Last season, Valor Christian football looked nearly invincible. The esteemed Highlands Ranch team finished 11-3. They made the state championship, only to fall to Cherry Creek by a single touchdown. But it was an otherwise great season. The Eagles were undefeated in league play and enjoyed a nine-game winning streak to the state final.
This season, it’s a different story.
The Eagles have been anything but dominant. Five weeks into the season, Valor is 1-4. It is the first time since the 2014-15 season the Eagles have tallied four losses. And back then, the losses were spread out over the season when Valor finished 10-4.
But the only way this year’s squad can match their 2014-15 record is if they have another nine-game winning streak in them.
So, why are the Eagles struggling? One potential factor: Valor lost 33 seniors from last year’s squad, and now this year’s team is dominated by a majority of younger players. The Eagles have 43 sophomores, 25 seniors, 16 juniors and two freshmen.
Valor opened the 2023 season with a 24-21 loss to Aurora’s Regis Jesuit on the road. In week two, the Eagles lost 31-17 to Pine Creek in Fort Collins.
Week three brought hope the Eagles would get back on track as they beat Fairview from Boulder in a 29-28 shootout at home. But a long trip to Georgia to play Rabun Gap-Nacoochee High School brought a 52-31 loss in week four.
The next week, an emotional game against Ralston Valley in Arvada handed the Eagles their fourth loss on a last-second 2-point conversion from the Mustangs, who moved to 4-1. Prior to the 22-21 victory, Ralston Valley had never beaten Valor.
Mustangs coach Jared Yannacito spoke on the significance of the win.
“We knew it was going to be a close game and a battle with [the Eagles],” Yannacito told Colorado Community Media after the loss. “I was so proud of how they played. This is the first time Ralston Valley has ever beat Valor, so that’s a big monkey off of our back.”
The good news for the Eagles? All games but one have been close.
But now comes another set of tests. All eyes turn to league play as Valor prepares for an undefeated Castle View team, which has won by at least two touchdowns in each contest on their way to a 5-0 record so far.
Valor’s remaining schedule doesn’t get much easier, either:
- At Castle View (5-0) this Thursday, Sept. 28
- At Highlands Ranch (1-4) Oct. 6
- Home against Rock Canyon (4-1) Oct. 13
- Home against ThunderRidge (3-2) Oct. 20
- Home against Mountain Vista (4-1) Oct. 27
It would be foolish for any team to write off Valor Christian for the rest of this season, though. They’ve been too consistent for too long, winning double digit games in every season since 2009 (Valor went 7-1 in 2020 in a shortened pandemic season).
“We know we have a young group,” Valor Coach Bret McGatlin said in a recent article. “We have the toughest schedule in the state. We’ll find a way to win one game at a time. We’re going to be all right.”
The Eagles are likely primed for a breakout game soon, but they need to get back in the win column in a hurry if they have a chance of turning their season around.
McGatlin couldn’t be reached for further comment.