High School Sports

Pleasant Grove, 0-10 last season, in the right mindset in blowout of Christian Brothers

Matthew Costa acknowledged that Pleasant Grove High School handled the X’s and O’s during football’s offseason. But that wasn’t the focus.

The focus was putting a spin move on the culture of the program and leaving it in the dust.

“We lived in the weight room. We hired a sports psychologist,” the Eagles’ coach said Friday night, adding Pleasant Grove zoned in on a “mindset program the last seven months. Just working on our program and creating an environment the kids couldn’t live without.”

Safe to say, the Eagles can’t live without it.

Pleasant Grove cracked 500 yards – on the button – for the second week in a row and broke 50 points for the second week in a row in a 56-12 blowout over Christian Brothers at Sheldon.

The senior class has been on campus for the last three seasons, two of which ended with an 0-10 record for the varsity, including last season. Say what? Say the seniors.

The leader is 6-foot-3, 185-pound quarterback Nathan Valencia, who completed 24 of 29 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two scores against the Falcons (1-1). That followed Valencia’s 13-of-18, 278-yard, six-touchdown performance in Pleasant Grove’s season-opening rout of Kennedy.

In two games, Valencia has 694 yards passing and running with 12 total touchdowns. It’s easy to see why he has considerable latitude running the offense.

“We go to school together, we spend an hour every day with each other. I’ve never seen the program like this before,” said Valencia, who was the starting QB last year and spent his offseason working on ball placement, footwork and arm strength, much of the time with senior linebacker Matthew Nickerson, “3½ to four hours a day in the gym.”

“I trust that kid with my life,” Costa said, looking over at Valencia, who was doing a TV interview.

The Eagles trust Valencia with their pass-happy offense. He threw touchdown passes of 30 yards to Jacob Couchot, 42 yards to Elijah Gula and 20 yards to Trey Kennedy in the first half and ran for an 11-yard score with 57.2 seconds left to give Pleasant Grove a 28-7 lead.

Valencia hit Kennedy with a 6-yard TD toss in the third quarter on which he rolled left, waited and waited some more before slinging a dart through traffic to Kennedy in the back corner of the end zone.

Valencia was hammered and shaken up on the play, resulting in the ejection of a Christian Brothers player, but returned on the next possession to score on a 2-yard run to give the Eagles a 49-6 lead.

“He has a great arm. He’s tough as nails. The kids believe in him,” Costa said, looking over his shoulder at Valencia talking to TV. “That’s an unnatural human being right there.”

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