Richard-Valencia’s take on pregame rituals, Aragon football matchup

    Junior cornerback Damion Richard-Valencia awaits to defend a Mountain View High School defender during a road game last season. Richard-Valencia has been the cornerstone of the Paly secondary and will continue to be a key player in the Vikings' defense. Photo: David Hickey

    Junior cornerback Damion Richard-Valencia prepares to defend a Mountain View High School receiver during a road game last season. Richard-Valencia has been the cornerstone of the Paly secondary and he said he is hoping to play receiver during the second half of the season, “I’m hoping to play receiver in a few games,” Richard-Valencia said. “I’ve always wanted to play both defense and offense.” Photo: David Hickey

    Whether it be the lucky, unwashed socks, or the black cleats that were worn when they made the game winning catch, many athletes have their own superstitions and pregame rituals that help relax and boost confidence before and during games. Sports are partially physical warfare, but the mental game is what brings it all together. Junior cornerback Damion Richard-Valencia, a budding star on the Palo Alto High School football team (0-3, 0-0), performs his own pregame rituals to get into his game mentality.

    Prior to every Paly football game, Richard-Valencia can be found getting hyped up by rappers Lil’ Uzi Vert and S.O.B., along with songs that remind him of his family and ease his mind. Having injured his hand during a blocking drill in practice, Richard-Valencia now routinely practices one-handed catches on the sideline with teammate Brey Johnson before kick-off.

    Once game time comes around, junior wide-receiver Paul Thie said Richard-Valencia never lets obstacles slow him down and has inspired his teammates to do the same.

    “Damion’s a great teammate and a he plays with a lot of fire,” Thie said. “He’s been playing with a injured hand and it hasn’t slowed him down a bit. He is also a strong verbal leader and a player we all look up to.”

    Heading into Friday’s matchup against Aragon High School (2-0, 0-0), Richard-Valencia is confident that the Vikings’ future is bright, despite a 42-6 loss against Archbishop Mitty High school and a season opening, 48-7 loss against Half Moon Bay High School.

    “These past couple games were pretty rough,” Richard-Valencia said. “We’ve been playing pretty tough teams, but we’re starting to slowly but surely click and in the future we will be a lot better,”

    Thie, who amassed over 100 yards over the past two games said the Vikings’ first couple losses have revealed what they have to improve on.

    “Every Friday our goal is to play as hard as we can and get a win,” Thie said. “The last two games have shown us we have some work to do and that’s what we’ve been focusing on all week,” .

    Paly senior Daniel Nemeth expressed his optimism in his Vikings and is especially confident in team leaders junior quarterback Jackson Chryst and Paul Jackson III.

    “Against Aragon, I just hope that Paly improves its performance and execution and that the players continue to develop,” Nemeth said. “The team’s performances, so far, belie its immense potential and talent. Paul Jackson and Jackson Chryst were both great last season, and with both of them returning, the team should be good to go offensively.”

    The Vikings will kickoff against Aragon at 7 p.m. on Friday at home.

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