Saturday, September 30, 2023

Mustangs look for continued success

Grand Valley returns eight starters from last year’s squad that became the first in school history to win a sectional championship.

Seventh-year head coach Rich Huffman is confident the Mustangs can build off of last season’s success, but it won’t be easy against a challenging schedule.

“We have a substantial amount of returning players,” Huffman said. “We play good teams. Our goal is to be in the battles with these high-caliber teams and hopefully do well.”

The Mustangs finished the 2020 season with an 11-5-2 record and postseason wins over Brookfield and Warren Champion.

This season, Grand Valley is without three of its four starting defenders, which has forced Huffman to alter his strategy on the backend.

“One was an all-district player and our anchor,” Huffman said of the graduation losses. “We made some rotations to keep the level of play that we expect.”

Fortunately, the Mustangs have four seniors expected to compete on the defensive side along with senior keeper Andrew Verhas, who recorded 117 saves and allowed just 12 goals. Verhas was named first-team All-Chagrin Valley Conference and first-team All-Ashtabula County.

Dan Foltz, Damian Johnson, Tyler Felix, and Keegan Friend are the seniors who will protect Verhas.

Foltz, a first-team all-county and honorable mention all-CVC honoree, scored three goals with four assists last season. Johnson, a second-team all-county performer, added two goals, and Felix, who was the team’s backup keeper last season, scored one goal and recorded 14 saves in earning all-county honorable mention honors. Friend was named all-county honorable mention last fall.

Junior Jaymeson Phillips returns in the midfield after scoring three goals with two assists last season. He earned second-team all-conference and first-team all-county honors as a sophomore.

Seniors David Marciella and Kyle Benson and junior Jordan Briggs will lead the Mustang attack from the forward position.

Marciella scored 12 goals with 11 assists on the way to earning second-team all-county and honorable mention all-conference honors.

Benson added seven goals with 11 assists. He earned first-team all-conference and second-team all-district honors.

Briggs, a first-team all-CVC performer, is very dangerous as he scored 28 goals with seven assists last season.

Huffman’s challenge this season is to continue to develop his players as they learn and share the ball to maximize their strengths.

“We adjust our formation and tactics depending on our skillset,” Huffman said. “As we get through preseason we will see how best to use all that we have.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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