The 2017 version of the Yosemite Badgers varsity football team opened its season with a 25-0 road win over the Le Grand Bulldogs (0-1) Aug. 25.
Last year the Badgers defeated Le Grand 35-0 at Badger Stadium.
After the Yosemite defense recorded five shutouts last season (one short of the school record) and with eight of those players retuning, the defense was supposed to be the strength of the Badgers this season. That was questioned at the Aug. 18 scrimmage against Firebaugh as the Eagles scored almost at will on big plays.
After the scrimmage, the coaching staff challenged the defense and they responded against Le Grand, forcing five turnovers and limiting the Bulldog offense to just two first downs with negative total yards on offense.
“Our defense was really physical and relentless,” said Badger head coach JD Burnett. “We were hitting with intensity. After Firebaugh our staff pushed them to step up. We made adjustments and it really came together.”
The Badgers played their season opener in front of a Le Grand fan base that celebrated a new football complex. The festive mood was quieted as six Bulldog players suffered injuries. Le Grand started with 16 players, but by the end of the third quarter they were down to 10. Despite that, the Badgers only had a 12-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
“The Le Grand team that started the game was really good,” Burnett said. “We thought they were better than last year. We beat a good team that played hard the whole game. The injuries were really unfortunate.”
The Badgers scored first on a six play, 58-yard drive in the first quarter. Yosemite’s 6-foot-1, 160-pound junior quarterback Tyson Mansfield, in his first varsity game, connected with 6-foot, 165-pound wide out Cannon Eames on a 40-yard pass. Mansfield eventually took it in from the one yard line. The point after failed, but YHS was up 6-0.
Later in the quarter Bulldog QB Alberto Marquez left the game with a shoulder injury, leaving the Bulldog offense out of sync the rest of the game.
YHS scored just before halftime. Starting at the Le Grand 38, Mansfield hit Eames on pass plays of 14 and 20 yards. On fourth and goal, Mansfield rolled right and hit 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior tight end Peter Martinez in the corner of the end zone in traffic.
“That was a nice play by Tyson,” Burnett said. “Tyson is improving every week. He had a solid game in his first varsity start. Tyson is a leader. I am very proud of him and his performance.”
The 2-point conversion failed and YHS went into halftime with a 12-0 lead. Mansfield would complete 14 of 23 passes for 164 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in a quality first varsity start.
The YHS offense put the game away in the third when 5-foot-9, 150-pound sophomore running back Nic Harper scored on a 5-yard run. Ben Negley booted the extra point, and YHS was up 19-0.
The Badgers finished the scoring with running back Austen Burgeno catching a 5-yard TD pass.
Badger JV team loses close one
The YHS JV is made up of 35 players, seven sophomores and 28 freshmen. The lack of varsity experience showed in the first game as the Bulldogs defeated the Badgers 12-7. Despite a slow start and lots of miscues, the Badgers were in a position to pull off the win at the end.
The players and fans had to deal with 100-plus degree heat at the 5 p.m. start. Le Grand scored on their first possession. The Bulldogs would go into halftime up 6-0.
Le Grand scored quickly in the third after a 45-yard kickoff return. Running back Juan Hernandez would soon score on a 6-yard run. It was now 12-0 in just 20 seconds into the second half.
YHS answered with their only touchdown. Quarterback Jadyn Carter hit Holden Eames on a 65-yard touchdown pass. Eames came back to catch a wobbly pass and outraced the Bulldog defenders for the first Badger touchdown of the season.
Caruthers at Yosemite Friday
The Badgers will face another storied Valley football program when the Caruthers Blue Raiders visit Oakhurst this Friday. The JV game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and varsity at 7.
The Blue Raiders defeated YHS 36-14 in 2016. Caruthers is coming off a 7-4 season last year that included a 49-16 loss to Bishop in the Central Section D-V playoffs. The Blue Raiders opened the 2017 campaign by crushing Tranquility 49-18.
“Caruthers is a big, strong, physical team,” Burnett said. “They run the ball well and play real smash-mouthed football. They run out of the ‘I formation’ which will certainly test our defense.”
Senior Imanol Arredondo returns from a junior season where he rushed for 1,142 yards and scored 14 TDs.
Yosemite Varsity stats
Passing: Tyson Mansfield -14/23 164 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Receiving: Eames 5-95; Ben Negley 3-29; Austen Burgeno 2-19 1 TD; Peter Martinez 2-12 1TD; Paul Antonis 2-9.
Rushing: Burgeno 14-59; Harper 10-38; John Alsup 2-11; Ernie Jimenez 2-7; Mansfield 6-4.
Defensively Clayton Burke led YHS with 11 tackles, three for loss. Ty Peterson had six tackles, a fumble recovery, and forced two fumbles. Ernie Jimenez had three tackles and an interception.
Burnett singled out linebacker Diego Combs. “Diego had a phenomenal first varsity game,” Burnett said. “We really challenged Diego after Firebaugh and he responded with a great game.”