The year in sports brought plenty of recognition to individuals and teams in Eastern Madera County during 2017, a year highlighted by Yosemite High School winning seven North Sequoia League Championships and three Badger athletes being named North Sequoia League Most Valuable Players in their respective sports.
Following is a month-by-month recap of the sports world in Eastern Madera County in 2017 that made headlines in the Sierra Star and at www.sierrastar.com.
☆ The Yosemite High School girls basketball team won its own Winter Shootout Tournament beating Sanger 54-37 in the Jan. 7 championship game. Led by sophomore Grace Fries with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, three other players scored 10 points each - sophomores Sophie McGoldrick and Lilly Graffigna, and junior Siena Oswald.
☆ Both the Yosemite High boys and girls basketball teams opened North Sequoia League play with wins on Jan. 12 over rival Sierra High. The boys team won 59-41 the the girls won 48-33. The following day, the Yosemite girls soccer team opened NSL play with a 4-0 win over Sierra, and the boys soccer team lost to Kerman 5-0.
☆ With the league opening win over Sierra, Yosemite High girls basketball Head Coach Gary Blate recorded his 300th victory. Blate now joins the “Top 10” list of wins by a girls coach in the Central Section according to section historian Bob Barnett. Overall, Blate has won 500 games in his 31-year coaching career, including 12 years as the girls coach at Loara High School in Anaheim and four years as the YHS boys coach. Blate’s teams have won or shared 13 league titles, have gone to 7 Central Section title games winning 4 championships, making him one of the most successful girls basketball coaches, not only in the history of YHS, but in the entire Central Valley.
☆ After eight consecutive years of not losing a North Sequoia League girls soccer game (82 games), The Liberty-Madera Ranchos Hawks had its win streak broken by the Lady Badgers who tied the Hawks 2-2 on Jan. 19 on Raupp field.
☆ On Feb. 5, former Yosemite High School (class of 2002) and Fresno State star lineman Cole Popovich got a Super Bowl ring as an assistant line coach with the New England Patriots, after the team’s come from behind 34-28 overtime win against the Atlanta Falcons.
☆ The Yosemite High girls soccer coached by Vanessa Jasper, finished second in the North Sequoia League and reached the second round (No. 8 seed) of the Central Section D-III playoffs, losing 1-0 to Golden West. The team won 7 games at home and had an overall 14-5-1, 7-2 NSL win/loss record.
☆ The Minarets boys soccer team, coached by Michael Vaughn, completed its most successful season in school’s short history. The team had a 9-11-1 record overall and took second place in the West Sequoia League with a 4-3-1 record. Minarets went on to the D-V playoffs defeating Frazier Mountain 3-1 and losing to Mendota 7-0. It was a big turn-a-round for the team that was 1-19 the previous two seasons. Jesse Martin was No. 2 in the WSL with 22 goals and departs as the top scorer in school history. Jacob Cullen led the WSL in assists with 15.
☆ The Yosemite girls basketball team finished another strong season going 18-12 overall and 8-1 in North Sequoia League play where they shared the NSL title with Kerman. YHS moved on to the D-II playoffs and defeated Monache 56-48 before losing in the second round to Bakersfield 56-43. After starting the season 5-10 the Badgers, with one senior, had 13 straight wins. Sophomore Grace Fries led YHS in scoring with 14.7 ppg and ended the season with 412 points, placing her at No. 3 for most points in a season for a sophomore at YHS. Siena Oswald led the team with 267 rebounds and sophomore Lily Graffigna led team in assists (110) and steals (65). Fries was named First Team All-NSL. Oswald, a junior, was named the league’s Defensive MVP.
☆ The Yosemite High boys basketball team, coached by Aaron Eames, reached the playoffs for the second straight season, after going 16-11 overall and 7-3 in the NSL. YHS lost to Madera South 64-52 in the D-IV playoffs. Coach Eames who engineered the program turnaround resigned at the end of the season, and Assistant Coach Erik Peterson was named to take over the team for the 2017-18 season.
☆ Yosemite High senior Tristan Eames had 59 assists on the season. A four-year starter, Eames leaves the school No. 3 in assists (276) and steals (146), and No. 4 in points (931). Cannon Eames, a junior, led the Badger basketball team team with a 21.4 points per game average, and is now No. 3 in 3-point shots made in a season and career, as well as career steals. Peter McLean led the Badgers with 299 rebounds, and is now the school’s career leader in rebounds with 788.
☆ The Badger JV boys were the NSL champions. Coach Andy Medley’s team was 19-5 overall and 9-1 in the NSL.
☆ The Yosemite High Youth Wresting team placed third out of 13 teams in the Mid-State Middle School Championships at Sierra High. Nicolas Guynn, an eighth grader at Coarsegold Elementary School, placed first in his weight class (135). Second place medals went to Rylan Matyshock (135), and Justin Micallef (153).
☆ The Minarets baseball team wins its own “Battle of the Mountains” tournament, and start the season with a 7-1 record.
☆ Yosemite High sophomore Nick Pierce throws a no-hitter in a 3-0 win over Sierra on March 23.
☆ Yosemite High School senior Elyse Espe placed third in the varsity 300 meter low hurdles (49.51) in the open division of the West Coast Relays held at Fresno’s Buchanan High on April 1. Senior Kevin Bulawsky placed third in the ‘seeded’ division shot put (46-4). Sophomore Sayda Taylor placed first in the JV high jump (5-3) and the girls 4x100 meter relay team (Taylor, Chloe Duke, Linnea Leinay, Abigail Rumohr) place third with the fastest time in school history (53.25).
☆ Retired Yosemite High School teacher/coach Ellen Peterson was honored April 4 with the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Distinguished Service Award. The award was in recognition of Peterson’s 40-year coaching career at YHS and her years of service as the co-director of the California State Cross Country Championships.
☆ The Coarsegold Elementary School boys soccer team won the April 6 Mountain Area Soccer Tournament defeating Oak Creek Elementary 7-6. Sixth grader Rowan Eby made the winning goal after a 10-player shoot out.
☆ Junior Peyton Garner won three events (triple jump, 100m, 200m dashes) as the Lady Badgers placed second in the 13th Annual Yosemite Mountain Invitational track meet held April 7.
☆ On April 10, Yosemite High’s Claire Oetinger and Glacier High’s Connor Wallace both sank hole in ones’ at the 70th Annual Len Ross Memorial Golf Tournament at the Riverside Country Club in Fresno. It was the second one for Oetinger. On Sept. 21, 2016.
☆ The Yosemite High boys swim team wins its 12th consecutive North Sequoia League title while the girls team is co-champions with Kerman. The Badger girls have won or tied for league titles in 10 of the last 11 years. For the boys in the league meet, senior Owen Bassett (50 yard freestyle, 100 butterfly) and junior Hunter Duke (200 and 500 free) each won two events, as did freshman Josh Johnson (100 backstroke, 200 medley). Sophomore Randi Johnson was a double winner for the girls (200, 500 free) and junior Samantha Rockey took a first (100 breaststroke) and second (100 free). Rockey went on to take fourth place at the CIF Central Section D-II Championships in the 500 yard freestyle (5:41.15).
☆ The YHS girls track team won their third consecutive North Sequoia League title on May 3 at Badger Stadium. Sophomore Sayda Taylor won 3 events and junior Peyton Garner won two events as did Elyse Espe. Taylor qualified for three events in the CIF Masters meet. By accomplishing a ‘three-peat,’ Yosemite High track Coach Walker Vaughn has won 17 league titles between the boys and girls programs. Vaughn announced he will step down as head coach but will assist next season.
☆ For the YHS boys track and field team Peter Martinez set the school discus record with a throw of 160-feet-3. Kevin Bulawsky leaves the school as No. 2 all-time in the shot put (48-feet-8) and No. 4 in discus (150-feet-1). Klay Kliest helped YHS dominate the weight events with the No. 7 all-time discus throw of 129-4.
☆ The Yosemite High boys golf team, coached by Reg Turner, won its sixth consecutive North Sequoia League title, and senior Spencer Uzzell was named league MVP for the third straight year. Michael Stieler tied for second place at the meet. The Badgers went on to finish fourth at the Central Section D-II tournament in Porterville. Individually, Uzzell and Stieler were second and third respectively with scores of 77 and 80.
☆ Yosemite High boy’s tennis team won its third consecutive North Sequoia League title, with senior Steven Standefer being named league MVP for the second consecutive season after a perfect 16-0 record. Cannon Eames, Tyler Hellwig, and Standefer all qualified for the Central Section North Area Tournament. It was the third consecutive league title for Coach Aaron Eames’ Badgers and earned the No. 1 seed in the D-IV tournament, where the team advanced to the finals, loosing to Dinuba 5-4.
☆ The Minarets Mustangs baseball team ended its regular season 15-11, 5-5 in West Sequoia League play, earning a No. 5 seed in the D-V playoffs losing 5-3 to Rosamond in the first round.
☆ The YHS baseball team went 13-13 overall and 5-10 in NSL play and received the No. 11 seed in the D-IV playoffs. The Badgers were defeated 6-5 by No. 5 seed Mission Oak in the first round.
☆ Yosemite High junior Sarah Meeks was named to the Fresno Bee’s ‘Fab 50’ Valley All Star Girls Soccer Team.
☆ Grace Fries of Yosemite and Kristen Berry of Minarets were named to the Fresno Bee’s Valley Girls Basketball All-Star list. There were only 30 overall players selected from the Central Section.
☆ Minarets High School broke ground on a $11.2 million dollar football stadium. The 85,000 square-foot facility will include an all-weather track and seating for 1,500 fans. The project is expected to be completed in 2022.
☆ Yosemite High grad Justin Berna (class of 2002) was named head football coach at West Hills College in Coalinga, his alma mater.
☆ Yosemite high standout golfer Jessica Rudd (class of 2015) was named Female Scholar Athlete of the Year at Reedley College. She was the No. 2 player on the team and carried a 3.2 GPA.
☆ Yosemite golfer Spencer Uzzell, who won the NSL MVP award for the third time, placed second at the Central Section D-II Championship Tournament with a 77 and teammate Michael Stieler placed third with an 80.
☆ Emerson Action, 14, of Ahwahnee, won the 57th annual Silver Ski Championship at Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area (formerly known as Badger Pass). The Silver Ski Race for skiers 6-16, is the first and longest running slalom race in California.
☆ Anthony Patino was named the new boys basketball coach at Minarets. Patino replaces Paul Varner. Patino will also serve as Chawanakee Unified’s athletic director. Patino’s coaching career goes back to 1989. He won a D-IV section title at Sierra in 2009/10 and was runner up the following season.
☆ Minaret’s baseball players Aaron Hall, Hunter Thompson and E.G. Walden were named First-Team All WSL. Chris Bowe, Tyler Painter and Drew Robertson were named second-team.
☆ Peter McLean and Kailey Neal were named boy and girl Athletes of the Year at Yosemite High. Riley Ashton and Trevor Peter were named YHS Scholar Athletes of the Year. McLean left YHS after setting a new basketball record for career rebounds with 788 and nearly averaged a double-double the whole season with 9.9 points per game average (682 career points in three years), and 11.5 rebounds per game. He was also co-captain of the water polo team (four year varsity player), and a member of the swimming team. Neal was co-captain of the water polo team and was the team’s leading scorer (98). She was also a member of the swim team. Ashton was a four year varsity starter in soccer, with 18 goals during the team’s 14-5-1 season. Ashton, with a 5.0 GPA, was also a pole vaulter and distance runner on the YHS track & field team that won an NSL Championship in 2017. Peter played basketball and was a pole vaulter and high jumper on the track & field team.
☆ John Savage was crowned champion in the men’s division of the Bass Lake Triathlon. Savage, 30, from Piedmont finished as the winner (for the third straight year) in the Olympic division with a time of 2:15.22. Justin Beaumont, 13, of Coarsegold was the winner in the 5K with a time of 21:20.
☆ The YHS girls soccer and volleyball teams were named CIF State Academic Champions, both maintaining 3.9 GPAs throughout the season. The two teams was selected from the 1,590 schools in the state in all divisions. The CIF established the awards four years ago, and it was the first time a YHS team was awarded the honor.
☆ Yosemite High’s Katie Thompson was selected to play for the county in the June 21 City/County All-Star Softball game at Margie Wright field on the campus of Fresno State. Thompson, a multi-year starter for the YHS softball team was named Most Inspirational Player. Thompson will play at Reedley College.
☆ Riley Cooks, YHS class of 2010, competed at the NCAA Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon. Cooks of Long Beach State participated in the heptathlon and finished No. 15 out of 24 athletes. Cook’s performance allowed her to compete at the United States Outdoor Track and Field Championships held in Sacramento from June 22-25. Against the top heptathletes in the country, she placed No. 15.
☆ The 58th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree was held July 1 and 2 in North Fork. Nathan Hodges was crowned All-Around Champion Logger for the second straight year. With more than 2,000 spectators the North Fork Boosters raised more than $27,000 with proceeds going to youth summer programs.
☆ Former Minarets High School graduate (2014) Keenan Reardon was awarded an academic/athletic scholarship to attend Holy Names University in Oakland. Reardon batted .444 in his senior year at Minarets and was ranked as one of the top high school catchers in the state by Maxpreps.com.
☆ Anthony “A Train” Ruiz of Coarsegold and Yosemite High graduate (class of 1996), fought his last mixed martial arts bout on Aug. 3 at the Tachi Palace Casino. Ruiz, 39, ended his career with a second round win over Joey Cabezas. Ruiz’s ends a storied career that included bouts in Russia and a 35-23 record, 25 of those wins by knockout.
☆ Erik Hansen, Justin Peek (2002), Danny Smith (1988) and Aaron Wilkins (2006) were named to the Yosemite High Wall of Fame at the second annual dinner on Aug. 12. Hansen was the first football coach at YHS.
☆ One of the youngest competitive motocross riders in the country, Ryder Ellis, 7, of North Fork, a second grader at Spring Valley Elementary School, placed second at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Championships held in Tennessee out of 42 riders in his category.
☆ The Yosemite High Badger football team defeats Mariposa 40-14 at Badger Stadium on Sept. 15, and on Sept. 22, again at home, the Badgers beat Minarets 27-14.
☆ Yosemite High golfer Claire Oetinger was selected to play at The Pure Insurance PGA Champions Tour-First Team Open Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach on Sept. 22 and 23. Oetinger teamed with senior PGA pro Brad Faxon and the team finished 5 under par after 36 holes. Oetinger was one of 81 junior golfers (ages 15-18) who are active in the First Tee program, selected from around the world to team up with 81 PGA senior tour champions.
☆ Both Steven Waite (35:47.9) and Katie Burns (45:36.3), again won the Smoky Bear 10K Run on Sept. 23 at Bass Lake after winning last year. Justin Beaumont of Coarsegold placed second in the men’s 2-mile race, and his sister and mother, Hannah and Nanette placed first and second in the women’s 2-mile.
☆ PJ Kuzmitski, a Yosemite High freshman on the JV football team suffered a catastrophic injury and ultimately underwent surgery to amputate his right leg below his knee. The surgery was performed Oct. 3. The 4-foot-11, 110 pound Kuzmitski received national outpouring of support including encouragement from Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. PJ continues his recovery and hopes to be back in sports in 2018.
☆ The Yosemite High girls golf program continued its dominance of the North Sequoia League by winning its 13th straight league championship by beating Chowchilla. Senior Claire Oetinger, for the third consecutive year, earned the league’s MVP honor. Teammates Trinity Curtis and Sarah Meeks were named to the All League team and freshman Taylor Oetinger was named the league’s best underclassman. After league play, Claire won the North Area Tournament, and placed 12th at the Valley Championship Tournament, qualifying her for the state South Regional Tournament.
☆ The Yosemite Youth Football Senior and Junior teams were victorious in the Mountain Bowl Oct. 14 against Sierra. The Seniors won 14-6 and the Juniors 20-18. It was the only win of the season for either program.
☆ YHS girls tennis players Maddie Sloas and Lauren Wharton won the NSL doubles title on Oct. 11. The team was second to Kerman in the NSL but advanced to the D-III playoffs defeating Madera 6-2 on Oct. 19, before losing to West of Bakersfield 8-1.
☆ Minarets junior wide receiver Preston Conti caught 7 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-24 loss to Riverdale on Oct. 13. Quarterback Jacob Cullen was 12-24 for 300 yards and 3 TDs. Minarets went x-x overall in 2017.
☆ The Ted Lilly Golf Classic Tournament was held on Oct. 14 at the Eagle Springs Golf Course in Friant. The event raised $15,000 for the Badger Baseball program. Lilly also donated $5,000 towards the PJ Kuzmitski prosthetic fund. Lilly has donated thousands of dollars throughout the years to support YHS and other school’s athletic programs. Lilly, a 1994 YHS graduate, who went on to become a two-time MLB All Star playing for the Dodgers, Yankees, Blue Jays, Athletics and Cubs, had his Badger baseball jersey retired in a special ceremony during the awards banquet.
☆ Yosemite freshman Emily Rich surprises the field in winning the North Sequoia League varsity cross country meet at Woodwood Park in Fresno.
☆ The YHS football team ended one of the best seasons in school history, going 9-1 playing as an independent team for the second year. The team beat Immanuel at home 42-21 on Nov. 17 in the first round of the CIF Central Section D-V play-offs. Yosemite lost to eventual section champion Caruthers 39-24 on Nov. 24 to end its season. Senior line backer/tight end/fullback Peter Martinez was named the team’s MVP at the end of the season. He had 60 tackles, 3 sacks, 157 rushing yards (7.1 ypg - 2 TDs) and caught 8 passes for 95 yards and a TD. Junior quarterback Tyson Mansfield completed 60% of his passes for 1,419 yards for 12 TDs. He also ran for nearly 200 yards with 3 TDs.
Sophomore running back Nicholas Harper rushed for 1,163 yards (116 ypg) and 10 TDs. Senior receiver/defensive back/kicker Cannon Eames had 37 catches for 790 yards and 7 TDs. He will leave the school with 4 ‘career’ records including TDs (32), receiving TDs (29), receptions (63), most points scored (234), and a fifth record - most points scored in a single game (34). Senior running back/defensive back Austen Burgeno rushed for 744 yards and 10 TDs and had 41 tackles from his defensive back position. Three year varsity player senior Ty Peterson was the team’s defensive MVP leading the team in tackles (86) and tying a school record with three fumble recoveries in a single game. He has the school record for career fumble recoveries (8).
☆ It was another great season for Yosemite volleyball as the team, returning the entire team from the previous year and All-League player Savannah Bohna, coach Michele Chenowith and her team, finished the season with a 34-6 record and a NSL championship. The team went on to finish second in the Central Section D-III championships losing to Mission Oak 3-1 in the championship game in Visalia. The team qualified for the North Area tournament of the state play-offs, defeating Buhach Colony of Atwater 3-0 before losing to a strong Sonora team 3-1 in the second round. Junior Sayda Taylor (287), senior Karee Smith (234) and senior Rachel Loveland (205) were ranked 1-2-3 in the Central Section in blocks. On the season The JV Badgers were undefeated (10-0) in NSL play for the third consecutive year under Coach Tricia Ruiz.
☆ Coach Jessica Chacon’s Minarets volleyball team completed the season 28-8 overall, and won the West Sequoia League title with a 10-0 record, the program’s 7th straight WSL title. The team received the No. 3 seed in the Central Section D-III playoffs. The team defeated Dinuba 3-0 on Nov. 2 in round one, and San Joaquin Memorial 3-1 in round two, before being were ousted by eventual section champion Mission Oak 3-0 on Nov. 9. Two players were top performers in the entire Central Section. Miranda Shockey ended the season ranked No. 5 in D-III in assists (826), and Julie Castleman had 369 kills which ranked her No. 11 in the section.
☆ Yosemite High’s girls water polo team won the NSL title with a perfect 12-0 season. Coach Michelle Burton’s team received the No. 3 seed in the CIF D-III tournament and went on to defeat No. 6 Chowchilla 10-7 before losing to Sierra Pacific 15-6. Junior Sophie McGoldrick was named the NSL MVP, set a new YHS single-season scoring record with 122 goals for the season, and was the No. 1 scorer in Northern California. Teammate Gace Fries, also a junior, was named All NSL First-Team.
☆ A number of Minarets football players were named to the West Sequoia League First Team including junior wide receiver Preston Conti, senior linebacker Payton Phillips, and junior defensive back Tyson Ellis. Defensive lineman, senior Chase Hatleli, was named to the second team. In addition, Conti is also a nominee for the CalHi Sports California All-State Team after having more than 1,000 receiving yards and 11 TDs in 8 games.
☆ The Yosemite girls basketball team got off to a fast start in the new season with a 10-3 record by Dec. 19. The team won two tournaments (Hoover and Madera) back to back. Junior Grace Fries leads YHS with a 21.7 points per game average, and was named the MVP in both tournaments after scoring a total of 207 points in 8 games, including 40 against Hanford. As of late December, Fries has hit 52 3-pointers which ranks her No. 1 in the state and No. 14 in the nation.
NOTE: Compiled from the Sierra Star archives by Gregg Dodderidge.