Last Thursday, amidst the heat and a little smoke from the Rim Fire, the Yosemite High Badgers varsity and JV football teams, for the second straight year, scrimmaged an old rival, Mariposa.
It was a time for coaches to see where their teams are and what work still needs to be done. A scrimmage is unique in that coaches are on the playing field for a close-up look at their players. Both teams had 30 offensive possessions as well as specific game scenarios including kick-offs and goal-line defense.
"We felt it was a good night," said Badger second year head coach Kent Lincoln. "We saw a lot of positives and things we still need to work on. Compared to last season, I think we are way ahead of where we were."
The team was 0-10 last season, only the second time the team went winless in the school's history.
On offense the Badgers were very effective. Junior quarterback Joey Woolsey moved the team showing great poise in the pocket. He connected on long and short passes, especially down the middle of the field.
Wide receiver Drew Lassos caught three TD passes. Sophomore running back Jason Lee had solid runs and was also effective in the passing game.
Senior fullback Bobby MaGee also had good gains while junior Brandon O'Brien showed he will be another key weapon out of the backfield.
"Brandon has good hands," Lincoln said. "He can play multiple positions for us. We will move him around."
Success in the run game doesn't happen without improved play from the offensive line. A senior transfer from Lubbock, Texas, 5-foot-9, 210 pounds Anthony Archer will make a difference.
"Anthony is our strongest player," Lincoln said. "He bench-presses 330 pounds and squats 415. He is a leader by example. We are lucky to have him."
Grizzlies head coach Ryan Oliphant and staff brought a roster of 35 varsity players. Last season Mariposa went 4-6 (4-3 in league) missing the playoffs. The Grizzlies play in the Southern League of the Sac Joaquin Section. It is a tough 8-team D-V league. Two years ago league member LeGrand played for a state title.
During the scrimmage the Grizzlies enjoyed success on the ground as well as in the air. The Badger defense rose to the occasion however and thwarted Mariposa drives near the goal line. The Badger defensive line and linebackers looked good. Senior lineman Mason Gaynor pressured Mariposa's quarterback a number of times. The Badger secondary was effective in pass defense and run support.
The Badgers open a challenging 2013 season Friday night against the powerful Calaveras Redskins of the Mother Lode League. The Redskins, a perennial D-IV Sac Joaquin Section powerhouse, will be a difficult test for the Badger squad.
Last season, the Redskins beat the Badgers 54-20 at San Andreas in the opener for both teams. Overall, Calaveras compiled an 8-3 season (4-1 in the Mother Lode), losing to eventual D-IV champion Escalon in the Sac Joaquin playoffs. The Redskins are coached by Jason Weatherby.
"Calaveras will be tough," Lincoln said. "They are a run-first team with a Wing T set. They create a lot of misdirection which is challenging for a defense. They have a lot of players, but lost a lot of starters to graduation."
One of those graduates was quarterback Zack Johnson, one of the best D-IV quarterbacks in the section, and their two top running backs.
Last season the Redskins featured a balanced run-pass attack. Calaveras averaged 175 yards on the ground and 141 passing. Look for Calaveras to run the ball with returnees Mike Seawell, who had 408 yards last season and Malachi Stockdale (193 yards). Seawell is also a threat as a receiver catching 27 passes for 495 yards last year.
Last year, Woolsey had early success throwing against the Redskins. With an improved run game, the Calaveras defense will be tested by Yosemite. The improved Badger offensive line will be the key.
"We look a lot different this year than last year," Lincoln said. "We are bigger and stronger. Team members made a commitment to work hard over the summer and they did just that."
The numbers reflect the hard work: Left tackle Johnathan Zohos (285 pounds), left guard David Temple (225 pounds), right guard Archer (210), right tackle Hugh Reid (230), and fullback Magee (225). This group should give Woolsey time to throw and make holes for the running backs.
Game time: JV, 5:30 p.m. varsity, 7:30 p.m.