Sports

New coach leads Badgers back into NSL

Nic Harper, Yosemite’s leading rusher in 2017, pulls away from Minarets defenders during the Badgers’ 27-14 victory last season in Oakhurst, the second meeting ever between the schools in football. The budding Mountain Area rivals meet this season on Aug. 31 in O’Neals.
Nic Harper, Yosemite’s leading rusher in 2017, pulls away from Minarets defenders during the Badgers’ 27-14 victory last season in Oakhurst, the second meeting ever between the schools in football. The budding Mountain Area rivals meet this season on Aug. 31 in O’Neals. Sierra Star archive

The 2018 season brings two big changes for Yosemite High football. First, Chance Sigala takes over as head coach. Second, Yosemite will move back into North Sequoia League play after a two-year absence.

Sigala inherits a program on a solid foundation. YHS is coming off a 9-1 season with two-straight playoff appearances while playing as an independent under former head coach JD Burnett. Burnett, a former YHS player, compiled a 19-13 overall record in three years at YHS, including an 18-5 record the last two years. Burnett is now at McLane High in Fresno. It was Burnett’s idea to go independent, knowing in three years YHS would make the return to the NSL. That time is now.

Sigala knows what that means. The players needed to get even bigger and stronger. “We had a great summer in the weight room,” Sigala said. “Success starts with a total commitment to get better. It starts in the summer. The commitment from our players was there from day one. They bought into our system and what we want to do.”

For Sigala, that’s a return to the Central Section Division V playoffs (the Badgers are No. 4 in the MaxPreps preseason rankings) and making a run in the NSL. The NSL is considered by many area football coaches as one of the best small-school divisions in the Central Section. Teams like Liberty, Kerman, Chowchilla and Washington Union are perennial playoff teams as well as former section titlists. For YHS, this will be a far more challenging schedule versus the last two years.

The Badgers travel to their first game against Riverdale on Friday, Aug. 17. “The season starts early and we are prepared for that,” Sigala said. The team had to make adjustments in preseason practice. With the air quality at hazardous levels, practices have been mostly indoors the last few weeks. For Sigala, it is a positive. “We are adjusting. Indoor practices allow us to focus on lifting, game knowledge and specific situations.”

This is Sigala’s first head coaching stint. Sigala, a 2007 graduate of Clovis High, played under legendary head coach Tim Simons. Sigala played at Nevada under Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault, the inventor of the pistol offense. Sigala finished his collegiate career at West Alabama. “I had great mentors in football that helped me shape what I want to see in a program. I’m happy to be at a program with a strong tradition like Yosemite football.”

Sigala has assembled a solid staff: Erik Peterson (defensive coordinator, special teams), Jim Carter (defensive backs), Brent Cunnings (offensive and defensive lines), Mike Gibson (running backs), Mike Miller (offensive line), Scott Rold (wide receivers and defensive backs), and Ed Wean (linebackers, JV defensive coordinator). Sigala is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Mike Haynes handles the team’s logistics.

The Badgers are talented, balanced, and young. Most players are used to winning either in high school or in youth. Most have played two years of playoff football. But even starters last year are battling. “Many starting positions are not set,” Sigala said last week. “We promote competition every day in every position.” The challenge will be to adjust to the physical NSL.

At quarterback, YHS is blessed with two talented players. Last year’s varsity starter Tyson Mansfield and Jadyn Carter, the 2017 JV starter, are in a battle for the starting position. “Tyson brings great experience as a player and leader,” Sigala said. “He can throw on the run. Jadyn is a great athlete who can do lots of things on the field.”

The Badgers have a solid rotation at running back. Last year’s leading rusher junior Nic Harper leads a core that includes Diego Combs, Ernie Jimenez, Justin Micallef, Matt Dugovic and Kyler Schaeffer. “I really like this group,” Sigala said. “They are athletic, versatile, and talented.”

The receiving corps also contains talented but young athletes. Sophomore Steven Baker was brought up to varsity last season, then had a tremendous track season improving his speed. He has great hands. Senior basketball star Paul Antonis will be a threat on the outside and in the end zone. Sophomore Holden Eames is a playmaker. Chris Fuller, Nick Pierce and Kevin Welborn will be in the mix and give Mansfield or Carter excellent targets.

Tight ends Dylan Allen, Ethan Coffman, John Nisar and Gabe Swigart will see playing time. “Our tight ends can catch and block,” Sigala said.

The offensive and defensive lines will be foundational for the success of the Badgers this season. “I like our line,” Sigala said. “They all worked hard this summer. They had to. It was competitive. Most will play both sides of the ball. The rotation consists of Caleb Burke, Noah Burns, Troy Fite, Nicolas Guynn, Sean Miller, George Olmedo and Ryan O’Meara.”

Combs, Dugovic, Harper, Micallef, Nisar and Swigart will form the linebacking corps. “Gabe had an outstanding summer and he brings it every play,” Sigala said.

Baker, Eames and Mansfield will be at safety and Carter, Jimenez, Schaeffer and others will play defensive back. “Our best athletes will be playing in the defensive backfield,” Sigala said.

The Badgers play an intriguing preseason. Games against Mariposa and Minarets are now rivalry games. The Badgers will also host McLane and JD Burnett. Then the Badgers get the North Sequoia League. As a grand finale YHS will host Sierra (now a freelance team) for the 37th annual Mountain Bowl.

Earlier this year Sigala spoke to the Yosemite Football Boosters. Sigala is very focused on a great experience for the Badger faithful. “We will bring a tough, well-prepared team for our fans. We want it to be a great experience for the community. We play some rivalry games and we are back in the NSL. It will be a fun season.”

YHS opens against Riverdale

The Badgers travel to Riverdale for their 2018 opener. Riverdale of the West Sequoia League was a solid 9-3 overall and 3-1 in the WSL. Riverdale made it to the Central Section D-VI playoffs where the Cowboys lost 42-28 to Rosamond. JV starts at 5:30 p.m. and Varsity at 7:30 p.m.

2018 YHS football schedule

Aug. 17 at Riverdale, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24 vs. Parlier, 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Minarets, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 at Mariposa, 7:15 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. McLane, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 bye

Sept. 28 vs. Liberty*, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Kerman*, 7 p.m.

Oct.. 12 at Chowchilla*, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Washington Union*, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26 vs. Sierra, 7 p.m.

* North Sequoia League game

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