It finally happened. After years of hemming and hawing, bickering, and push-back, the Mustangs and Badgers met for the first time in the regular season of football. This is something the players, parents, and football fans have wanted for years. The hopes and dreams of the players finally came to fruition.
Personally, it was my first football game at Minarets as I have only covered the YHS program. I had a great time. Sure it was very crowded, and there were not enough bleachers, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. The anticipation from both sides mitigated any negativity.
The Minarets staff and volunteers did an outstanding job of putting this game together. It was a mountain community event. Pre-game was fun, especially with the Mustang equestrian team and the flags.
The Badger faithful helped to pack the house outnumbering even the large contingent of Mustang fans. The crowd was loud and passionate. Pete Conti did his usual great job behind the mike.
On the field both teams played their hearts out. Yes, there were some testy moments. Remember, most of the players have known each other since their playing days in youth football. Most are friends with each other, but not on the field. There was bantering before the contest on social media, but once it started, the focus was totally on the game.
The end result shows where the programs are at. Minarets has athletes, but are not as deep as YHS. The biggest difference to me was the line play. YHS coach JD Burnett and staff have overcome a 27-game losing streak with a vengeance. The summer of hard work in the weight room is paying off for the Badgers.
Burnett had a vision for the program but knew it would take time. Going independent was huge as it offered Burnett the flexibility and opportunity to schedule similarly-sized schools for his Badgers.
I have no doubt that another ex-Badger, Minarets Head Coach Becher Marr and his staff will also turn things around.
Becher and the Marr family are Badger football royalty. Brothers Casey and Drew along with Becher all wear Central Section Championship rings. Becher was a huge part of the first YHS Central Section Championship team in 2002. In my opinion, it was the greatest team in the history of YHS. Marr and Burnett know it’s the classroom and weight room where champions are made. They both had great teachers.
I so look forward to this inter-mountain rivalry that now begs for a name. There is the revived ‘Gold Nugget Bowl’ between Mariposa and YHS and the historic ‘Mountain Bowl’ between YHS and Sierra, and the ‘Dam Bowl’ between Minarets and Sierra.
Has anyone noticed ex-Badger football players who played for or coached under Eames and Peterson are now coaches past and present? You all know how Cole Popovich (YHS 2002) is now the assistant O-line coach at New England. Cole started at the JC level (Fresno City) and worked his way up.
Justin Berna (2002) is the head coach at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri. The Avila Eagles are a NAIA school in the All-Heart Conference. Berna is now in his sixth season as head of the program. Jake Dodderidge (2004) was the wide receivers coach at Palomar JC in San Marcos (2008-2011).
And in 2016 Bonner Cunnings (1992), recently inducted in the inaugural class of the Badger Wall of Fame, was hired by Merced Junior College as the offensive line coach.
Along with Burnett and Marr, this is quite a Yosemite coaching legacy.