The recent announcement that the YHS football program will go ‘independent’ next season may have taken some by surprise. It shouldn’t. It was a bold move supported by a consensus of Yosemite football coaches, Athletic Director Rusty Oetinger, YHS Principal Randy Seals, Superintendent James Sargent, and the district board of trustees.
Seals detailed the move in a Nov. 23 three-page letter addressed to CIF Central Section Commissioner Jim Crichlow and fellow North Sequoia League schools.
The outstanding letter provided convincing reasons for the move. It is a ‘football-only move’ and a temporary change. YHS will move to an ‘Independent Status’ for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Seals stated that YHS ‘will leave open the possibility of ether re-joining the NSL for football in 2018 season.’
Bottom line, Yosemite just can’t compete in the North Sequoia League at this time due primarily to declining enrollments, which has resulted in the varsity team being made up of just 16 - 22 players the past few seasons.
“NSL football has long been considered some of the best and most physical high school football, pound for pound in the Central Section, if not within California and the nation.” Seals noted. That is not a stretch. Washington Union won a state title in 2011. Chowchilla’s 28-16 win last Saturday over Fairfax High of Los Angeles will play for a state title Saturday night against Sierra of Manteca at Chowchilla.
Yosemite’s last victory against a North Sequoia League opponent occurred against Sierra in a 21-17 win on Nov. 10, 2011. Currently Yosemite is mired in a 28-game losing streak - certainly one of the longest in California.
Probably the biggest issue here is safety. Seals made a huge point on this. For those of you who attend games, you certainly noticed the difference in players. YHS was outmanned by every team faced in the last three years. Sears stated “the physical toll suffered by our players in recent years has been nothing short of staggering during NSL play.
Yosemite has lost outstanding players to Mariposa, Clovis North, and of course Minarets. Running back Jason Lee, QB Jeremy Miller, and wide receiver Chase Mauer all transferred to Clovis North two years ago. All three were integral reasons why the Broncos went to the Central Section D-I section semi-final where Clovis North lost to Clovis High 28-14. Lee led the Broncos in rushing. Miller was the starting QB and voted team MVP, and Mauer was the team’s offensive player of the year and the leading receiver. Think the Badgers could have used them last year?
Lee recently accepted a scholarship to my alma mater Sacramento State.
Yosemite football coach JD Burnett, Seals, and the YHS football staff want to reverse this trend and they will. It wasn’t that long ago that Badger football players regularly moved on to college programs.
I absolutely trust the direction YHS football is going. I encourage all parents and players to get a copy of the announcement (www.sierrastar.com). Seals was a football coach at Chowchilla, and he understands what it takes to build a great program. He coached in the NSL and understands the competitive situation. Seals, Burnett, and Oetinger are all on the same page.
The schedule will change nest season with YHS playing schools more in-line with the YHS student enrollment. Going independent will allow flexibility in scheduling, and Burnett and Oetinger have put together a schedule with winnable ‘small-school’ opponents. Winning breeds confidence. This season was a team of mostly sophomores and juniors.
Finally Burnett is re-building the youth program. Seals cited this in the announcement.
“Coach JD Burnett is so highly regarded in our mountain community that players and coaches immediately joined Yosemite Youth Football for the 2015 season. Burnett is integrating all programs from youth to high school. In fact, the football banquet held Dec. 6 at YHS that included a packed house of nearly 200 players and parents. All great long-term football programs start with youth programs. The dedication from coaches, players, and parents is there.
Burnett, Eames, and Peterson as well as Oetinger and Seals know it is critical to rebuild the ‘big three’ boys’ sports programs - football, basketball, and baseball. Check out the 2015 Badger Basketball program. The Badgers are 5-4, one win short of last year’s victory total victories. For Eames and assistant Peterson the goal is nothing short of the playoffs.
Burnett has taken over the baseball program and will apply the same energy level as football. Actually, it’s a pretty exciting time right now, and there is definitely a buzz about the future. Burnett stated at the banquet, “Every career move I’ve made was to be in the mountains to raise my family. It is an honor to guide this program. We will get it done.”
I have no doubt.