The Yosemite High Badgers (2-1) faced its toughest test of the early season traveling to Caruthers (2-0) Sept. 9, with the Blue Raiders pouring it on the Badgers with 30 unanswered points on the way to a 36-14 win.
The Blue Raiders, a West Sequoia League power, has been a dominant force in Central Section D-V football with five section titles.
Despite an early first quarter Badger lead, Caruthers scored 30 unanswered points with a balanced passing and running attack lead by quarterback Jared Gilmore, who threw for two TDs and running back Victor Echevarria who scored twice.
Even with the loss YHS head coach JD Burnett was pleased with the Badger effort.
“We showed we can play with the top teams in our division,” Burnett said. “Our team showed a physicality and toughness that I did not see last year.”
The Badgers faced a top section running back in senior Alex Puga. Last season, Puga rushed for 2,300 yards and 24 TDs. Puga had 130 yards on 24 carries against the Badgers.
“Our run defense was good,” Burnett said. “We held a dynamic running back to less than five yards per carry. We made them work for everything they got. The difference between our programs is that Caruthers is used to being in tough battles. They are a playoff team and we are still learning to compete. We made mistakes under pressure and they did not.”
After a promising opening drive, a Badger fumble gave Caruthers good field position at the YHS 49. From there Puga carried the ball eight times, finally scoring from the two-yard line.
YHS came right back with quarterback Tristan Eames connected with Cass Moreno and Cannon Eames. From the Caruthers 29, running back Johnny Varian scored on a 29-yard run. A Joe Campbell PAT gave YHS a 7-6 lead.
Caruthers struck early in the second quarter. The Blue Raiders went to the ground with carries by Puga and Caleb Hopkins. From the 28, quarterback Jared Gilmore on a play-action fake, connected with Immanuel Arredondo for the go-ahead touchdown. Hopkins scored on a 2-point conversion and Caruthers went into halftime up 14-7.
In the third quarter Gilmore connected on a 15-yard play-action TD pass to Peyton Fox that fooled the YHS secondary. The Blue Raiders scored on another 2-point conversion and had a comfortable 22-7 lead with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
Caruthers scored twice in the fourth on runs by Echevarria after long drives. YHS didn’t quit as Tristan Eames went to the air connecting with brother Cannon on a 13-yard fade pass late in the fourth quarter for a TD. A Campbell PAT made the final score 36-14.
Passing: Eames 10-24-1-124. Rushing: Varian 18-84; Tristan Eames 5-33; Burgeno 1-5. Receiving: Cannon Eames 6-80, 2 TDs; Moreno 3-29; Jacob Werber 1-15.
Kicker Joe Campbell is perfect this season kicking 14 straight point-after kicks.
Blue Raiders win JV game 28-0
In the JV game, the Blue Raiders (2-0) defeated the Badgers (1-2) 28-0. Head coach Matt Pressley was positive in defeat. “This is a great group of kids. The record may not show it but we are very young team that is getting better every week. Despite the loss, we were fundamentally sound. Our team competed the whole way.”
Gold Nugget Bowl Friday
To the delight of many Mountain Area fans, an old rivalry will be resumed Friday at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds as the Grizzlies (1-1) host the Badgers in a revitalized Gold Nugget Bowl game. The teams first played in 1976, the year Yosemite opened, and its been 24 years since the Badgers and Grizzlies played in 1992.
Mariposa is a D-V school that competes in the Southern League of the CIF Sac-Joaquin section. Along with Le Grand, Mariposa has had its share of success as of late.
The Grizzlies defeated Minarets last week 42-23, after loseing its opener 49-39 to Summerville of Sonora. Mariposa is led by head coach Ryan Oliphant, who has taken the team to three straight playoff appearances.
Like Caruthers, the Badger run defense will again be tested. Mariposa is a run-oriented team led by 5-foot-5, 135 pound senior running back Josh Land. Land is coming off a 1,000 yard season in 2015 and has rushed for 450 yards on 58 carries and five TDs this season.
Sophomore Colton Weidner, a first-year starter at quarterback is a dual-threat. Weidner has 127 yard rushing averaging 6.7 yards per carry. The Grizzlies have amassed 640 yards rushing in just two games. Weidner doesn’t throw much but has been efficient, connecting on 25 of 53 passes for 380 yards and three TDs, and just one interception.
The Badger run game will be at full strength Friday with Luke Howell returning after he sat out at Caruthers. The running back tandem of Howell and Varian average nearly 200 yards per game.
A key for Yosemite will be the ability of QB Eames to connect downfield with a talented corps of Badger receivers.
NOTE: Also read Gregg Dodderidge’s “My Mountain View” column.