The Yosemite High School football team face the 2012 campaign with lots of changes and even more challenges.
Yosemite has a new head coach and even fewer players than last season.The team is thin on returning starters and young in experience. Head coach Kent Lincoln inherits a difficult situation but is undaunted. "We face a lot of challenges as a football team," Lincoln said. "We have quality players, just not many of them."
Despite the lack of numbers, the Badgers showed a lot of heart in a scrimmage against Mariposa last Friday. In what could become an annual regular season game, YHS and Mariposa scrimmaged at the new (2011), on-campus Pioneer Market Grizzly Stadium.
In front of a large crowd, the Badgers battled the Grizzlies in a hard fought scrimmage that included both JV and varsity teams. Overall Lincoln was pleased. "We played with a lot of heart and passion. We were fired up as a group. Plus it was a lot of fun."
Mariposa plays in the Sac-Joaquin Section of the CIF and is a member of the eight-team Southern League. Most are D-V schools. The Grizzlies are coming off a 6-5 overall season and 5-2 league record last season. Mariposa lost in the first round of the 2011 Sac-Joaquin CIF D-V playoffs.
The Badger offense and defense were solid. Mariposa varsity fielded about 50 players while the Badgers suited-up 18.
The Grizzlies were big and hit hard. With the large home crowd behind them, the Green and Gold were pumped-up for the scrimmage.
Despite the Grizzly home field advantage, the Badgers came to play and did not back down.
"We hit hard and played with passion," Lincoln said. "Our defense was good. We popped. Our 3-4 set did its job."
Lincoln was especially pleased with the defensive backfield.
"Coach (Aaron) Wilkins has made a big difference with the defensive backs. They were mostly in the right position and tackled well."
The Badger defense allowed only one score on the night.
On offense, it was all about the passing game. YHS scored two offensive touchdowns to their wide outs on deep fade routes. Sophomore 6-foot, 150 pound quarterback Joey Woolsey connected on TD's to 6-foot-4, 180 pound senior Dillon Moran and 6-foot-2, 165 pound junior Cody Elam. Woolsey completed 60% of his passes for 130 yards.
Senior Luke Blate, 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, caught five balls on the night.
Pass blocking was good overall, but certain Grizzly blitz packages proved difficult for the offensive line to handle.
"We need to read the defense and pick up blitzes, but we learned a lot tonight," Lincoln said "They threw a lot of different looks at us."
The scrimmage ended when a scuffle broke out between players and coaches intervened quickly. The Badger players came off the field fired up and unified.
"I liked that we didn't back down," Lincoln said. "It was tough with only one referee on the field. There were a lot of hard hits on both sides. It was a tough atmosphere. We learned a lot about our personality as a team. I like what I see."
Badgers version 2012
There are a lot of take-a-ways even from a scrimmage. Yosemite has around 20 players on varsity. Two players sat out the scrimmage with minor injuries.
"We have quality players at most positions," Lincoln said. "We have really good athletes that can play multiple positions. We simply don't have a lot of players."
This is familiar territory for the Badgers. Last year the team started out with 25 players but by the end there were 18. The Badgers must stay healthy to compete and have a successful season this year. If Yosemite can keep the injuries down and the conditioning up, the Badgers will be a tough game for most teams.
Football, unfortunately, is a game of attrition.
"We will work hard at keeping our players healthy," Lincoln said after the scrimmage. "We will work on conditioning. Our guys will have to be in shape to play on both sides of the ball for most of the game."
To make things more difficult, the Badgers lost a core of seniors from last year's team. There are few returning starters but there is a lot of excitement, especially with the Badger offense.
The offense starts with QB Woolsey. While not overly imposing, Woolsey can sling the pigskin. He started as a freshman for the last two varsity games in 2011 when Harley Glines went down with an injury against Washington Union. Woolsey was a pitcher on the varsity baseball team last year with an 80+ mph fastball.
What Woolsey needs is game experience and time to throw. He will throw a lot.
"We will throw from a five-receiver set most of the time," said Lincoln. "Joey's got a rocket arm that will get better. He needs to be adept at reading defenses and that will improve with time. When he does, the passing game will be dangerous. This will be a fun offense to watch.,"
Last year Woolsey was 13/28 for 263 yards.
The running attack
There were only four running plays against Mariposa. Don't be fooled though, the Badgers will not abandon the run. Senior Josiah Madison, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, will be the workhorse and he is multi-dimensional according to Lincoln.
"First, Josiah is our team leader. He brings it on every play on both sides of the ball. Josiah is physical, fast, (4.8 40), and runs hard between the tackles. He can also catch. Josiah is a great athlete."
Madison had limited playing time last season as a running back playing behind all-leaguer Bobby Woolsey. This should be Madison's year to shine.
Freshman Jason Lee, 6-foot-1, 75 pounds, will add the speed dimension. Lee posted the fastest 40-time at 4.6. Lincoln's goal is to get Lee into the open field.
"Jason will make defenders miss. He also has great hands. Jason looks to score whenever he has the ball."
The Badgers travel to Calaveres High in San Andreas to open the season Friday -- JV game, 5:30 p.m., varsity 7:30 p.m. San Andreas is about two and a half hours from Oakhurst on Highway 49. After Calaveres the team visits Hanford West and Roosevelt before their first home game on Friday, Sept. 21, against Mendota.