Friday night football returned to Badger Stadium Sept. 18, as the smoky skies from the Rough Fire cleared. The Badger’s Sept. 11 game against Corcoran, like many throughout the Central Valley, was canceled due to the poor air quality.
Last Friday the Badgers, looking for its first win of the season and hoping to break its 19-game losing streak, faced the Rough Riders of Fresno’s Roosevelt High School. Roosevelt came in at 0-2 being outscored by a total 58-6 in losses to Chavez and Madera.
If the Rough Riders thought this Badger squad would perform like they did in last season’s 51-6 loss, they were mistaken.
Yosemite overcame a 14-0 Roosevelt start, and tied the score deep into the fourth quarter - but an 82-yard run by Daniel Love allowed Roosevelt to escape with a 28-21 win. The fact that Yosemite almost pulled off the upset with 18 players compared to more than 50 for Roosevelt.
“We were not as athletic nor did we have a lot of players compared to Roosevelt,” YHS Coach JD Burnett said. “You have to do other things right to win. We won the turnover battle. We had three takeaways and didn’t turn the ball over. We won on special teams, pinning them deep and recovering an on-side kick. We scored on defense. We also won time of possession. So yes, they had more players but because we executed better in other facets, we almost pulled out the win.”
The Rough Riders got going early. Roosevelt blocked a Tanner Meeks punt recovering on the YHS 48, and five plays later (all on the ground), Love scored the first of his three touchdowns.
Yosemite started their next drive at its 35. Yosemite moved the ball on the ground with senior Meeks, somphomore Jesse De La Cruz, and junior quarterback Tristan Eames. Twice during the drive, Burnett went for the first on fourth down, but eventually the drive stalled at the Roosevelt 41.
“We have nothing to lose,” Burnett said. “I had confidence in our offensive line and we needed to set the tone on the ground early.”
Roosevelt took over and scored on a seven-play drive. Quarterback Jonny Rico scored on a QB keeper from the eight-yard line, giving Roosevelt the 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The Badger defense stopped Roosevelt on their next two possessions. Meeks picked off a Rico pass after a tip, and on Roosevelt’s last drive of the half, Badger defensive back Dylan Rounsivill made an athletic interception. The Badgers went into halftime down 14-0 with confidence.
The Badger defense got it started early in the third quarter. Meeks’ 58-yard punt was downed at the Roosevelt one-yard line. The next play Rico fumbled the exchange, and Badger senior linebacker Hunter Fisk recovered in the end zone. Meeks kicked the extra point, closing the gap to 14-7 with six minutes to play in the third quarter. The crowd was in it and the players knew they had a shot of winning.
Roosevelt quickly moved the ball to the Badger five. The Badger D stiffened to force a fourth and 1, before Love took it up the middle to answer the YHS score. Roosevelt was up 21-7 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
Despite cramps in his right ankle, Eames directed a Badger scoring drive, including a 28-yard completion to sophomore brother Cannon to the Roosevelt 15. On third and eight, Tristan Eames scrambled, threw off his back foot and hit Cannon deep in the end zone.
Meeks made the point after to cut Roosevelt’s lead to 21-14.
Burnett then called for an onside kick that caught the Rough Riders off guard. The Meeks kick was recovered by Austen Burgeno at the Rough Rider 44. On a fourth and 10 from the Roosevelt 43, Eames rolled right, threw cross-field to an open Ty Peterson who rambled 38 yards to the Roosevelt four yard line. Backed up to the Roosevelt 10, Tristan rolled right and fired a bullet to brother Cannon in the right corner of the end zone.
Meeks split the uprights for the point after, and with 9:42 left in the game, the score was tied at 21 each, with the possibility of a huge upset anticipated by the Badger crowd of more than 1,000.
Roosevelt then started deep in their own territory at the 18, but on the first play, Love broke through the Badger defense, cut right and raced untouched to the end zone for an 82-yard score. Love would finish with 212 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns.
YHS started their next possession at their own 40. Eames directed a long drive gutting it out on a sore left leg. On a third and eight, he hit Cannon on a 11-yard pass for a first down. Although De La Cruz ran for 11 yards, and Eames hit Rounsivill for a 16-yard pass to the Rough Rider 22, the Badger’s would go no further as the Roosevelt defense held.
It was a solid showing for the Badgers.
Tristan Eames was 8-20 for 116 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. His brother Cannon had both touchdown receptions, catching four passes for 66 yards.
The Badger’s rushing was led by De La Cruz who ran 21 times for 53 yards. Meeks had 15 yards on five carries, and Tristan Eames had 17 yards. The offensive line kept drives alive with key blocks, as Burnett stayed committed to the ground game.
Burnett cited the play of left tackle Kevin Bulawsky “who played flawlessly ... our line kept drives alive and it took time off the clock. This unit is improving every week and did a great job tonight.”
Roosevelt won the JV game, 42-7.
On the road to Mendota
YHS has a tough road test with the Aztecs of Mendota this Friday. Since 2011 Mendota has an overall record of 41-11 and are past CIF Central Section D-VI champions in 2011, and 2012.
In 2014, Mendota was featured on ESPN’s Outside the Lines program outlining the success of the football program under Coach Robert Mejia, despite tough economic conditions of the Valley’s West Side. The City of Mendota has justifiable pride in its football program, that brought national attention to the plight of Central Valley communities.
Mendota (9-4 in 2014) has reached the playoffs four straight years and beat YHS in Oakhurst 48-20 last season. Currently Mendota is 1-2. After defeating Sierra 42-6, the Aztecs have lost to Liberty 33-14 and Immanuel 31-21.
The Aztecs are led by junior quarterback Junior Cardenas. Cardenas has passed for 314 yards and is 20 for 46 with one touchdown. The running game is led by sophomore running backs Marquez Navarro (207 yards on 22 attempts), and Erick Segura (92 yards on 10 attempts). Segura’s brother Edgar Segura left Mendota as the Central Section’s all-time leader in rushing yards and scoring.
Game times are 5 p.m. JV - 7 p.m. varsity.