Tim Cannavo was an assistant coach at Yucca Valley in 1996 when the Trojans won their last CIF title. He almost broke that streak last year, as Yucca Valley took out Ambassador League champion Aquinas and Mountain Valley League champion Rubidoux on the way to the CIF-SS East Valley Division semifinals.
24 seniors depart last year’s team, but Cannavo believes that his remaining lettermen can build on what Yucca Valley accomplished a year ago.
“I remember the 1997 season after we won the 1996 championship,” Cannavo said. “We lost a lot but there was that desire to continue what we had done the previous year and it helped us reach the semifinals. All summer long we’ve been telling kids to start at the same level they finished last year.”
Despite its small size and the large number of seniors that departed, Yucca isn’t lacking returning talent. The offensive backfield and the line headline the 2011 Trojans, as their top two running backs and their interior linemen return from last year.
Seniors Brandon Harshaw (6-0, 165) and Brent Murphy (5-10, 150) return from last year, as Harshaw played the first six games before getting injured while Murphy took over later in the year. Harshaw ran for 666 yards and five touchdowns while Murphy added 640 yards and six scores. They’ll run behind an o-line led by center Mike Garcia (5-10, 240) and guards A.J. Harper (5-10, 240) and Jared Pierce (6-0, 185).
“The great thing about those two playoff wins was being able to go to the 3-back backfield and pounding teams late,” Cannavo said. “That’s something that we want to get back to this year.”
As is the case with smaller schools, all of the above players will play defense too, with Garcia and Pierce playing on the defensive line, Harshaw and Murphy in the secondary and Harper at middle linebacker. Seniors Mark Cardenas (5-9, 150) and Jon Markley (6-1, 185) will flank Harper at rover positions while senior Tanner Littrell (6-4, 190) returns at free safety after picking off three passes a year ago.
Yucca Valley schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)
Sept. 2: RUBIDOUX
Sept. 9: COACHELLA VALLEY
Sept. 16: at Sultana
Sept. 23: at Calexico
Oct. 7: IMPERIAL
Oct. 14: DESERT MIRAGE*
Oct. 22: vs. Big Bear (Big Bear MS)*
Oct. 28: DESERT HOT SPRINGS*
Nov. 4: vs. Twentynine Palms (Twentynine Palms MS)*
Nov. 11: at Indio Shadow Hills