In just their third year of organized football, the Minarets Mustangs program looks to be headed in the right direction. Playing as an independent their first two years, the Minarets 60-member squad will join the West Sequoia League this season battling Fowler, Parlier, Riverdale and Caruthers.
"It's amazing to see how far we have come in just three short years," said Bob Nelson, Chawanakee Unified's new superintendent. "This program, which initially got off the ground with little more than excited kids, parental interest and financial support from the Chukchansi Community Grant program, has grown to nearly 70 high school players and nearly 100 youth. I can't wait to see where we are going to be in three years from now."
The team finished the season last year 0-8.
Head varsity coach Jay Smoljan returns as does offensive coordinator Daniel Ching. Ching is a former assistant coach at Lemoore and a record setting running back for the Sierra Chieftains in his playing days. He has been working tirelessly in the off season to prepare the Mustangs mentally as well as physically.
New coaches join staff
New to the varsity coaching staff this year is former Mariposa High varsity coach Bob Kelly. Now teaching at Minarets, Kelly will coach lineman. He brings years of experience from established programs such as Palo Alto High, where he assisted. Kelly won several sectional titles with the Vikings in the bay area and has the Mustangs linemen working hard on fundamentals along with conditioning and weights.
The line was a source of frustration for the young Mustangs last year as they faced seasoned senior lineman throughout the schedule. Loosing just two seniors from last years squad, the team should show improved maturity this season.
In addition to Kelly, returning to the sidelines this year will be coach J.D. Burnett. After taking a year absence to pursue his Masters Degree, Spring Valley's P.E. teacher will again assist.
"I am truly blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by such a supportive community of parents, boosters and players for the past three years," Smoljan said after a recent practice. "I am also surrounded by a coaching staff I feel is one of the best as a whole, of any football program in the Valley. There are nine coaches in our football program, four of which have head varsity coaching experience as well as experience at the college level. Between our coaching staff there is a total of six sectional football championships won by our coaching staff."
We currently have about 70 players in our football program including varsity and JV.
"Our players worked hard in the weight room and during the passing league this past off season and expect to be successful this coming year," Smoljan said.
West Sequoia League
Smoljan is looking at a challenging schedule this season in the West Sequoia League with defending D IV Central Section winner Fowler High and football power Caruthers High School. Six of the 10 teams on the Mustang schedule went to the playoffs last season.
"I want our program to always play as tough a schedule as possible because it is always about embracing competition," Smoljan said. "Football is always the hardest program to get established at a new school because of the physicality of the sport and the maturity of the players from the other programs you are playing, but we continue to stress commitment and focus on getting better each and every day.
Smoljan said the school is also exploring options in breaking ground on the new stadium in the future. Crowshave already out grown the available bleacher seating and three more sections, at a cost of $15,000 each, are being considered for his season to accommodate an additional 450 fans.
"Our new superintendent has been a partner with our football program and big supporter since we started three years ago and is the best person to lead our school in the expansion of our facilities and programs." Smoljan said.
All American Cordel will lead Mustang JV team
Steve Cordel joins the Mustang program this year and will coach the JV team. He was a first team All American cornerback with the Fresno State Bulldogs and had a brief stint with the Seattle Seahawks.
Cordel won sectional titles while head coach at Washington Union,coached at Fresno City College and is credited with helping turn Central High's program around after joining the program.
Cordel inherits quite possibly his most challenging coaching endeavor, starting from scratch. The Mustangs JV squad is made up of primarily freshman, but it is loaded with talent at all positions. His biggest task for him and his staff is teaching fundamentals to many first time players.
The JV staff has added three new coaches, in addition to returning coaches Darren Soares (receivers, linebackers, QBs), and Pete Reardon, (backs, corners, QBs). Joining the staff is defensive line coach Dave Hall. A present Lt. Col. in the Army, Hall has wasted no time in bringing discipline and a hard work ethic to the young line.
Minarets new head varsity basketball coach, Paul Varner, who coached JV basketball at Yosemite High last season, is assisting with the line as well as centers and long snappers. Frank Black rounds out the staff, assisting with backs and QBs. The Mustangs open their season Aug. 31 at Sierra High School. The JV game starts at 5 p.m. and the varsity game kicks-off at 7 p.m.
First year for youth program
Boasting 90 players, the Minarets Youth Football program opens its inaugural season with three teams -- Seniors, Juniors and Pee-Wees.
Varsity coach Smoljan was instrumental in the development of the youth program. From day one, he has stressed to all involved in the program, how important they are to the growth of the high school program.
Last Saturday marked a historic occasions for the programs the Senior and Junior teams took the field for the first time at the Central Valley Youth Football League's Carnival in Orosi.
The youth program will play the youth programs of the West Sequoia League high school teams.
Each squad scored multiple touchdowns throughout the contest. Minarets played Orosi, Caruthers and Riverdale, none of which had an answer for the Seniors Luke Dover, who scored in each contest.
"This might possibly be the most talented group of Seniors the mountain area has ever had." said head Seniors coach Bob Dover.
The youth program plays at Minarets High School on Saturdays.
It was obvious to the schools first head coaches, Smoljan and Burnett, that when the high school declared they were forming a football team, a youth program would follow.
Instrumental in the formation of the program were Pat LeForge, Rob and Janeen Bebout, Bob and Lisa Tovar, Todd Westfall, program president, along with countless others needed to pull off the gigantic task.
Minarets football dinner will feature Darrel Lamonica
To Minarets Football Boosters will hold their Third Annual Football Fundraising tri-tip dinner Friday, Aug. 17, featuring Hall of Fame and Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame quarterback Darrel Lamonica.
Know as "The Mad Bomber," during his playing days, He will forever be known for creating the "long bomb"" while playing quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and the Raiders.
Through his career he amassed records some though would never be broken. He threw for nearly 20,000 yards while connecting for 164 touchdowns in a 11 year career in the NFL. Clovis High's stadium is named in his honor. His grandson, Bobby Mattes, plays for the Mustangs and Lamonica has been a proud supporter from day one of the programs inception, working with the teams quarterbacks and helping to raise funds for the new program.
He will speak and be available for autographs at the dinner. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for students and are available at Minarets High School or by calling (559) 868-8689.
Minerates High School 2012 Football Schedule
Aug. 31: at Sierra 7 p.m.
Sept. 7, Immanuel at home, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14, Avenal at home, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21, Farmersville at home, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28, at Orosi, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5, at Caruthers, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12, Riverdale at home, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19, at Fowler, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26, Parlier at home, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2, at Laton, 7:30 p.m.
All JV games are played two hours prior to varsity games
Minarets Youth Football 2012 Football Schedule
Aug. 18, Fowler at home
Aug. 25, at Reedley
Sept. 1, Orosi at home
Sept. 8, Orange Cove at home
Sept. 8, at home
Sept. 15, at Parlier
Sept. 22, Riverdale at home
Oct. 6, at Caruthers
Oct. 13, at Fresno Christian
Oct. 20, Laton at home
Pee Wees, 3 p.m.; Juniors, 5 p.m., Seniors 7:30 p.m.