The Aug. 27 Mariposa, Yosemite, and Minarets three-team football scrimmage Aug. 27 at Minarets High School before about 200 fans provided players a chance to play full-speed contact before the season opens this week, while assisting coaches in identifying their teams strengths and weaknesses.
First year Yosemite Head Coach JD Burnett was encouraged at what the Badgers brought to the field - they displayed their “spread” offense and moved the ball with ease in their first scrimmage against the Mustangs first team defense.
Junior quarterback Tristan Eames looked comfortable in the pocket and threw the ball well in passing situations. The Badgers scored on the Mustangs three times in the first session of 20 plays from offense and spread the ball well.
Eames used all his weapons from running backs Jesse De La Cruz and Josh Jackson to wideouts Cannon Eames, and Cass Moreno, as the Badgers looked to have the Mustangs number early on.
Burnett’s defense also looked sharp intercepting several balls while deflecting several others. First year player Tanner Meeks showed good athleticism as he is learning the basics of the game. What the Badgers lack in size and numbers, they make up in talent. The team is very athletic and may surprise some teams as they enter the season on an 18-game losing streak.
That being said, Yosemite faces a brutal schedule this year with games against much larger Mendota, Liberty, Kerman, Chowchilla, and Washington Union. With 19 players, staying healthy will be the Badgers biggest obstacle but the team should be much more competitive this season.
“It was a good scrimmage,” said Burnett. “Our players worked hard ... it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Tristan made some good decisions. It’s unfortunate they blow the whistle so soon in these scrimmages (to protect the QBs) because he’s really good with his feet. There were a couple times he broke out and would have had some good plays but in this format, he couldn’t really show what he’s capable of.”
The Mustangs did not look very sharp at the beginning of the scrimmage, but improved with each series both on offense and defense as the evening went on.
The Mustangs held the Badgers scoreless in their second go-around after giving up three easy scores the first series. Quarterback Luke Pritchett hit several receivers in the hands, only to have balls fall incomplete. The Mustangs struggled with clean, center to quarterback exchanges, killing several plays, as well as running back hand offs.
The Mustangs defense did well against the Grizzles, a team they will play in their second game of the season, Sept. 11.
“We were going at them, mainly for attitude, intensity, tempo, and we got it,” said Mustang Head Coach Bob Kelly. “We were ragged in a lot of different places but we had some guys step up. Mason (Ellis) looked good, and Luke (Pritchett), in his first varsity action, handled the huddle real well. He needs to make some better throws, and he will, but now he has his feet on the ground.”
Kelly said his line is in a learning process and they’re getting better.
“Coach Cordle and Varner are excited about what we have ... there are a couple players that could be All-League, but they’re not there yet,” Kelly said. “We see the glimpses every so often that give us hope, such as Sam Smith ... he’s solid ... we are real happy with the intensity the Austin Niblet brings, and Geno Hess has been a great surprise. We’ll also get some of our veterans in the mix. Grant Denny is a big, great kid, and he’s leaning football on the run.”
Badgers and Mustangs home Friday night
The Badgers open the season Friday hosting the Selma Bears. As good as the Badgers looked in the scrimmage, they will have to play their best game to hang against the Bears. Selma dropped their season opener to Burnett’s former team, Kerman, 38-28 last week.
The Bears, coached by Matt Logue, enjoy a 45 man roster, rich with 20 seniors. Henry Ramirez will be at quarterback for the Bears. He is as good with his feet as he is with his arm and should give the Badgers defense a big test. He led the Bears with 85 rushing yards last week.
“Offensively, Selma will run out of a pistol wing-T formation,” Burnett said. “They have a strong run attack and good receivers. Defensively, they incorporate an aggressive 3-4 defense.”
Running backs are juniors Joel Aranda and Jordan Dominguez. Junior Sergio Pena and sophomore Tiveon Stroud are the main receivers.
The key for YHS is giving Eames time to throw. With the line play vastly improved, Eames will get a chance to target a talented set of Badger wide outs, and he is not afraid to run when opportunity arises.
Game time for the Badgers kick-off is 7 p.m. with JV playing at 5 p.m.
The Mustangs open their season hosting the Chieftains of Sierra Friday night.
“We’re looking forward to Sierra,” Kelly said. “We know what they are going to bring ... it’s a big, heavy load, and we’re going to have to attack them if we are going to give ourselves a chance.”
The Chieftains lost to Mendota 42-6 last week. Sierra's sophomore quarterback Tristan Wilson was 5 of 12 for 31 yards in the loss. Dakota Torres had nine carries for 79 yards.
This may be the Mustangs year, as they have yet to beat the Chieftains in football. Special teams may prove to be the difference in this game. Look for Kelly to keep the ball on the ground and in the hands of Ellis as much as possible. The talented football player has been putting in the work this off season and should put Minarets in the win column, as well as make his mark on the valley football scene.
Minarets has a young team but play a favorable schedule this season, enjoying five home games, as well as playing several teams thought to be in developing seasons. The Mustangs, behind Ellis, have the chance to make their first playoff appearance if Pritchett and the team progress as they should, and like the Badgers, staying healthy will be the key to a successful season.
The Mustangs kick-off at 7:30 p.m., with JV playing at 5 p.m.