The Valhalla football program was struggling when Steve Boyer took over as head coach in 2014, and it didn’t get much better in his first year.
The Vikings suffered through a 2-7 campaign that season, but it gave Boyer and his staff an important opportunity to evaluate and determine what changes needed to be made.
“I wanted to make this a major sport at Valhalla to compete against soccer, which has been great for years,” he said. “I think we’re heading in the right direction. Last year, we were 8-1. This year so far, we’re 4-1. Our modified numbers have gotten up to 38 kids, which normally is around the mid-20s. I think winning brings out kids.”
Boyer attributes the improvements to more focused weight- and speed-training programs, as well as the new tradition of going upstate for a preseason camp.
It helps to have some playmakers, which the Vikings have in junior running back Mike Ferrara — whom Boyer called “our best athlete” — and junior quarterback Ralph Gonzalez III.
“Teams have to now prepare for us through the air and on the ground because we’ve shown that we can score in both areas,” said Boyer, who had previous head-coaching experience at Briarcliff from 1986-93. “We seem to now get kids in the right spots.”
Boyer also praised the work of his defense, which has been led by strong linebacker play. Junior Evan Parker anchors things in the middle, while Mike Speranza and Sam Chiaverini have made an impact since transferring back from Iona Prep.
The main area where Boyer wants to see more stability is up front, both on the offensive and defensive lines.
“We have four new starters on our offensive line and we’ve just been inconsistent at times,” he said. “We have to work to get better in the trenches.”
Valhalla on Friday night was set to host Ardsley, a fellow Class B opponent that is also ranked in the top five in the latest lohud football rankings.
The Vikings’ only loss this season came against No. 1 Westlake, and they’re hoping to use this opportunity to further establish themselves.
“They’re well-coached and they play hard,” Boyer said of Ardsley. “I’ve only heard good things, so we have to be up for the challenge to see if we can play with the big boys.”