Aaron Richards believes. The first-year Central Valley coach believes in his pedigree after a high school championship as a player at West Valley, a successful college playing career, and coaching stints in college and high school, most recently with his alma mater in Cottonwood.
The new Falcons’ leader believes the program he inherits craves structure and solid leadership — much like he had with Eagles’ coach Greg Grandell and the Central Valley program had under former coach Matt Hunsaker.
He believes in the coaching staff he assembled.
And, most importantly, Richards believes in his players.
“They’re so aggressive in wanting to be coached. We’re doing things a lot differently, and it’s as structured as it’s been since Hunsaker,” he said.
Richards told a story of how a pair of seniors requested a morning weight-lifting session because not all the kids could make it to the evening one.
“These two guys came in and lifted because they didn’t want a freshman to have to lift on his own,” Richards said.
And while the Falcons had yet to put pads on — Richards’ litmus test of the grit of a football player — he’d already seen signs of success.
Yes, the “S” word. Where others before him had come in preaching of championships and grand plans, Richards tempers his mark of success.
“Obviously, the goal is win games and championships,” he said. “But the (more immediate) goal is to be competitive and get in the playoffs.
“If we go in to that last game — senior night – and have a chance to get in the playoffs, then that’s a successful season.”
He also said ensuring roster numbers don’t dip over the season – either to grades, apathy or just attrition — is also a benchmark.
“If people see that we have a full team on the sidelines throughout the season, then that’s a mark of our success,” he added.
And while Richards is taking the macro view of building a former champion back into contender, the micro view on the 2019 Falcons is that there’s a decent amount of talent but not a lot of senior leadership.
But those seniors that are padding up for Central Valley have all been through the battles and bring a level of on-field maturity that the first-year coach sees and appreciates.
Leading the offense for the Falcons is returning quarterback Kevin Seaman.
The senior signal-caller is someone Richards believes can play on Saturdays and is working to see that Seaman gets that opportunity — both in the offense the coach has crafted and in connections he’s made along his path to Shasta Lake City.
“He’s going to excel in this offense,” the coach said of the “Show Gun” offense run by Georgia Southern and New Mexico with option principles in a spread scheme. “He reads well with his eyes and has a good arm.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Seaman will use his dual-threat capabilities as one of the best athletes on the field, tempting teams to either stack the box with an extra defender to stop the run game while daring the senior to beat you through the air.
“He can flat-out throw the ball,” Richards said.
Protecting Seaman in the pocket for five or six seconds might not be feasible given the size and depth of the Falcons’ offensive front, which is why the Falcons will look to get the ball in the hands of playmakers and let their athleticism work for them.
But that doesn’t mean CV is weak up front — quite the contrary. Cody Fuentes is a 6-foot-2, 260-pound impact player in the trenches who Richards said is “one of the better ones” he’s seen in the North State.
Toss in Christian Maughs and 6-4 Charlie Stevens at tight end and there’s enough beef to protect Seaman and allow the Falcons’ athletes to do their thing.
Stevens, a CV legacy whose brother, Bryce, is on the coaching staff, got glowing remarks from Richards in terms of work ethic and potential.
“He’s excelling in the weight room and will go up and get the ball,” the first-year leader said. “It’s exciting to see from a big target.”
Outside of Seaman, the Falcons have a cadre of weapons, including Frank Manriquez and Miguel Farr.
While no back will be a 30-touch bell cow, Richards said Manriquez will be a guy who should demand touches on offense and be a run-stopping, strong side linebacker.
“He’s the senior leader and the heart and soul of this group,” the coach said. “He’ll be that H-back and get his touches there.”
Farr is one who Richards sees lining up in a variety of spots, including running back and the slot.
“We’re going to move him around and get him 10-15 touches in addition to his role as free safety,” Richards said.
And while the Falcons might be senior light, there are a handful of rising juniors who can ball and experienced success at junior varsity last season.
Backup quarterback Willie Mowry will get involved at the receiver position while Kade Crowell will make an impact on defense but can also handle the ball on offense.
“Right now, we’re working to change the culture,” Richards said, noting that every coach attends the offseason weightlifting sessions. “That doesn’t happen unless something’s happening.”
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