Last Friday's scrimmage in Mariposa was a great time. The citizens of Mariposa should be very proud. It was my first visit to the Pioneer Market Grizzly Stadium that the team is playing on for just the second season. Consider it was a scrimmage, the atmosphere felt like a league game. The fans were loud, music was blazing and people were excited. The view around the field was almost as nice as Badger Stadium. It was a tremendous atmosphere.
Many football fans remember Yosemite and Mariposa battling it out in the 80s and 90s. Games in Mariposa were played at the fairgrounds. It was never the best venue to watch football. The playing field was even worse. The new, on-campus facility looks great. Even better, many in the Mariposa community pitched in to make it happen.
The scrimmage against Yosemite was a fundraiser to finish additional stadium additions. Let's hope that includes more seats for the visitors.
Mariposa filled the limited home stands virtually by the start of the JV scrimmage. Talk about numbers. Mariposa High, with an enrollment of about 600 students, had nearly 90 JV and varsity football players. The area youth program is churning out players to Grizzly football and it is paying long-term dividends.
We have seen the opposite at Oakhurst. Youth football has been fragmented. Minarets now has a youth football program. Participation in Badger football is down to around 40 plus JV and varsity players combined for the second straight year.
This is due to many factors including players transferring to Minarets and a decline in population due to the economy. But there are so many sports now at Yosemite. Swimming and cross country combined field as much as the Grizzly football program. More telling, YHS enrollment is now about 700 students from about 1,200 just a few years ago.
Coach Kent Lincoln and staff have every intention to turn the situation around. I am confident they will. It will just take time.
Numbers can be deceiving. Despite being out-numbered and out-sized, the Badgers were not intimidated and gave a great account of themselves at Mariposa scoring two touchdowns to Mariposa's one. The Badgers hit hard and played with an attitude. Lincoln said he saw "a lot of passion." Being outnumbered and in a loud, raucous environment had no effect on Yosemite players. They sort of fed off of it. The scrimmage ended due to a multiple-player scuffle. Coaches had to intervene. It was bound to happen as it was testy all night. There were a few late hits and both sides relished the contact. This is the stuff that rivalries are made of.
Do I have to get into the economic benefit of a Mariposa/Oakhurst rivalry? It is a half-hour drive up some of the most scenic parts of Highway 49. Mariposa is a fun place with great shops and restaurants. All the best to the owner's of the Pizza Factory in rebuilding after the devastating fire. It was always a great place to go. And Mariposa fans will eat at our restaurants too. It is a total win-win.
So the time is overdue. Let this scrimmage begin a regular season annual meeting between the Badgers and Grizzles. There is no doubt. The players and coaches from both sides want it. Fans should too.