After a turnaround season that saw the Yosemite High School football team go from a 0-9 record in 2015 to 9-4 with five shutouts, two Central Section D-V playoff wins, and seven new school records this season, the team celebrated at a Dec. 5 awards banquet.
“We worked hard this season, starting in the summer and were committed,” said Head Coach JD Burnett. “It’s a good life lesson - to be successful you must have commitment. I’m proud of this team. There’s no place else I would rather be.”
YHS snapped a 27-game losing streak and recorded one of the school’s all-time great playoff wins when they, as the No. 10 seed, beat No. 2 seed Dos Palos in the D-V playoffs. Unofficially the team’s nine wins rank fifth all-time.
The Badgers also rushed for an all-time seasonal high of 3,040 yards on 457 attempts averaging 6.7 yards per carry and scoring 33 TDs.
The Badgers set the single-game record of 506 yards rushing at Mariposa in a 51-38 victory on Sept. 16 during the reunion of the Golden Nugget Bowl.
The team dropped out of the North Sequoia League this season, playing as an independent against schools of similar size.
Senior quarterback Tristan Eames was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and his brother, junior Cannon, was named Most Valuable Offensive Player. Tristan, the three-year starter who didn’t win a game as a starter until this year, saved the best for last.
A dual-threat quarterback, Eames accounted for 33 touchdowns (22 passing and 11 rushing) and a combined 2,300 yards. Eames was 119-240 for 1,741 yards passing and ran for 548 yards on 109 attempts. He ran 35 times for first downs. His 99-yard TD pass to receiver Cass Moreno last season is the longest in school history.
“Tristan had a phenomenal year,” Burnett said. “He is the most competitive quarterback I have ever coached. Tristan never gave up on a play. He was a dual-threat quarterback who made amazing things happen. He was our leader but did it in his own way. I’m very proud of the year he had.”
Brother Cannon also had an an outstanding season. He re-wrote three YHS receiving records in just his junior season, with 15 TD receptions good for second all-time to Bradly Wilkinson’s 17 in 2006. Cannon’s 1,129 yards receiving is good for second all-time next to Jon Blea’s 1,175 yards in 2004.
“Cannon had one of the best receiving seasons in Yosemite history,” Burnett said. “Much of Cannon’s yardage came in an amazing playoff run. In three games he had 29 receptions for 446 yards and 5 TDs.”
Cannon also started returning kicks late in the year and into the playoffs. Against Lindsay in the playoffs, Cannon had a 95-yard kickoff return.
Most Valuable Defensive Player was senior linebacker Peter Martinez, and Lineman of the Year was senior right tackle Kevin Bulawsky. In only his second season playing football, Bu lawsky “was a model of consistency,” Offensive Line Coach Brian Johnson said. Bulawksky anchored a strong group of linemen including Martinez, Ty Peterson, Klay Kliest, Dylan De La Cruz, Clayton Burke, Adam Van Zant, Bowen Cunnings, Orion Olah and tight ends Jacob Werber and Tyler Matyshock.
Although no official records exist, the offensive line allowed only three sacks this season.
The Iron Man award went to 5-foot-5, 161-pound junior running back Luke Howell, playing football for just his second season due to an injury earlier in his career. Howell, along with senior running back Johnny Varian (1,147 yards) might be the only dual 1,000-yard rushers in YHS history.
“Luke is such a hard worker,” Burnett said. “He had 27 tough carries against Dos Palos and it was big for us. We could count on him and he didn’t fumble.”
Clayton Burke and Klay Kliest were co-winners of the Most Improved Player Award. “They improved our line so much and were a key reason we rushed for over 3,000 yards as a team,” Burnett said.
Van Zant also received the Coach’s Award. “Adam did so much for the program,” Burnett said. “Whatever we needed him to do, he did it. He was at practices early and helped our coaching staff. We will really miss him.”
Scholar athletes were also announced: Bulawasky, Van Zant, Martinez, Joe Campbell, Dalin Haas, Ben Negley, and Jacob Rounsvill.
New school records
There were seven new records set during the 2016 season:
☆ Most team rushing yards in a season: 3,040.
☆ Most team rushing yards in a game: 506.
☆ Most point after kicks in a game: Joe Campbell 7 (ties Casey Lucas - 2004).
☆ Most receptions in a season: Cannon Eames 63.
☆ Most receptions in a game: Cannon Eames 13
☆ Most career receiving TDs: Cannon Eames 22
☆ Lowest team rushing yardage allowed in game: -99 vs. Le Grand
JV players recognized
JV Head Coach Matt Pressly and defensive coordinator Pat Lynch reviewed the JV team’s 4-6 season afer it ended with a solid 20-0 shutout against rival Sierra. The four wins were more than the 2011-2015 seasons combined.
“It was fun to coach and watch this team,” Pressly said. “We were competitive in every game. In the end we were on a roll. We did this with mostly freshmen and only four sophomores.”
Nic Harper was named the team’s Outstanding Offensive Player and TJ Garner was named Outstanding Defensive Player. The Most Improved award went to Ryan O’Meara and the Coach’s Award went to Chris Flores.
The Badger Football Boosters provided dinner and dessert.
“Our boosters are such an important piece of the puzzle and worked hard the behind the scenes all season,” Burnett told the gathering. “They are appreciated and a critical part of our success.”