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Valley Catholic wants to make 3A playoff push

The parts are in place for a playoff push.

The returners are motivated and amped.

The field is well-lit and ready for primetime Friday night football.

Valley Catholic hasn’t been to the playoffs in the school’s history but the Valiants think 2013 is the year to get off the schneid.

“We feel we have a lot of stuff that’s clicking,” said head coach Doug Ierardi. “We have a lot of returners who are solid, they know what they’re doing. They understand the concepts of the offense and defense. We have a lot of skill guys returning so I’m super excited about what we’re doing.”

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Valley Catholic running back Clay Kemper is part of a loaded Valiant offense itching to put up points this season.

Offense

Senior quarterback Carter Buuck comes into his second year as a starter. He’s is one of the captains guiding the Valiants’ ship this season. Buuck is the trigger man for Valley Catholic’s zone-read option offense and is lethal from the pocket when he has time to throw.

“He’s been in leadership roles regardless of it’s football, basketball or baseball,” said Ierardi. “He has a super competitive edge. He understands the game on both sides of the ball so he’s going to be big for us.”

Running backs Liam Walsh and Clay Kemper return in the backfield with all-league resumes and slews of experience. Walsh can bring the boom inside but worked hard during the summer to improve his wheels.

“Walsh is big (6’1, 225 pounds) but he’s quite a bit faster this season,” said Ierardi. “He has real good field vision so if sees an ally he can cut back quickly and get up a seam pretty fast. But, he’s definitely a guy that if we got in short yardage situations I can give it to him and get two or three yards.”

Wide receivers Kazuma Lane, Jacob Vincent, Alex Hyland and J.D. Menkins who’s coming back to football after a few years off make up the pass catching core. Ierardi prefers to let his players make decisions on their own while spreading the field and trying to go vertically and horizontally.

“Carter’s surrounded by a lot of skill guys,” said Ierardi. “That’s what we learned this summer during 7 on 7 that if Carter has three seconds to throw, we can complete passes to guys that catch it. There’s not just one guy to key on. The whole backfield and skill guys have to be defended.”

The whole offensive line returns from last year and only John Tate is a senior. Center Drew VanderZanden, guards Conner Williams and Brian Oakes are juniors and sophomore Jacob Pruitt is out at left tackle. Tate will protect Buucks’ blindside at right tackle.

“It’s a really solid line,” said Ierardi. “They understand their run blocking schemes with no confusion which is huge. They know who to block, who the read guy is, who the pitch guy is. We’re hoping for big things from them.”

Defense

Valley Catholic is blessed with enough talented depth to rotate guys through at the skill position players and linemen. Instead of running 10 guys both ways the Valiants are able to get little breaks here and there and keep their legs crisp.

“When an offense and defense switch positions on the field and five new guys come running in, that’s a little intimidating sometimes,” Ierardi. “To think ‘hey, those guys have been on the sidelines for a while and they’re fresh and ready to go’. That’s what we’re trying to do.

They run a 3-5 base defense and have players who fit the scheme’s mold, especially at linebacker. Walsh and Jakob Pruitt are big ‘backers who roam the middle. Lane is an outside linebacker who Ierardi says is “big, fast and strong and fits our personnel.”

Ierardi said the defensive line will consist of some combination of Tate, VanderZanden, Oakes, Williams, Jeffrey Williams, Rob Woodruff.

“That’s an advantage that we haven’t had in the past,” said Ierardi. “We’re getting to the point where we can take a guy off, get him some water, talk about what’s going on, send him back out there and keep them fresh as long as possible.”

Valley Catholic wants to give Rainier and Clatskanie a run for their money in the Lewis and Clark League and possibly get one of the two seeds. The Valiants face off against Blanchet Catholic and Colton at home the first two games under the bright lights and then head to Sheridan.

“Those are going to be some physical games and see how we do against them,” said Ierardi.

“We know for sure that Rainier will be a physical game. We want to see how we can compete in those (preseason) games and if the changes we brought to the offense are going to pan out for us. I think these first five games are going to tell us a lot about what we can do.”




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