What a difference a week makes. Inspiration abounded at Badger Stadium two Friday's ago. It was a special evening with the naming of the field in honor of Steve Raupp. Yosemite did not come out on top of the game against Mendota, a team who notched their 16th consecutive win, but the Badgers gave a great effort.
The game wasn't decided until well into the third quarter.
That was then. Last week three Mountain Area football teams allowed the opposition to score 50 plus points on them The Badger varsity (0-5) 55-0, Badger JV (0-5) 57-6 and Minarets varsity )0-5) 52-30 to Orosi. Seriously scary numbers as area teams enter October, Halloween and league play.
Sitting in the booth I saw a strong Badger effort vs. Mendota. The Aztecs earned the win. The Badger defense battled a top notch ground attack.
I didn't see the same effort against Exeter last Friday. The D-IV Monarchs are a dual threat team that will be heard from in the playoffs. Even so, the Badger D surrendered seven straight TD's and had minus 5 yards rushing.
The Mighty Aztecs
It was an honor to see Mendota play last week. Mendota's success is more than just a football story. Second year head coach Robert "Beto" Mejia, his staff and his team were in my opinion, the best news in Central Valley football in 2011. Mejia completely turned around a program and a community. So far, this year looks to be no different as the Aztecs are now 4-0. The 31-7 win over Yosemite makes it 16 wins in a row for Mendota, dating back to last season. Last season they were 12-0 and won the D-VI Central Section championship.
Times are tough all over. This is especially true in the West Side of the Central Valley where unemployment rates in Mendota and other West Side communities are near 40%. These are beyond depression-type numbers. A recent Fresno Bee front-page story on Valley poverty rates stated that the Fresno metro area "has the second highest poverty rate in the nation at 25%."
Last year, Andy Boogard in an article in the Fresno Bee, reported that 42% of Mendota's population was below the poverty line. The article illustrated how Mejia and the entire Mendota community have had to dig deep to overcome amazingly difficult odds.
Mejia, his staff, and players have re-energized Mendota, plain and simple. No,they are not solving the economic malaise, but it shows what football can do to at least lighten some of life's burdens. I know times are also tough in Eastern Madera County but we are blessed compared to the West Side.
Mejia and the Aztecs have shown all of us it isn't about the facilities, money or fancy uniforms -- it is about community involvement. It is about finding the positives in life, no matter what hand you are dealt and working hard to overcome the negatives.
Congratulations again to Steve Raupp. A storied football field will now carry his name. It was fitting to name it after a person who a great educator. The titles in his 34-year career included teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal, principal and superintendent. Raupp was also a key member of the Central Section CIF where he served as president and on the executive committee.
Along one of his many stops, Raupp was also a heck of a football coach. Raupp led the Badgers to three league championship. Coach Kent Lincoln played for him. Raupp also had the vision to hire Aaron Eames, who took the Badger football program to elite status in the Central Section.
Raupp also coached the track & field teams to numerous league titles.
This small column cannot do justice to Raupp's influence over the youth in the Mountain Area. He taught, mentored, guided and help build Yosemite to what is today, a great school. Like many parents, YHS was a key factor in my son Jake's growth as a person (Class of 2004). I am so grateful to the leadership and mentoring of the Yosemite teachers and coaches, many of whom were hired by Steve Raupp.
All the best in a well earned retirement.
I've seen a lot of positive changes at the two home games at Badger Stadium this year. A lot of thanks are in order to the Badger Boosters. There is plenty of great food. I like the set up of picnic tables to eat and watch the game.
I love the new football uniforms. and the logo is cool too. The band also looks awesome. Numbers wise, I thought I was seeing a small college come out in the blue and white. The cheerleaders do a great job. The Cadert Corps, under the direction of Ellen Peterson and Col. Bruce Derry, USMCR, ret., is also growing and looks sharp.
All in all, the new stadium ambience is exactly what coach Lincoln envisioned. This is all part of a long-term plan to restore the vigor to a once storied program. Community involvement is crucial. The games are a lot of fun. It is the best venue for Friday night fun in Oakhurst and win or lose, more people need to come out and support the Badgers.
The biggest issue? There needs to be more players. YHS suited up 18 against Mendota and Exeter. This will hopefully change. More players will suit up this week. The youth programs are being revamped. Just look inside the programs at Mariposa, Calaveras and Mendota. They all went from few players to plenty. All of those places have a lot less population, but no competing high school.