Yosemite High School’s varsity football team is 6-1, and the community of Badger faithful are once again abuzz about Friday night lights. After going through a 27-game losing streak, it’s okay to smile again.
Head Coach JD Burnett and staff has the team close to where they want to be, but make no mistake, no one is gloating and no one is satisfied. The most difficult part of the season looms ahead, and there are visions of a run in the D-V playoffs.
Yosemite has posted three shutouts on the season, and came close to a fourth against Laton on Sept 2. However, there is a reality check in store. The team’s six victories were against schools with a combined record of 8-32 as of last weekend - (Le Grand 0-7), Laton (0-7), Mariposa (2-5), Minarets (0-7), Bishop (4-3) and Mammoth (2-3).
Even though YHS is competing this season as an independent and not in a league, they are still eligible to compete in the playoffs. According to MaxPreps.com, Yosemite is currently seeded No. 5 in D-V, despite only one loss, due to the lowest-ranked strength of schedule in the division.
Yosemite came off a 49-3 win over Laton; a program that has lost a combined 27 straight since its final game of the 2013 season. After feeling great in shutting out the once-mighty Le Grand and crushing Laton, YHS was handed its only defeat traveling to D-V No. 3 ranked Caruthers. The coaching staff knew what was in store at Caruthers, and now the players do. Ahead of the Blue Raiders in D-V are Firebaugh (6-1) and No. 1 ranked Mendota (7-0).
YHS isn’t a top three D-V team but is certainly in the next tier. In order to prove they belong there, YHS must defeat Amador High of Sutter Creek on the road Oct. 28 and long time rival Sierra at home Nov. 4.
Friday’s game against Parlier at Badger Stadium, while taking nothing for granted, shouldn’t provide a huge test. The Panthers are currently 0-7. Parlier, and the West Sequoia League team is in the midst of a 27-game losing streak dating back to the final game of the 2013 season.
The Buffalos of Amador (6-1) play in the tough Mother Lode Conference and are a perennial D-V playoff team in the Sac-Joaquin Section. To date, the Buffalos have allowed only 82 points this season.
Mountain Bowl Nov. 4
Mountain Bowl rival Sierra (4-3) is having a solid season with losses to Caruthers (35-21) and Washington Union (38-14), capped by a loss to Liberty last Friday (48-21).
The game will be at 7 p.m. at Badger Stadium on Nov. 4, and the outcome of the game will certainly affect the D-V seeds. YHS wants a home game in the D-V playoffs and a win over Sierra would go a long way toward that goal.
Despite the road ahead, there are a number of positives. The Badgers have strong wins, and haven’t played down to their competition. The homecoming win over Bishop Sept. 30 was a gut-check victory with a playoff atmosphere. The Badgers have proved they can win on the road (Mammoth and Mariposa), and even though they lost to Caruthers, the team is much improved since then.
Strong line play
The strength of this team is the offensive and defensive lines, a solid running game, and the play of senior three-year starting QB Tristan Eames. The offense, which has scored 269 points, can score on the ground and through the air.
Defensively YHS has allowed only 98 points to date. Only Mendota has allowed less in D-V with 78.
It all starts at the line play.
“Our offensive line has been successful because we do what we do well,” said Ty Peterson, starting left tackle. “We have solid technique through practice repetition. We also know each others’ positions and can fill in if needed and we also get along great as a unit.”
The starting offensive line rotation of Peterson, left guard Clayton Burke, center Klay Kleist, right guard Peter Martinez, right tackle Kevin Bulawsky and backup Dylan De La Cruz, have been the key to the Badgers success on the ground.
Senior Johnny Varian, a 5-foot-5, 140 pound running back has 1,147 yards and 14 TDs in just seven games. He had a near school record performance with 332 yards (record is 347) at Mariposa on Sept. 16.
Junior Luke Howell has added 563 yards on 67 carries. Varian and Howell rush for a gaudy 10.3 and 8.4 yards per carry average respectively.
Burnett continues to offer praise for line coaches Brent Cunnings and Brian Johnson. The commitment to summer workouts was huge and is now paying dividends that Burnett envisioned.
Tristan Eames is having his finest season as a Badger, throwing for 817 yards and 13 TDs with only four interceptions. Eames has also been a threat on the ground, rushing for 290 yards and five TDs so far this season.
Badger receivers Cannon Eames and Cass Moreno have also had solid seasons. Eames has 420 receiving yards on 22 catches with seven TDs. Moreno has 325 yards on 16 catches with seven TDs.
Defensively the Badger defense continues to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Again, it starts on the line. Sophomore De La Cruz, Chase Hatleli, Bowen Cunnings, and Kleist have also been successful run stoppers. The linebackers, Peterson, Martinez, and Jacob Werber running out of the ‘Bear defense’ also get after the quarterback on every play.
The Bear allows single coverage of receivers. With corners Austen Burgeno and Chris Riccardi, as well as Varian at safety, the Badger pass defense has been in good hands.