There’s no better way to go out then as a winner and that’s what a handful of seniors did in their last game on the gridiron for Minarets High School (4-5, 2-3 West Sequoia League) last Friday. The Mustangs beat winless Laton 40-0, giving Minarets its only shutout of the season.
The honored seniors were Jeremiah Benzie, Mason Ellis, Kaleb Fascone, Jazper Phillips, David Broyles, Holden Cordle, Sam Smith, Christian Low, and Jared Varner.
The Mustangs jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, adding 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to go to the half with a 34-0 lead. The teams exchanged possessions in the third with no score. In the final quarter the Mustangs tacked on six more points for the 40-0 final. All Mustangs enjoyed plenty of playing time in the last game of the season.
Ellis, the E-Train, got his usual production with three touchdowns on the night. He has 17 on the season (15 rushing, two receiving). He has 1,213 yards rushing (10 yards per carry average) on the season, averaging 134 yards a game. This with a lost game to Mariposa due to air quality and having to sit out most of the game against Tranquillity due to cramps.
Ellis has made his mark in the Mustangs record books setting an example of hard work and dedication.
He will go on to play football at the collage level as he now turns his attention on the 26th Annual Blue-Grey game, Jan. 16, which will be played at Ever Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ellis is the only mountain football player to be invite to such a prestigious game.
He ends his career as the Mustangs record-holder in most categories on both side of the ball.
“I’m speechless,” Ellis said. “Tonight was a great win. My focus now turns to getting a scholarship and to work hard for the Blue-Grey game, keep all my options open and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Ellis could have run wild against Laton but Coach Bob Kelly gave plenty of playing time to other players. Coming back from a shoulder injury that will require surgery, Cordle ran for two scores in his best offensive outing of the season. Usually clearing holes for the E-Train, Cordle showed his hard running style, picking up six first downs for Kelly’s squad as they ran well against an overmatched Laton team.
“It's a great way to finish our season,” Kelly said. “A great way to send our seniors out ... they all had a great game, and everybody played a major roll in this game. We obviously would have liked to have our overall record better, but to finish strong like that leaves everybody happy and gives us something to build on for next season.”
Quarterback Kaleb Fascone did an admirable job after being pressed into service with little to no experience at playing the position. Fascone controlled the game well, minimizing miscues, while guiding the Mustangs on seven scoring drives. The senior threw one touchdown, a 12 yard strike to fellow senior Low.
With time running out and the Laton Mustangs driving for a score, Minarets corner back Benzie intercepted Laton at the 12 yard line to thwart the Mustangs promising drive.
“We came out here with every intention of leaving it all out here tonight,” Fascone said. “Our defense shut them down, we never gave in, never gave them an inch. I’m very proud of our effort tonight.”
The QB not only guided his team well, he made his presence known on the defense side of the ball, picking off a Laton pass while recording several tackles.
The Mustangs amassed 276 yards on the ground, with Ellis getting 199 yards, Cordle 48, Chase Gathier 24, and Broyles with 22 on two carries.
Another Mustang with aspirations to play at the next level is kicker Phillips, making 18 on 22 attempts on the season. He is ranked 34th in the state in PATs. The first year player added another dimension to the Mustangs game, continually pinning their opponents deep in their own territory with booming kicks. Phillips lead the league in touchbacks.
The Mustangs defense got plenty of action in their first shutout of the season. Fascone and Benzie had interceptions against the pass happy Laton quarterback. Fascone’s a shoe string pick, while Benzie's ended the game for Laton. In retrospect the Mustangs accomplished some positive feats in their sixth season of organized football. They finished with their best win record in history (4-5).
Most impressive is adding the “Rise and Grind” program with JV football coach Jackson Lakatani, who pinned a contract extension to continue coaching and mentoring for the Mustangs. The JV team had an outstanding season with plenty of highlights.
The Mustangs will work hard to take their game to a higher level as all coaches are expected to return for next season and those lost to graduation will be replaced with seasoned JV players that led their league in many defensive categories.