It’s been seven seasons but for the Badger football faithful, you finally have a home playoff game to look forward to.
Huge kudos to Badger head coach JD Burnett, staff and players. The Badgers finished the season 8-0 - the first time in school football history that the team went undefeated in the regular season.
“Our 2005 team almost did it,” former coach Aaron Eames said. “We were 9-0 before the 2005 Mountain Bowl. We were ranked No. 1 in the state. We went into Sierra and lost 21-18. It was the worst loss in my coaching career.”
Ultimately YHS went 11-2 for the season losing to David Ausberry’s Lemoore squad in the section finals.
The Badgers weren’t about to let that happen this year, scoring 29 points in the first quarter last Friday against the over-matched Chieftains. It was a near perfect quarter with the offense and special teams scoring TDs.
I’m not going to compare this year’s team to those of the past. It was a different era altogether. You had more players and YHS played in tough conferences.
But this is an 8-0 team that is special. It is so difficult to go undefeated in any sport, and this football team has a lot of underclassmen on it. It’s a team that plays as an ‘independent,’ and frankly didn’t have a strong schedule. Badger opponents were 23-57 overall. Only Mariposa and Bishop had a .500 record (5-5 for the season), and the Badgers took care of business regardless of the records of their opponents.
You would think an undefeated team would get a higher seeding than a No. 4 which YHS got for the upcoming Central Section D-V playoffs. The CIF seeding committee puts a huge emphasis on strength of schedule and they should. Coach Burnett understands this. Still, the No. 4 seed gives the Badger faithful a long deserved home playoff game.
Maybe you have to put an asterisk on this season schedule. But this season will rank as one of the finest coaching jobs I have seen in recent memory. No matter what happens in the playoffs, this was a masterful job by Burnett and staff.
This team has few players (just over 20) and it isn’t deep. Five sophomores (John Alsup, Caleb Burke, Kevin Cruz, Nicholas Harper, and Ernie Jimenez), were crucial to the success of this team. A freshman, Noah Burns is a starter on the line.
Quarterback Tyson Mansfield, a junior, is in his first season as a varsity starter. He wasn’t a starter on JV last season. After the transfer of projected QB starter Tyler Matyshock, Mansfield earned his stripes and hasn’t looked back. He has improved virtually every game and engineered three crucial drives that either won the game or preserved the win. Burnett has instilled confidence in Tyson who is an outstanding leader.
Sophomore running back Nicholas Harper is now a member of the 1,000-yard rushing club with 1,003 yards this season in just eight games. Senior Austen Burgeno has three straight 100-yard games and has amassed 612 yards for the season. Peter Martinez who has played tight end and fullback is a short yardage specialist that gives YHS a three-pronged rushing attack.
Senior Cannon Eames is one of the best receivers in the Valley. Like Harper, Eames is a game-changer. Eames is un-guardable in single coverage. He is also the kicker and kick returner who can change the fortunes of a game in just one play.
Many Badgers have played multiple positions. Look at senior Ty Peterson. The Eagle Scout has earned his football merit badges playing quarterback, left tackle, tight end, linebacker, and long snapper.
Burnett doesn’t script his plays like many coaches. He is the offensive and defensive play caller, and calls a game on what he sees, and almost always makes the right calls.
Playoff game Thursday
On Nov. 17, No. 5 seed Immanuel comes into Badger Stadium with a huge advantage in strength of schedule. But they will play in cold, possibly wet conditions against a team containing many players who won two playoff games in 2016 on the road, and came from behind to win twice this season.
It should be an outstanding contest. Dress warm and be ready for some playoff football. There is nothing like it.