Yosemite High’s (9-4) improbable quest for a Central Section D-V football title ended Nov. 25, as the No. 3 seed Firebaugh Eagles (11-2, 3-2 WSL) beat the No. 10 Badgers 37-20.
The Eagles got on the board quickly with a driving kickoff on the ground that careened off a Badger and was recovered by Firebaugh’s Brian Lopez at the YHS 44 yard line. The Eagles then drove 44-yards on six plays with Tylor Palmer scoring from the 5. The drive consumed nearly six minutes.
Key runs by Badger senior quarterback Tristan Eames and catches by Tyler Matyshock moved the ball to the Eagle 10.
From there Tristan hit brother Cannon on a 10-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone. The point after failed and Firebaugh led 7-6.
After a short YHS kickoff, the Eagles took over at the 50-yard line. On the first play, Eagle QB Noey Garcia hit Andrew Rodriguez for a 50-yard TD. The point after failed but the Eagles were up 13-6.
After the ensuing kickoff, Tristan Eames ran 52 yards to the Firebaugh 1, but the long gain was negated by a penalty. Early in the second quarter YHS drove to the Eagle 12 but could not score.
Firebaugh took over with six minutes left in the half and would again strike quickly with Garcia hitting Palmer a 70-yard TD, giving the Eagles a 20-6 lead.
After the kickoff, Tristan Eames engineered a solid drive with passes to Cannon and Matyshock, before hitting Cannon for an 18-yard TD. The Badgers went for two but failed. Still, YHS closed the gap to 20-12 Firebaugh with 1:30 to go before halftime.
The Badgers gave the Eagles a short field with a pooch kick and had Firebaugh set up at the 50. Runs by AJ Molina and Garcia set up Firebaugh at the YHS 32. Campa would boot a 37-yard field goal as time expired and the Eagles went into halftime leading 23-12.
The Eagles scored again on its second possession of the third quarter with Garcia hitting wideout Oscar Rivas on a 30-yard TD pass for a comfortable 30-12.
Taking over at the 33, Eames hit receiver Cass Moreno for 17-yards, and after connecting with Matyshock, Eames hit Austen Burgeno for a 19-yard pass moving to the Eagle 30. From there it was Eames to Eames on a 28-yard pass to the two, with Tristan scoring on a 2-yard sneak.
Eames would leave the game briefly due to cramps and sophomore Matyshock came on and threw a pass to Cannon for the 2-point conversion closing the gap to 30-20.
The Badger faithful felt a possible momentum shift. There was still time with 4:21 left in the third. The YHS defense stopped the Eagles on their next possession and YHS took over at the Eagle 16 but an Eames pass that went off Burgeno’s hands was intercepted by Jeshua Gutierrez at the YHS 20.
Garcia then secured the trip to the D-V finals with a 20-yard TD pass to Lopez to end the game.
Tristan Eames ended the game with 221 passing yards for 2 TDs and ran for a TD. The Badgers were held to just 58 rushing yards.
The Badgers’ missed Ty Peterson, the team’s leading tackler, left tackle on offense and long snapper, who was out due to an injury in the Dos Palos game.
Coach Burnett proud
Despite the loss, second year Yosemite Head Coach JD Burnett said he was proud of his team’s effort.
“We battled and showed the grit and intensity that is necessary to play our style of mountain football,” Burnett said. “Unfortunately, we just did not have much left in the tank. We were short-handed due to injuries and suspensions. At that level of competition, it was just too much to overcome, but I am proud of the way our kids fought. No one can say that they did not leave it all on the field. We had our chances, but just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Big turn around for Badgers
The 2016 Yosemite campaign was historic in many ways. The Badgers broke a 27-game losing streak, posted five shutouts, and had a deep run in the D-V playoffs.
For the Badgers the combination of Tristan and Cannon Eames culminated in a great playoff run. Senior and three year starting QB Tristan played his last game for Yosemite, throwing for two TD passes, both to Cannon, and ran for another. In the Badgers’ playoff run, the Eames brothers accounted for 10 of YHS 12 TDs.
Cannon’s two TD catches gave him 15 for the 13-game season - good for No. 2 all-time, behind Bradly Wilkinson who had 17 in the 12-game 2006 season. Cannon is now YHS’s career leader in TD receptions with 22 with his senior year ahead of him (old record 19 - Wilkinson 2005-06). His 13 receptions (116 yards, 2 TDs) against Firebaugh set a new ‘single game reception’ record for the school (old record 11 - Jon Blea 2005).
During Coach Burnett’s first season the lesson was learning to compete.
This year, after departing the North Sequoia League and going independent with a schedule against smaller schools more in line with Yosemite’s enrollment, the Badgers learned to win compiling one of the best single season win totals in YHS history.
The Badgers were back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and reached the semifinals for the first time since 2008.
Firebaugh will face unbeaten Mendota for Title
The Eagles will play No. 1 seed and fellow WSL rival Mendota on the road Dec. 2 for the Central Section D-V title.
Mendota (12-0, 5-0) soundly defeated Sierra 50-14 at Mendota to set up the D-V final. The Aztecs defeated the Eagles 58-20 in league play at Mendota on Oct. 14.
The Aztecs will be playing in the championship game for the fifth time in the past six seasons.