It is understandably hard to think about high school football these days. The devastating fires in Sugar Pine, Fish Camp, Yosemite, and North Fork have our whole mountain community on edge. With temperatures over 105 degrees, and embers covering our cars, being outside is like watching an ‘Apocalypse Now’ rerun.
Last week the Badgers were scheduled to play the Caruthers Blue Raiders at Badger Stadium, but the game was canceled due to excessive heat and poor air quality from the Railroad Fire. The Blue Raiders have been rescheduled for this Friday, however, Yosemite High School Athletic Director Rusty Oetinger said the decision of playing the game at Yosemite or in Caruthers has not been made by the time the Star went to print. The Sept. 8 game against McFarland will not be rescheduled this season.
NOTE: Check www.sierrastar.com or the Sierra Star Facebook page to see where the game will be played.
Regardless of where the game will be played, Caruthers will provide the Badgers with one of the most difficult tests of the season.
Led by third year head coach Brandon Ward, the Blue Raiders defeated YHS 36-14 last season at Badger Stadium. 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.”
Last year the Blue Raiders rushed for 3,646 yards and average of 317 yards per game, while throwing for only 70. It was one of the top rushing attacks in the Central Section.
Caruthers lost one of the great backs in section history to graduation - Alex Puga rushed for 2,007 yards and 18 TDs last season.
Imanol Arredondo returns from a junior season where he rushed for 1,142 yards and scored 14 TDs. Puga’s brother Chris will also be in the rushing mix.
Quarterback Jared Gilmore threw for 699 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 picks in 2016. Arredondo is the leading returning pass catcher with 12 catches for 175 yards and 2 TDs in 2016.
Le Grand review
The Badgers can count the 25-0 season opener win over Le Grand on Aug. 25 as a positive. First, the defense responded to the coaching staff after the Firebaugh scrimmage by posting another shutout. That makes six in two years.
On offense, first year starting quarterback, junior Tyson Mansfield, had a solid performance. His numbers (14 of 23 for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns) were excellent for his first varsity start. It was Mansfield’s leadership that impressed the coaching staff. He showed confidence making difficult throws.
Playmaker Cannon Eames seems to be back in 2016 form. Eames led all receivers with 95 yards on 5 catches.
Another bright spot was tight end Peter Martinez. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he caught his first TD pass from the tight end position. Head Coach JD Burnett moved Martinez to tight end where his blocking skills open holes for Badger running backs.
Senior receiver Ben Negley, 6-foot-5, 170 pounds, had three catches and is a nice target for Mansfield. In only his second year playing football, Negley runs good routes and has improved his pass catching skills. He also had an interception.
After being moved from the defensive line to outside linebacker, senior Clayton Burke had a breakout game. Burke responded to his new position with 11 tackles, with 3 for loss to lead YHS. Burke’s speed and lateral quickness was a big reason the Badger D did not allow any positive yards for Le Grand.
Senior 6-foot-1, 200 pounder Ty Peterson is also back with a vengeance. Peterson was hurt during the Badgers playoff run last season. Against Le Grand he had 6 tackles, forced 2 fumbles, and had a fumble recovery. Peterson has been a team leader in tackles since his sophomore season.