The Valhalla High School football team has a new head coach and class of 2000 graduate Wayne Cherry is determined to turn around the fortunes of the pigskin program at his alma mater.
“I’m back at home,” said Cherry, who is taking on his first head coaching assignment. “I’m trying to change the culture here and erase the image of the program being mediocre. We’re trying to build the first steps in that direction but realize it’s going to take time. Our motto is that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’”
The Norsemen closed out the 2021 fall season with an unglamorous 73-6 loss to the host Sweetwater Red Devils in the first round of the San Diego Section Division IV playoffs. Valhalla qualified as the No. 11 seed in the division enroute to a final 3-8 overall record.
Wayne enters the 2022 season full of optimism as the program seeks to find a firm foundation on which to build.
The rebuilding Norsemen have made use of the summer off-season by working out in the weight room and working on communication skills and strategy in seven-on-seven passing events.
Valhalla competed in a four-way series of drills against Bonita Vista, Castle Park and Hilltop high schools in a seven-on-seven event June 30 at Bonita Vista High School.
The Norsemen are set to host their own seven-on-seven event on July 12 on campus.
Top players Cherry is counting on to help lead the VHS rebuild include junior receiver Angelo Rafo, sophomore quarterback Kevin Ash, junior quarterback Braxton Estes and senior receiver Brasen Madden.
“It helps our teamwork get better,” Ash said in regard to the informal summertime competition. “It helps us practice as a team.”
The Norsemen still have plenty of time to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses before they kick off the new season Aug. 19 at Hilltop. Valhalla defeated the visiting Lancers, 14-8, to kick off last season before going on to finish 2-4 in Grossmont Valley
League play with wins over El Cajon Valley and Monte Vista. West Hills won last season’s GVL championship with a 6-0 league record en route to an overall 11-1 record and appearance in the Division III quarterfinals.
Valhalla kicks off its home schedule with non-league games against Granite Hills on Aug. 26 and Point Loma on Sept. 2. The Norsemen return to the South Bay to tackle the host Olympian Eagles in another non-league game on Sept. 9 before hosting the Santana Sultans on Sept. 16 in the teams’ GVL opener.
Other league games are against West Hills (there on Sept. 23), El Cajon Valley (there on Sept. 30), El Capitan (home on Oct. 14), Mount Miguel (there on Oct. 21) and Monte Vista (home on Oct. 28).
Valhalla finished 0-6 during the delayed 2021 spring season, down from a 4-7 record and playoff appearance during the pre-COVID 2019 campaign.
The program hit a low point at 0-10 in 2018 after finishing 2-9 the previous season. The Norsemen were 8-3 in 2016 and 9-3 in 2015 by comparison.