The Yosemite “Junior” Badgers youth football team won the Tri-County Super Bowl Nov. 21, defeating the Firebaugh Eagles 38-34 at Sierra High.
The Badgers earned the right to compete for the Super Bowl title by achieving a 9-1 record, and winning the Tri-County East Division. On Nov. 14, the team avenged its only loss of the season by overwhelming a bigger and more physical football team, the Kerman Lions, 30-0.
Firebaugh came into last Saturday’s Super Bowl as the West Division Champions, with a 9-1 record.
Jadyn Carter started the scoring for the Badgers by rushing for two first-half touchdowns. The second scamper was for 52 yards cutting back against the defense and leaving many Firebaugh defenders grasping at air.
Despite the strong performance from Carter, the Badgers found themselves down 26-14 with under two minutes to play in the first half. Then, Steven Baker found the end zone by intercepting a Firebaugh pass and taking it all the way back for six points. Zach Palmer kicked the two-pointer pulling the Badgers within four points, 26-22.
“The pick-six kept us close, but more importantly, it gave us momentum going into halftime,” said coach Randy Matyshock.
Carter started the third quarter by hitting Baker on a 53-yard TD pass on their first possession. Momentum was lost shortly after that however, as the Badgers gave up another touchdown and failed to get anything going offensively.
The defense was able to keep the game within striking distance with some relentless play from Rylan Matyshock, Kyler Schaffer, Drake Airey, and the rest of the Badger defense.
With less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Badgers were defending from their own 25, down 34-30.
The defense, led by standout lineman Sean Miller, stopped the Eagles on fourth and short, turning the ball over to the offense with just 1:47 left in the game.
Carter then put together a scoring drive that was ahead of his years. Operating with no timeouts, Carter led the offense down the field with several scrambles to pick up yardage and get out of bounds to stop the clock. He also completed passes to multiple receivers including a great first down reception by Tyler Archer.
With the clock ticking down to 27 seconds, Carter threw the ball up to Holden Eames, who outjumped two Eagle defenders to come down with the ball and maneuver his way into the end zone. The Palmer kick made the final score Badgers 38, Eagles 34.
With just 22 seconds on the game clock, the Badgers pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory after the ensuing kickoff. The Badger defense stepped up once again, stopping the Eagle offense to clinch the Super Bowl Championship. As time expired the large Badger crowd rushed the field to congratulate the outstanding effort and resiliency the young Badgers showed throughout this season.
QB Carter had confidence in his team.
“I knew if our defense got us the ball back, we were going to score and win the game, and that’s just what we did,” Carter said.
Referring to a challenge that Yosemite High coach JD Burnett gave to the team during his speaking appearance two nights before the big game, Coach Mike Gibson approached Burnett after the game and asked, “Did that look like Mountain Ball?” Burnett had told the players he wanted them to take pride in the physical, relentless style of play that Yosemite was known for in the late 80s through the early 2000s, a style of play that has eluded the program recently.
Burnett’s message was not the only one players had heard that week. Coach Matyshock wanted to make the week as special as possible for his players so he set up speakers for each night after practice, including Pat Lynch, Aaron Eames, and Dr. Watts all gave advice and shared how important Badger football has been to them and the mountain community. A team dinner celebration was also held at Coarsegold School the night before the game for players, cheerleaders and coaches.
The Junior Youth Cheer team has also caused a few eyebrows to raise this season. Led by coaches Jody Burnett, and Jodi VanValkenburg, the squad has performed several routines this season showcasing the girl’s dance technique, stunting, and tumbling.
During the Super Bowl halftime, the team performed a near flawless routine choreographed by Jessica Hansard from Yosemite Dance Company in Oakhurst.
The junior cheer team recently placed third overall in the Eastern Tri-County Cheer competition.
Awards banquet Dec. 6
The Yosemite High Football Booster Club is sponsoring this year’s awards banquet at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Yosemite High School Theater.
The event will be attended by players, coaches, and families from all four youth teams, youth cheer, and the Yosemite High varsity and JV teams.
Refreshments will be served 5:30 - 6 p.m., and awards will be presented 6 - 8 p.m..
Youth Football Correspondent