Yucca Valley excited about senior-laden squad

Many years, the overall roster for the Yucca Valley High School football team barely sports more than 23 players. Needless to say, the Trojans are pumped up by a 2010 roster that has 23 seniors on the roster – something that is unheard of for smaller schools.

“We are really excited about this group of kids,” Yucca Valley coach Tim Cannavo said. “The last few years we’ve really made an effort to get numbers up and get kids excited about this program and this is the result of it. Any time you have experience like this coming back, it’s a great thing.”

A third of those seniors have been starting since their sophomore year and have seen their share of success at Yucca Valley, as the Trojans have finished second in the De Anza League the past two seasons, qualifying for the playoffs both times. Yucca Valley won its first round playoff game in 2008 before losing a close quarterfinal matchup with eventual champion St. Margaret’s.

“Those guys have gone up to Bishop and won a playoff game, they’ve played St. Margaret’s to a play or two,” Cannavo said. “It’s those experiences and those battles that will pay dividends for us this year.”

The Trojans will be awash with skill position players even with the loss of leading rusher Jermaine Nelson, who ran for 1,412 yards and 11 touchdowns last year. Junior Brandon Hanshaw (5-9, 150) will take Nelson’s place. He’ll be accompanied by senior quarterback Michael Montano (5-10, 210) and a trio of senior receivers in Michael Nicholson (6-4, 185), Jason Paulino (5-4, 160) and Kris Teague (6-3, 175).

Where Yucca Valley could be susceptible is in the trenches, as the Trojans won’t have much size to work with. Senior Leo Munoz (5-10, 175) will be the anchor of both the offensive and defensive line, with A.J. Miller (6-2, 220) getting time at TE and DE.

The Trojans have quite a few options at LB and in the secondary, with many of the offensive players platooing. Montano will join senior Jeremy Rios (5-9, 175) at linebacker, with Nicholson, Paulino and Teague joining junior Danny Pascale (5-9, 150) in the secondary.

2010 Yucca Valley schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)

Sept. 3 – at Rubidoux
Sept. 10 – at Coachella Valley
Sept. 17 – SULTANA
Sept. 24 – CALEXICO
Oct. 8 – at Imperial
Oct. 15 – at Desert Mirage*
Oct. 22 – BIG BEAR*
Oct. 29 – at Desert Hot Springs*
Nov. 5 – TWENTYNINE PALMS*
Nov. 12 – SHADOW HILLS*