The 2018 Badger football season ended Nov. 2 at Caruthers, where the host Blue Raiders led from start to finish defeating Yosemite 57-20 in the Central Section Division V football playoffs.
The West Sequoia League-champion Blue Raiders (11-0, 6-0) are the No. 2 seed. YHS (5-6, 0-4 North Sequoia League) was the 15th seed. The Badgers end their 2018 campaign playing in their third-straight playoff appearance.
“The game was a fun but hard-fought battle,” Badger head coach Chance Sigala said. “I felt our kids played their best all-around game all year. They left so much heart on that field. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for. We made some mental mistakes at the beginning and it took time to catch our rhythm on offense. Once we got going we sparked a couple of big drives.”
Caruthers scored the first 29 points and never looked back. Yosemite wideout Paul Antonis caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyson Mansfield and the Badgers closed the gap to 29-7 at halftime.
Caruthers running back Chris Puga scored on a 7-yard run to start the third quarter. Yosemite answered with Nicholas Harper catching a 22-yard touchdown pass from Mansfield. At the end of three, Caruthers commanded a 36-13 lead.
Puga scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Overall, Puga ran for five touchdowns. Ernie Jimenez had a career-best 85-yard kickoff return for touchdown to complete the scoring for the Badgers.
The difference was the Blue Raider pressure defense. Mansfield was sacked nine times for 47 yards in losses. The constant pressure forced Mansfield into two interceptions. Yosemite had minus-23 yards rushing for the game. Yosemite’s 20 points were the highest point total allowed by the Blue Raider defense in 2018.
Mansfield leaves Yosemite as a winner. He led his teams to the playoffs for two straight years. The 2017 season included three game-winning/preserving drives and a playoff win as well as winning his first nine starts. On defense, Mansfield led all YHS defenders with eight tackles against Caruthers.
Sophomore athlete Holden Eames had highlights on both offense and defense. Eames caught five passes for 73 yards and also had his seventh interception of the season to stop a Caruthers scoring drive. Eames also kicked an extra point.
Eames who had a tremendous overall season was named All-North Sequoia League first team as a wide receiver. Eames was the only Badger named NSL first team. Eames’ seven interceptions led the NSL. He returned four of them for scores.
Antonis caught two long passes for 67 yards and a score against Caruthers. The senior fought through injuries all season and gave a solid performance in his last game.
Junior Nicholas Harper ran 10 times for 42 yards and caught a 22-yard pass for a score.
Puga did it all for Caruthers. Besides running for five touchdowns, Puga threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Brady Pease in the first quarter and completed a pass for a two-point conversion.
The Badgers are a young team with a strong corps of underclassmen. It is now the third straight year of playoff football for Yosemite. All of the YHS losses were to playoff teams.
Coach Sigala is very positive about what he and his staff are building. “It was a great game to gain experience,” Sigala said. “It shows our kids they have a bright future in this program. We will use this to springboard us into next season. I saw a lot of positives from this game. It will be exciting to see this team grow.”
Caruthers will play No. 7 seed Firebaugh (8-3, 5-0) on Friday in the quarterfinals. Last week, Firebaugh defeated No. 10 Fowler 47-12.
In a huge upset, No. 13 Lindsay defeated NSL champion and No. 4 Liberty-Madera Ranchos 37-34. No. 14 McLane, which has been beset with injuries in its first season under former Yosemite coach JD Burnett, was defeated by No. 3 Kennedy 57-15.
Caruthers 57, Yosemite 20
C: Bobby Staley 45 yard run (2PAT - Erick Gonzalez 3 yard pass from Chris Puga)
C: Puga 1 yard run (Leonel Pena kick)
C: Brady Pease 48 yard pass from Puga (Pena kick)
C: Puga 3 yard run (Pena kick)
Y: Paul Antonis 32 yard pass from Tyson Mansfield (Zachary Palmer kick)
C: Puga 7 yard run (Pena kick)
Y: Nicholas Harper 22 yard pass from Mansfield (Dylan Allen kick failed)
C: Puga 5 yard run (Pena kick failed)
Y: Ernie Jimenez 85 yard kickoff return (Holden Eames kick)
C: Puga 37 yard run (2PAT - Gonzalez 3 yard pass from Puga)
C: Isaac DeLa Rosa 1 yard run (Pena kick)
Yosemite Offensive Stats:
Passing: Tyson Mansfield 8-15-162-2 TDs-2 INTs
Receiving: Holden Eames 5-73, Paul Antonis 2-67, Nicholas Harper 1-22.
Rushing [21-(-23)]: Nicholas Harper 10-42, Holden Eames 1-0, Tyson Mansfield 10-(-65)/9 Sacks.