In Jimmy Nolan’s second year in charge of the Fountain Valley High football program, the Barons saw marked improvement.
Fountain Valley’s win total rose by six, as Nolan’s Barons advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 6 quarterfinals.
Those efforts did not appear to be rewarded by the section, as Fountain Valley moved down to Division 8 in 2018.
“It was strange,” said Nolan, whose team is ranked No. 10 in the Division 8 preseason poll. “People asked me how I felt about it. I don’t like it, but I don’t have any control. My concern was that the boys thought that I lobbied to be [in Division 8]. I wanted to make sure that everyone knew I had nothing to do with it.
“Even if I think I’m going to lose, I want to play as high as I can because that’s what we’re taught to do to excel in life.”
Fountain Valley’s playoff division may not reflect Nolan’s wishes, but the addition of Corona del Mar to the Sunset League certainly fits the bill when it comes to the regular season.
As Nolan put it, the league now has three “juggernauts,” referring to defending league champion Los Alamitos, Edison and CdM.
“I always love a challenge, and I’m excited to play them,” Kishaun Sykes said. “I’m ready for Edison, CdM, Los Al, all of them.”
My theme this year is that Kishaun is going to touch the ball every three plays, or more. We’re going to give him the ball as much as we can.
Nolan has big plans for Sykes, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior wide receiver with great speed and agility. Sykes made the Daily Pilot Dream Team first team last year.
“My theme this year is that Kishaun is going to touch the ball every three plays, or more,” Nolan said. “We’re going to give him the ball as much as we can.
“Ideally, we want to rest [Sykes], but when it comes down to winning and losing, it seems like we overplay him. I think he can do that. He doesn’t complain about it. He wants the ball, which is a sign of a champion.”
Unfortunately, rest does not appear to be in the cards, due to a mass of injuries that befell the Barons in the offseason. Receivers Andrew Ross and Jaylen Flores, offensive linemen Joseph Tallabas and Moses Atuatasi, and tailback Carlos Salazar are among the victims claimed by the injury bug.
Jackson Weddle, a second-team All-Sunset League selection on the offensive and defensive lines, has changed positions due to his team’s injury woes.
“I’m fine wherever,” said Weddle, a senior. “As long as my team needs me there, I’m good. I was playing left tackle. I’m at right tackle now. I was playing defensive tackle. Now, I’m playing at left end.”
Nolan said that a signature win against the top half of the league is still achievable, adding that it begins with having pride in your work.
“You get out what you put in, so now conduct yourself with confidence because you’ve earned the right to be confident,” said Nolan, the Dream Team Coach of the Year in 2017. “Win, lose or draw, win the respect of everyone that comes out to support you. Mainly, you want to be proud of yourself.”
So which juggernaut are the Barons most eager to face? Brandon Krause, who was Fountain Valley’s leading receiver as a junior last year, says it has to be rival Edison.
“I’ve been going to that game since I was 8 years old,” Krause said of the Battle for the Bell. “Every year, I would watch Fountain Valley lose. Every year, it fuels me to go out there and want to beat that team.”
The Barons will take on their stacked league with Josh Stupin as their starting quarterback. The junior transferred in from JSerra and is eligible to play in the Barons’ season opener against Troy at Huntington Beach High on Thursday.
“He’s just been throwing darts, and we’ve just been on point, getting connections this offseason,” Sykes said. “I’m ready to see what we have to offer.”
Fountain Valley Barons
CIF Southern Section Division: 8
Coach: Jimmy Nolan (third year)
Staff: Adam Tallabas (defensive line), Scott Panique (linebackers), PJ Vallier (running backs), Jack Rulon (offensive line), Josh Cummings (wide receivers)
2017 season: 7-5 overall, 2-3 in the Sunset League (shared third place), lost 41-14 to Santa Clarita Golden Valley in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs
Offensive scheme: Spread
Defensive scheme: 3-4
Returning offensive starters: Four
Returning defensive starters: Five
Returning with honors: Sr. RB/WR Kishaun Sykes; Sr. OL/DL Jackson Weddle; Sr. WR/DB Brandon Krause; Jr. WR/DB Jerry Ngo
16 — vs. Troy at Huntington Beach High
24 — vs. North Torrance at Huntington Beach High
31 — vs. Woodbridge at University High
7 — at Long Beach Rancho Dominguez
14 — at Adelanto
21 — Bye
28 — vs. Los Alamitos* at Huntington Beach High
5 — vs. Corona del Mar* at Newport Harbor High
12 — at Huntington Beach*
19 — vs. Edison* at Orange Coast College
26 — vs. Newport Harbor* at Huntington Beach High
*denotes league game
All games 7 p.m.