Sports

Coach says Mustangs are primed for ‘breakout year’

Minarets’ Preston Conti eludes the Yosemite defense in the 2017 game. Entering his senior season in 2018, Conti is perhaps the first top-20 Rivals.com athlete (18th for West Coast) in Mountain history. The 6-foot-2 Conti owns all Mustang receiving records and will pad them this season. He is typically double-teamed but still makes big plays. Last year Conti caught 44 passes for 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Minarets’ Preston Conti eludes the Yosemite defense in the 2017 game. Entering his senior season in 2018, Conti is perhaps the first top-20 Rivals.com athlete (18th for West Coast) in Mountain history. The 6-foot-2 Conti owns all Mustang receiving records and will pad them this season. He is typically double-teamed but still makes big plays. Last year Conti caught 44 passes for 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. Special to the Sierra Star

There is huge optimism in O’Neals. It’s about what third-year Minarets High football coach Becher Marr wants to see in his 2018 Mustangs. “We really feel this will be a breakout year,” Marr said. “We had a tremendous summer. The kids are committed and worked hard. It really showed in the weight room and our 7-on-7 tournaments this summer.”

This season Marr and the Mustangs have set their sights on a deep Central Section Division VI playoff run. Minarets will also see two new teams in the West Sequoia League. New to the WSL are Farmersville and Orosi. The WSL still contains D-V power Caruthers as well as Riverdale and Fowler.

The Mustangs are coming off a 2-8 2017 season. Don’t let the record fool you. The team set 37 records. The Mustangs played everyone close early in the year. Mid-season they were hit with a number of injuries. In 2017 Minarets was a preseason top 5 team in D-VI according to MaxPreps. This year the Mustangs start at No. 9.

Marr was proud of the summer 7-on-7 season. “We were very competitive in our three summer leagues,” Marr said. “I was really proud of our performance at the Fresno State 7-on-7 football camp. We played D-I schools and held our own. We competed at a high level and want to continue that momentum into the season.”

Marr said his coaching staff “is close and on the same page. We all feel solid about this season.” Marr will run the offense. Pat Lynch, a long-time Yosemite High assistant, moved to the Mustangs staff. Lynch will be the assistant head coach, head JV coach and running backs coach.

Josh Wisniowski is the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. “Coach Wisniowski and I played semi-pro football together in Clovis for the Wolves,” Marr said. “It is great to have him on our staff.” Drew Marr, the head coach’s brother, was a YHS multi-sport standout. He will handle the defensive backs and wide receivers. Jonas Garner coaches the defensive backs and safeties. Bob Woods handles the offensive line and Daniel Lynch (Pat’s nephew) coaches the defensive line.

The Mustangs will start junior Martin Urroz at quarterback. It will be Urroz’s first varsity season. “Martin does a lot of things,” Marr said. “He is more of a dropback passer but he can run. He is athletic. He has improved his accuracy. I am excited for his season.”

Urroz will have a top-flight receiver to throw to in senior Preston Conti, who is perhaps the first top-20 Rivals.com athlete (18th for West Coast) in Mountain history. The 6-foot-2 Conti owns all Mustang receiving records and will pad them this season. He is typically double-teamed but still makes big plays. Last year Conti caught 44 passes for 1,050 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tyson Ellis, Zach Redman and TJ Garner amassed over 900 yards receiving last season. Jordan Rodkey and Rhett Samper give Urroz more choices. It is a potent group.

Senior running back Tyson Ellis returns from a 600-yard, three-touchdown season in 2017. Garner will see a lot of carries but is a threat in the passing game.

The offensive and defensive line is huge. “Our line had an incredible offseason,” Marr said. “They worked hard and competed.” This group has size but is also strong. The line includes Moises Agundez, Dimitri Bello, John Rodriguez and transfer Simeon Williams. Together this group averages a college-like 280 pounds. Other line core include: Robert Barr, Christian Varner and Tyler Zea. “We have really good athletes on this line who are talented enough to play beyond high school,” Marr said. “Our staff will help them get there.”

The linebackers include Ellis and Nick Taylor. “Both had great summers,” Marr said. The defensive backfield includes top Mustang athletes. Garner and Redman are at safeties while Clayton Davis and Sexton will play the corners. Sexton is a three-year starter.

The Mustangs scrimmaged McLane on Aug. 10. The Minarets season includes rivalry games. Never mind it is a new school, games against Mariposa, Yosemite and Sierra are circled on the calendar. The Mustangs open up hosting Mariposa on Friday, Aug. 17. The Badgers come to O’Neals on Aug. 31. It is then time for the WSL. “We take only one game at a time,” Marr said. “For sure it is fun for the community to see rivalry games, but we don’t point to any one game. ”

Home opener vs. Mariposa

The Mustangs open their season hosting the Grizzlies of Mariposa on Friday, Aug. 17. Start times are 5 p.m. JV, 7 p.m. varsity, but check the school website to get updates on the game in case of poor air quality.

The 2018 Mariposa Grizzlies are in a state of flux. In mid-summer head coach Ryan Oliphant (2013-2017) stepped down from head coaching duties citing health concerns, according to the Mariposa Gazette. Longtime Grizzly assistant Robert Stitt was named the interim head coach.

The 2017 Grizzlies were 5-6 overall and 4-3 in the Southern Conference of the Sac-Joaquin Section. The Grizzlies are a D-VI team in the Sac-Joaquin.

Key returners: Senior QB Colton Weidner, who accounted for 2,740 yards (2,242 passing) in 2017. Weidner threw for 15 touchdowns to 14 picks and was third on the team in rushing with 498 yards and five touchdowns. Senior running back Logan Donati had 667 yards on 135 carries and seven touchdowns. He is a threat in the passing game. Junior Leo Kari (504 yards, 3 TDs), sophomore JC Davies (486 yards, 4 TDs) and Johnathan Chapman (280 yards, 2 TDs) give Weidner solid targets in the wide receiver corps. On defense senior Ryan Leonard led the Grizzlies with 124 tackles (11 per game).

2018 Minarets football schedule

Aug. 17 vs. Mariposa, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24 bye

Aug. 31 vs. Yosemite, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Tranquillity, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Fowler*, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 vs. Orange Cove*, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Parlier*, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 at Caruthers*, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 Orosi*, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Sierra, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26 Riverdale*, 7 p.m.

* West Sequoia League game

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