The Yosemite High Badger coaching staff knew last Friday was about putting it together when YHS scrimmaged, the equivalent of a dress rehearsal, last year’s playoff opponent Firebaugh at Badger Stadium.
In front of about 200 Badger fans, the 2017 version of Badger Football did not disappoint.
“Overall, I thought we did well,” YHS head coach JD Burnett said. “Our first team varsity opened up with a 14-play drive that scored. They did it again on their next possession and scored on five plays.”
The Badgers ran 44 plays without a turnover.
“Against a team like Firebaugh we want to control the ball and take time off the clock,” Burnett said. “It was great to see our first team offense control the game. We ran the ball well. I think our line did a good job.”
The varsity and JV each occupied half of the field.
Scrimmaging against a quality team like Firebaugh would be a good test for the Badgers, who have a number of positions still open just a week away from the season’s opening game. In 2016 the Eagles went 11-3 overall, including a 37-20 D-V semifinal playoff win against Yosemite.
Firebaugh lost to Mendota in the D-V title game. It was a team that scored 38 points a game.
“We scrimmaged a really good team,” Burnett said. “From what I saw, Firebaugh may have a better offense than last year.”
Firebaugh showcased its potent offense at the scrimmage. The Eagles had four straight drives that scored touchdowns on big plays against a Badger defense that returned eight starters from last season. This caused concern for Burnett. “We need to play better on defense,” Burnett said. “Our defense was supposed to be our strength. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. The defense will have to play better and up to their abilities.”
The first team offense was guided by junior quarterback Tyson Mansfield who looked to solidify the starting QB position. Mansfield moved the team and hit his mid-range targets. Badger running backs Austen Burgeno, Ernie Jimenez, and Nic Harper all had solid performances.
Receivers Paul Antonis, Cannon Cruz, and Chris Ricciardi also made big plays with each catching a touchdown pass. Star receiver and playmaker Cannon Eames was held out due to injury.
None of this happens without a strong performance from the offensive line. The first-team O-line included Ty Peterson at left tackle, Clayton Burke at left guard, center Klay Kliest, right guard Dylan De La Cruz, and right tackle Caleb Burke. Tight end Peter Martinez anchored the outside at tight end. This group gave time to Mansfield and opened holes for the running backs.
The JV team also had a solid day. Led by freshman quarterback Jadyn Carter the junior varsity moved the ball on the ground and in the air.
Badgers open against Le Grand
The Badgers travel to visit the Le Grand Bulldogs in their season opener Friday. Game time for JV is 5 p.m., varsity 7.
The Bulldogs are a D-V program that plays in the Sac-Joaquin Section and the Southern League. Le Grand is a small Valley town east of Merced with a population of approximately 1,700 people, but don’t let the small numbers fool you. Le Grand High boasts a storied football history.
The Bulldogs under former head coach Rick Martinez had an incredible run. From 2010 to 2013 Le Grand was 45-5, and included four straight Sac-Joaquin CIF titles and an appearance in the state title game at the Home Depot Center in 2011 where the Bulldogs lost to Sierra Canyon 34-13.
The Bulldogs have struggled as of late however. Last year Le Grand was 1-9 overall, including a 35-0 loss to the Badgers in the 2016 home opener at Badger Stadium. The Bulldogs are coached by Raul Alvarez. Alvarez led Le Grand to their last playoff appearance in 2014. Despite the difficulties of the last two years, the Badgers will not take the Bulldogs lightly.
“We watched Le Grand at their scrimmage against Dos Palos and they held their own,” Burnett said. “They are a scrappy, play hard-nosed football, and give 100% effort on every play. They run out of multiple formations in a pro-style offense. We know this will be a good test especially on the road.”
Last season, junior quarterback Marcus Burrola played limited minutes. Senior running back Julian Diaz led Le Grand with 339 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Eagles receiving corps returns two of their top playmakers. Elijah Hernandez and Jonathan Martinez had 257 and 236 yards, receiving respectively, and two touchdowns each.