The 2023 Valley Mission League Football Preview


When Week Zero gets underway, there are some intriguing possibilities for how the season will ultimately play out. Kennedy and Panorama will set the pace, but which other schools have the potential to break up the two-horse race? Will it be the youth and energy coming from Sylmar? Can Canoga rebound after graduating so many players? Will the Tigers rebound from a tough season to take the crown? Here's a preview of each team in Valley Mission for the 2023 season:

Canoga Park Hunters – 2022 record: 6-0 Valley Mission, 6-5 overall

The defending Valley Mission champions find themselves with some work to do if they are going to repeat what they accomplished in 2022. After getting off to a rocky start to the campaign, the veteran group smashed up Valley Mission opponents on their way to the title. The team suffered an early postseason effort, losing in the first round of the Division I playoffs to the eventual champions Granada Hills. If the team is to go back-to-back in the Valley Mission, they will be doing it under new head coach Lucius Mills, who takes over the Hunters program for David Perez this season.

Key to the season for Canoga Park: Working around the lack of depth.

Depth, or lack thereof could be the story of the Hunters' season. They will need inexperienced players to step up and play a huge role this season while Mills attempts to fill the roster and build on the Canoga Park tradition of hard-nosed football. Despite the difficulties with the lack of numbers, the team will still compete with the teams in the top half of the league.

Panorama Pythons – 2022 record: 5-1, 12-2 overall

It's been two years of bitter endings for the Pythons, but the team returns this season still motivated by the unfinished business of the past two postseasons. The team lost some key players who were dynamic on both sides of the ball, so the early season will be spent by Head Coach Adrian Beltre figuring out who will step up to fill the shoes of Dennis Akinleye and Justin Pacheco. If the rest of the Valley Mission thinks the Pythons are going to take a step backward, don’t be so sure. Impact players Victor Soto and JP Santa Cruz, so moving the ball on the Python front seven will still be no easy task.

Key to the season for Panorama: replacing production.

The most glaring area of concern is replacing all the touchdowns, first downs and tackles, and yardage that walked out the door on graduation day with Pacheco and Akinleye. Beltran thinks he has players who not only can fill those roles but maybe even help take the team over the top. Look for quarterback Keanu Kelly to take a bigger ownership role in the offense for Panorama as well as dynamic junior running back Christian Miranda to shine now that he will get the lion’s share of the touches.

Kennedy Cougars – 2022 record: 3-2, 9-6 overall

The reigning Division II champions come into the season with a bullseye square on their back as the favorites to win the Valley Mission, and for Coach Troy Cassidy, that’s all right with him. The Cougars have been a team on the rise for two years now, and their hardware at the end of last season may be an indicator of what may be just the beginning of a reign of dominance in the league. A lot will depend on the continued development of a young core that has championship experience under its belt. Despite being ranked outside of the top 25 in the preseason polls, Kennedy will have a chance to make a statement in Week Zero when they host Cleveland.

Key to the season for Kennedy: Continuity

The proof is already in the pudding that there is championship-caliber talent on the roster, despite graduating key members to the roster like Gabe Argott, who was a bell cow in their high-voltage run game last year. And even with losing a few pieces of the coaching staff, the Cougars are firmly entrenched in their identity and don’t look like a squad that plans on slowing down. Look for Lonzo Fuentes Gutierrez to flourish in a leadership role for the Cougars this season, as he has already proven himself to be a multi-dimensional weapon in his career at Kennedy.

Sylmar Spartans – 2022 record: 3-3, 6-5 overall

If there is any team in the Valley Mission that is a candidate for breaking into the title conversation it may be the young Sylmar Spartans. Whether by necessity or design, the Spartans played a lot of young players on the varsity level in 2022, and it may be time that it pays off. Despite their inexperience, this team hung tough against the top teams in the league and Head Coach Evander Williams will be expecting more of the same in 2023.

Key to the season for Sylmar: Leadership

While we expect Kennedy and Panorama to be the gatekeepers of the Valley Mission, the Spartans have the talent to be right in the mix if their talent can show that they are ready for the big stage. Keep an eye on the Mims twins as they both are big plays waiting to happen. The question is can they develop into leaders for a team on the cusp of making noise in the top half of the league?

San Fernando Tigers – 2022 record: 2-4, 2-8 overall

It was a tough season for the Tigers in 2022. After an upset loss at the hands of the Chavez Eagles, it felt like the train never got rolling for a team with as rich a history in the league as any. The Tigers will be looking for a resurgence in 2023, the question is do they have the depth of high-end playmakers to challenge the likes of Kennedy, Panorama, or Sylmar for a spot in the top three of the league? We will get answers to whether they are ready to bounce back with East Valley opponents Grant on the road in Week Zero and a grudge match of their season-opening opponents last season Chavez at home in Week One.

Key to the season for San Fernando: Veteran Presence

2022 was such an uncharacteristically rough season for a team as talented as the Tigers. There is a real possibility that San Fernando may sneak up and surprise this season due to the fact that this roster is loaded with as many experienced seniors as just about any team in the league. If the three-headed monster of Angel Frausto, Ryder Garcia, and quarterback Adrian Anguiano have big seasons, maybe it’s the Tigers that could be the team sitting atop the league standings at the end of October.

Van Nuys Wolves – 2022 record: 1-5, 2-8 overall

It's all about rebuilding and retooling for the Van Nuys Wolves in 2023. The program had its share of turmoil in 2022, and with the permanent hiring of head coach Ken Osorio, the Wolves can begin to chart a plan to become a real threat in the Valley Mission in the coming seasons. Osorio will get a chance to see where his roster is with intriguing matchups against Mendez and Verdugo Hills to begin the season.

Keys to the season for Van Nuys: Stability

I don’t think anyone is expecting the Wolves to be strong contenders for a league championship, but the important thing about the state of the program is there is a staff in place to help create a winning culture and make Van Nuys a place where kids want to play and feel they can compete. A name to pay attention to for the Wolves is senior wideout Nathan Velasco. Expect him to get all the touches he can handle as the Wolves look to compete with the teams at the second tier of the Valley Mission League

Reseda Regents – 2022 record: 0-5, 0-9 overall

Coach Austyn Ward had his work cut out for him when he inherited a Reseda program in 2022 that saw a mass exodus after the previous regime ended. It is still a work in progress, but the Reseda program already appears miles ahead of where they were this time last season. Expect the Regents to be in much better shape depth-wise, as they try to climb back into the title conversation.

Key to the season for Reseda: Establishing an identity.

Whether a team is ready or not, there is still an expectation to show a will to compete. Though it did not translate into wins, anyone who watched Reseda football in 2022 can attest to the grit and determination shown by the young men in the program. Expect Ward’s bunch to continue to fight to improve, and once he gets the numbers into the program that he needs, the Regents will be a dangerous team in the next few years.

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