Despite 16 penalties, and squandering numerous scoring opportunities the Yosemite Badgers (5-1) pulled out a 28-21 overtime victory over the Bishop Union Broncos (2-3) last Friday at Badger Stadium, with the help of 240 rushing yards and two TDs from phenom running back Johnny Varian.
Varian is nearing the 1,000-yard rushing mark after just six games.
The homecoming crowd was treated to the most exciting game of the 2016 season.
Statistically, YHS dominated offensively with 464 yards to 259 for Bishop, but couldn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities in the red zone.
“It was the closest and most intense football game our players have ever been in,” Coach JD Burnett said. “The pressure got to them and they had trouble keeping their concentration and emotions in check. That led to a lot of penalties (16-130 yards). But in the end our will and determination was evident.”
Both teams overcame difficulties. The Broncos had a long bus ride through Yosemite National Park and had two key players sustain injuries early on, which took the Broncos out of rhythm offensively.
On Bishop’s first possession, Bronco senior QB Ryan Graves went to the air for a 50-yard strike to the Badger 20. Graves is a dual-threat QB that would give the Badgers fits all night. On the next play Bronco receiver Mario Velasco suffered a dislocated hip and the game was delayed 20 minutes. Graves would fumble on the next play at the YHS 25 and Badger defensive tackle Dylan De La Cruz made the recovery.
The YHS offense was rolling early with Varian picking up 66 yards on five carries including a 41-yard gain, eventually scoring from the two-yard line. A Joe Campbell point after made it 7-0.
Later in the first quarter Badger DB Chris Riccardi made an athletic play to down a Tristan Eames punt at the Bronco three-yard line. Then Varian returned a Bishop punt to the Bronco 28 and YHS seemed set set up for another score, but an Eames pass was tipped and picked off to kill the drive.
After another YHS defensive stand the Badgers set up again on another solid Varian return to the Bronco 35. YHS moved inside the 20 where placekicker Joe Campbell missed a 30-yard field goal attempt due to a botched hold. It was the third missed red zone scoring opportunity in the first half for the Badgers.
The Bronco offense finally got in gear, moving the ball to the YHS 48 in just two plays. Graves hit Arturo Lemas for a 20-yard game to the YHS 19. From there, Graves took it in on a keeper from four yards out and the Broncos tied the score 7-7 with 2:20 left in the half.
Soon after, Eames hit Cass Moreno on a 60-yard pass to the Bronco 10 but it was nullified by a penalty. A fake punt by Eames failed to get the first down and gave the Broncos solid field position just before half, but a nine-yard sack by Klay Kleist ended the threat. The score was tied 7-7 going into the halftime Homecoming festivities.
Badger mistakes continue in second half
The Badgers got off to a bad start beginning the second half with a deflected Eames pass intercepted at the Badger 25. The Badger defense held as Bronco kicker Jerry Mendez went wide left on a 31-yard FG attempt.
Then a muffed punt by Tristan Eames went negative thee yards and Bishop took over in great field position at the Badger 32. A delayed screen from Graves to WR Sean Brown went the distance and the Broncos had their first lead 14-7 with 6:24 left in the third.
After the kickoff, YHS took over at their own 20 and Badger mistakes continued. Despite being flagged five times in the drive, including three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, the Badgers managed to score. A 20-yard Eames scramble on third and long kept the drive alive. Eames hit brother Cannon for a 45-yard slant down to the Bishop 25, and from there it was Eames to Eames on a 14-yard fade. Campbell’s PAT knotted up the score 14-14 on a wild, penalty filled 80-yard scoring drive that ended the lengthy third quarter.
After the Badgers held Bishop it was Varian scoring on a 47-yard touchdown run filled with cutbacks that put the Badgers back up front 21-14 with 10:40 left in the game.
Bishop would answer with a 71-yard drive, tying the score at 21-21 with 7:30 left in the game.
With the fourth quarter winding down Bishop took over at the 18. A Graves pass was tipped and picked off by Varian at the Bishop 25, and YHS moved to the Bronco three. But two Badger offside penalties killed the drive. A 25-yard field goal attempt by Campbell was wide right.
Eames finished the game 8 for 21 for 180 yards and two TDs.
With less than three minutes to go the Broncos had a chance to steal a victory. A 22-yard burst by running back Sean Brown and a 15-yard pass moved the ball into Badger territory. The Badger crowd was quiet as Graves directed what looked like the winning Bronco drive, but YHS linebacker Jake Werber forced a fumble that was recovered by Ty Peterson to stop the Bronco scoring threat and force overtime.
In the overtime both teams get opportunities to score from the 25. YHS got the ball first and On fourth and nine, Eames floated a fade to Moreno in the right corner of the end zone for a TD. “Tristan’s touchdown pass in overtime could not have been executed any better,” Burnett said.
The pressure was now on the Broncos. On third and 14, Graves scrambled for a first down to the Badger six. The Badger defense forced a fourth and goal at the 11, and with the game on the line, Werber sacked Graves to seal the Badger’s 28-21 victory.
“Our heart was the difference in this one, especially at the end,” Burnett said. “We sure put on an exciting show for homecoming.”
JV lose 26-6
Bishop (4-1) jumped out to a 12-0 lead early and ended the game with a 26-6 win over the Badgers (2-4).
Badger Thomas Garner fielded the kickoff after a Bishop score and ran up the middle for an 80-yard TD. The 2-point try failed but the Badgers were on the score board, down 18-6, but it would be the only score of the night for the home team.
“We are young and inconsistent but the effort was there,” Badger JV Coach Matt Pressly said. “We are competing, but we are still learning how to win. No one gave up. We just need to keep mistakes to a minimum.”
It’s the Badgers turn to head east over Tioga Pass this Friday to Mammoth Lakes to take on the 2-2 Huskies. Mammoth lost to Bishop 43-6 on Sept. 9.
For those that can’t travel to Mammoth there will be football to watch. The Badger JV will take on the Exeter Monarchs freshman at Badger Stadium tonight (Thursday) at 5 p.m. The Badger Marching Band will be performing.