The Yosemite Badgers (0-10, 0-5) finished off an imperfect season with a 18-48 home loss to Sierra (7-3, 4-1) marking the 33rd annual Mountain Bowl.
The game was played at Badger Stadium in front of a home crowd who showed support for their team despite the seasons adversities.
The night was highlighted by senior night in which 10 seniors dressed for their final game in Badger blue and were acknowledged by their friends, family and colleagues as they were presented to the home crowd recognizing their hard work and dedication to one of the school’s most coveted sports.
Friday’s game started out as so many others this year with the Chieftains taking the opening drive 52 yards, in six plays, scoring the games first touchdown and putting the Badgers down 0-7.
Despite an unwelcomed start the Badgers responded quickly with a three-play 66-yard touchdown drive of their own. It took the Badgers only 1:45 to strike on a possession which was highlighted by a third down 62-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Tristen Eames who connected with senior wide-out Brandon O’Brien to score the Badger’s first touchdown of the night. After backing the extra point attempt to the Chieftains 13-yard line, following two false starts, the Badgers failed on the PAT putting them down 6-7 early in the first quarter.
Early on it was evident the Chieftains looked to control the tempo of the game by dominating the line of scrimmage while running on 14 of its first 15 plays. The Chieftains caped off its second 9-play 53-yard drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Tristan Rehorn giving Sierra a 14-6 lead.
The Badgers who responded on their next possession by going three and out.
Despite their offensive struggles, which plagued the Yosemite all year long, it was evident the Badgers were not going out without a fight. After O’Brien booted a short punt out-of-bounds, the Chieftains took over at midfield. During the drive, in an attempt to send their seniors out with a win, Jonathan Zohos forced a rare fumble on their own 38 yard line., unfortunately for the Badgers the bounce did not go their way as Sierra recovered the ball. Making things worse the Chieftains took full advantage of the lucky bounce driving the ball 50 yards in nine plays and capping the drive off with a three-yard touchdown run by Mike Waters putting the Chieftains up 21-6.
The Badgers attempted to answer with a late first half touchdown of its own. On a crucial third-and-10 Eames ran for 14 yards followed immediately by another 10-yard quarterback keeper. After two back-to-back first downs the Badgers drive stalled and were forced to punt following a 1-yard rush and two incomplete passes.
With the game still within reach the Badgers defense, led by 6-foot 2-inch 278-pound senior tackle Jonathan Zohos, held the Chieftains to a quick three and out forcing Sierra to punt for the first time on the night.
The Badger then turned the ball over on downs following a botched snap during a punt by O’Brien.
On the next play Sierra’s Rehorn, who ran for 87 yards on 9 carries, slipped several tackles before rushing for a 24-yard touchdown giving Sierra a 28-6 lead.
After a touchback the Badgers started their drive from the 20. Following a short run by and and incomplete pass the Badgers connected on another third down conversion with a Eames pass to senior Hunter Fisk for a 48-yard gain to the Chieftains 35. The Badgers were threatening to score but a snap over the head of Eames in the shotgun position snap and a loss of 29 the Badgers were forced to punt with 37 seconds remaining in the half. The Chieftains ran the clock out and the Badgers headed to the locker rooms down 6 - 28.
The Badger’s offense started the second half with the ball but could not gain momentum subsequent to a 1:30 possession ending with an O’Brien punt to the Chieftains 30.
Sierra used misdirection to keep the Badgers guessing all night, changing hands between Smith and Rohorn, the teams top yardage leaders. Smith punctuated Sierra’s first second half drive with a 25-yard touchdown run to cap off a 70-yard drive, putting the Chieftain up 6-35.
The night did not get much better for the Badgers led by a 7-play drive led by Eames’ 59 yards ended in a turn-over-on-downs
The Badgers defense stepped up in the second half forcing a turnover on downs after stopping the Chieftains at its own 48 yard line.
After a roughing the passer penalty on second down moved the ball to the 33 the Badgers used the momentum to score on a 32-yard run by Eames. A missed extra point by made the score 12-35.
Sierra responded by scoring from their own 45 on a 14-yard run and 31-yard pass from Smith to senior wide receiver Mike Waters making it 12-42 following a failed two-point conversions attempt. After a Badger three and out the Chieftains Jimmy Linder scored their final touchdown in seven plays making it 12-48.
Despite the hardships faced throughout the night, and the season, the Badgers resiliency was clear during the final drive of the game. Despite being down 12-48 the Badgers put together the longest drive of the night which ending in a 7-yard touchdown run by Eames.
With time winding down, following a deep 43-yard completion to Fisk, the Badgers were on the 7-yard line with time 12 seconds left on the clock. In a designed quarterback sneak Eames was met at the goal line by a Sierra defender who forced a fumble. To the surprise of the team and fans, Badgers senior running back Derrick Azevedo fell on the ball in the endzone as time expired finishing off the game, and the season, with a touchdown. The game, and season, was over as the Badgers fell to the Chieftains 18-48.
In spite of the score the Badgers had one of their best nights offensively totaling 273 offensive yards which fell second on the season only to the week 4 (Sept. 26) against Mendota when the Badgers racked up 348 yards. Sophomore Eames, who finished his first season as starting quarterback following an injury to three year, senior quarterback Joey Woolsey, led the team in total yardage including a team high 115 rushing yards, 140 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Sierra totaled 443 offensive yards against the Badgers defense which found itself defending its own side of the field for most of the night.
Friday’s win brings Sierra one game closer to the overall lead in Mountain Bowl wins. The Badgers currently lead the overall wins record with 17 wins to Sierra’s 16.
The Badgers, who finished the season averaging 6.6 points per game and allowing 53.3 points per game, will look to rebound next year with several returning players and some talented JV players including JV start running back Jesse DeLaCruz who ran the ball on a limited basis after being called up to varsity three weeks ago.
The 0-10 season marks the second time in three years the team has gone winless.
Despite their record Lincoln said he was proud of his players for sticking through to the end. After the game Lincoln spoke with his players of adversity and how proud the coaches were that the players fought through everything to be a team and a family.
“I honor those seniors who only won one game in the varsity career, yet worked everyday to make it two,” Lincoln said.
An awards banquette will be held Monday, Dec. 7 at the Oakhurst Senior Center where the team and individuals will be recognized for their accomplishments and dedication.