Last year I thought Yosemite High varsity head coach JD Burnett should have been considered for the Central Section coach of the year, after he and his staff took an 0-10 team in 2015 and went 9-4 playing as an independent school in 2016, including two D-V road playoff wins.
After arriving at his alma mater, Burnett was tasked with rebuilding a winning culture, a youth program, and gaining support of the Mountain community. We can safely say with confidence - mission accomplished.
To keep the Badger train rolling, Coach Burnett and staff face a challenging 2017 season. This year’s Badgers will take the field with a new starting quarterback, no varsity experience at running back, and some shifting of the offensive line.
Projected starting quarterback Tyler Matyshock has transferred. Last year’s starting running back senior Luke Howell will not play this season. Senior star receiver Cannon Eames is nursing a knee injury but is expected to return early in the season.
It is a challenge that Burnett and staff relish.
“We had a good summer,” Burnett said. “There was a huge commitment from the players and coaches. It starts there. We are still evaluating positions. Nothing is a given. Each player will earn their starting spot. Our guys are working hard every day and we are seeing progress at most positions. We will have a good idea on our starters after our scrimmage against Firebaugh.”
The scrimmage is at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Badger Stadium.
There are high expectations for the program. Yosemite High is ranked No. 5 in D-V according to preseason rankings on MaxPreps.com. The Badgers will continue to play as an independent.
“We don’t set goals on wins,” Burnett explained. “Our goal is to simply practice our best and play our very best. When we do that success will follow.”
Junior Tyson Mansfield and senior Ty Peterson are competing for the starting quarterback position. They will have the unenviable task of replacing three-year starter Tristan Eames. Neither has thrown a pass in varsity competition. Peterson normally played at left tackle, but with the departure of Matyshock, he moved into the QB mix.
When Cannon Eames returns the receivers should be a solid group. Eames had a breakout junior season and is the team’s most talented offensive player. Seniors Ben Negley and Chris Ricciardi saw playing time last season, and senior Peter Martinez moves from guard to tight end.
At running back the Badgers will go with senior Austen Burgeno, and juniors Nic Harper and Ernie Jimenez. Burgeno, who moved over from wide receiver, is a playmaker. Harper and Jimenez had solid seasons on the JV team last season, and Harper lead the team in rushing yards.
To offset the lack of varsity experience at running back, the Badgers return a solid core of offensive linemen including seniors Clay Burke and Klay Kliest, and junior Dylan De La Cruz. Peterson could move back to left tackle if Mansfield wins the starting quarterback position. Martinez, perhaps the best lineman for YHS last season, could also move back to the line.
Negley will be the YHS placekicker and Caleb Bachelor the punter.
On defense the Badgers have eight returning starters. The 2016 YHS defense recorded five shutouts, one short of the school record.
“Our defense is strength for us,” Burnett said. “We have seniors with a lot of experience.”
There are currently 35 players on the JV team, with many incoming freshmen fresh off success at the youth football level. Two years ago, the Yosemite Badger Youth Football team was crowned ‘Super Bowl’ champions of the Tri-County Youth Football League. Last year, they were runners up.
“Our youth is used to winning and they bring that attitude every day,” Burnett said. “Believe me, that winning attitude will translate into success on and off the field. Our staff is so appreciative of our youth coaches and parents. We appreciate the parents putting their trust in our staff.”
The Badger JV team was 4-6 last season. A number of key players have moved to varsity so the incoming freshmen will be the nucleus of the team this season.
On offense, Jadyn Carter will be at quarterback, while Justin McAuliffe and Kyler Schaeffer will share duties at running back. Steven Baker and Holden Eames look to be the starters at receiver. Noah Burns will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines.
The football schedule has been modified due to late cancellations from two schools.
Yosemite opens its regular season with a road game against Le Grand on Aug. 25. The Badgers will then host four straight home games: Sept. 1 (Caruthers), Sept. 8 (McFarland), Sept. 15 (Mariposa), and Sept. 22 (Minarets).
After the home stand, Yosemite will hit the road for three straight away games: Sept. 29 (Bishop), Oct. 13 (Farmersville), and Oct. 20 (Parlier). On Oct. 6, YHS will have a bye.
YHS will host Sac-Joaquin power Amador on Oct. 27 and will wrap up the regular season on Nov. 3 with the Mountain Bowl at Sierra.
Burnett will be assisted by Larry Archer, Brent Cunnings, Mike Gibson, Brian Johnson, Pat Lynch, Matt Mohulsky, and Erik Peterson.