Focused on some unfinished business from last year, the Central Valley Hurricanes (9-0) have rolled through their West Coast Football Alliance regular season schedule undefeated, which they’ll finish up on Saturday.
Then, it’s on to the playoffs where the Hurricanes will look to avenge last season’s championship game debacle against the Nevada Dream and bring a trophy home to Central Valley.
“We knew from the beginning that it was going to be this way,” Hurricanes head coach Brandon Bell told Developmental Football USA. “We didn’t have an easy schedule, but we were in the championship game last year and we blew that. We knew we were better than the team we played, but we had letdowns and meltdowns. We had 15 turnovers and only lost by six points. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but we really had 15 turnovers.”
Although the defending champions have a little bit of ground to make up this year as the current No. 3 seed, the Hurricanes expect to play the same group of guys in this year’s WCFA title game.
“I do expect a rematch,” Bell said. “They are no longer the Dream, now they’re called the Silver State Stallions, but it’s still the same players. They had a rocky start this year, but I expect a rematch.”
Following Saturday’s game, as the No. 1 seed in the playoffs the Hurricanes won’t play again until June 17. With almost a month in between games, Central Valley will be able to reflect on how much they’ve invested into this season as they prepare to finish it unblemished.
“We’ve faced the adversity this year,” Bell said. “We suffered it early, having to travel to Fresno – a three-hour trip – then turn around and travel to Reno – another three-hour trip. We’ve had the worst travel schedule of any team in the league. The three hardest teams in the league we faced the first three weeks in the season and we excelled through that.”
For much of the Hurricanes roster, this certainly isn’t their first rodeo. That experience and leadership will be key as they move forward as one unit to and through the playoffs.
“These guys come in every week playing, they dedicate their bodies,” Bell said. “We’re probably the oldest team in the league, on defense our team average is probably 35. They dedicate themselves to the gym, they dedicate themselves to film study and to making themselves better.
“There’s nobody standing in our way. The only team standing in our way is us. We know when we play our game we can’t be beat. There’s been times when even myself, I’ve suffered setbacks and I couldn’t be at the game. There’s been two games we’ve shown up with one coach and still pulled those games out because we’ve stuck to the things we’ve done days in and days out, the discipline, the film sessions.”
Among the Hurricanes large group of seasoned veterans, you’ll find one toting the rock, but based on his running style, you wouldn’t expect to learn he’s been at it for this long.
“Right now the core of what we do is Derrick “D-Train” Morrison,” Bell said. “He’s a 38-year old running back that’s been around this level a long time. He’s in the Hall of Fame. We have built this thing around him. He’s hands down our Offensive Player of the Year at this point. He runs as hard as any 20-year old I’ve seen, it’s like he hasn’t aged at all.”
While Morrison might get more spotlight and more touchdowns than most of his teammates, no championship football team is a one-man army.
“Our offensive line from top to bottom has kept this thing going,” Bell said. “Anytime the game has been on the line, they’ve come through for us. We have a young core of receivers that we’ve put together, that have trickled in over the last few seasons, that I think will be key to us winning a championship.”
The Central Valley defense flies around the field as one unit and through the opposing offense, like a Hurricane hitting a coastal city.
“Defensively, it’s the whole defense from top to bottom,” Bell said. “To name only two guys would be an injustice to all these guys. Marcus Brown has been great. Our defensive back core, from top to bottom I’d put up against anybody in the nation. This year it would be Marcus Brown and Paul Simpson, you’re not throwing over Paul. Nobody is throwing over Paul. Marcus is averaging 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 sacks per game, great kid, humble kid. The defense from top to bottom, we’re a very versatile defense, we get in the film room, we study.”
Check out the Hurricanes in the playoffs on June 17 at the Lodi Grape Bowl.
“We’re the only team probably in California that has our own stadium, that doesn’t use a high school field,” Bell said. “They are great, they work with the community make sure everything is good and I work with the discipline on our end.
“This team is about the players, these guys dedicate themselves to playing. This is about them at every corner. We’ve had a great ownership, we could not have gotten this far without Corey and Lori Mitchell. They’ve allowed me to be a coach and they say, ‘Hey, what do you need?’”