most of its players starring on both offense and defense. Defensive end Kevin Dvoracek will play D almost exclusively, but guys like Gray (linebacker), Nelson (defensive back) and Jaquez (defensive back) will pull double duty.
Yucca Valley’s schedule (Home games in CAPS, league games with *)
Sept. 4 – EL CENTRO CENTRAL
Sept. 11 – at San Jacinto
Sept. 18 – VICTOR VALLEY
Sept. 25 – vs. Beaumont (San Gorgonio Middle School)
Oct. 2 – at Arrowhead Christian
Oct. 17 – vs. Big Bear (Big Bear Middle School)*
Oct. 24 – DESERT HOT SPRINGS*
Oct. 30 – vs. Twentynine Palms (Twentynine Palms Junior High)*
Nov. 6 – ACTON VASQUEZ
Nov. 13 – DESERT MIRAGE*