The Yosemite Football Boosters and Yosemite High head varsity football coach JD Burnett had an idea. How about a year-end banquet for all area football programs?
That came to fruition last Sunday at the Yosemite High Theater. It was a packed house with more than 200 players, parents, and friends who support football programs in the Mountain Area. The banquet reviewed the season of the youth teams - Mighty Mites, Pee Wees, Juniors and Seniors - and YHS varsity and JV teams.
The program included coach and player introductions for all teams, including cheer squads. Awards were given to various levels. Varsity player selections to all-league teams were announced.
Burnett gave an introductory overview of the state of Mountain football, its successes, and a blueprint for the future. Burnett, a YHS graduate and football standout, wants to bring all football programs closer together while growing the support of the Mountain community.
“I am happy where our programs are going,” Burnett said. “When I took the head coach position at YHS I wanted to bring all area football programs closer. We have integrated our youth and high school programs. We worked hard to bring the entire community together. We are so happy with how players, parents, and businesses support what we are trying to do as a program.”
Burnett’s heart has always been in the mountains.
“I am so proud to guide this program,” Burnett said. “When I took over I wanted to know what the community thought. I asked for ideas on what we need to do. I wanted to hear opinions from former players, parents, and boosters.”
Burnett said he heard four common themes that needed to be addressed: lack of program support, return to the year-round program model, the schedule, and the disconnect between youth and high school programs.
This summer Burnett and staff went to the Hume Lake 7-on-7 football camp summer league. It paid dividends.
“We really learned about each other as a team. We committed to achieving our goals,” Burnett said.
With the support of the Badger Football Boosters, YHS began the “Paint the Town Blue” campaign. Many residents and businesses in Oakhurst responded by wearing Badger Blue shirts on Fridays during the season.
“With the help of the Badger Football Boosters we have done a lot to build the foundation for long term success,” Burnett said.
Booster President Erik Peterson outlined upcoming fundraising activities to purchase new equipment and upgrades to the football programs.
Perhaps the biggest turnaround was the restoration of the 7th period weight program at YHS. It was the foundation for the “year-round program model” used successfully to build Badger football in the past.
Football players lifted all year as well as other YHS student athletes.
“We need to get stronger as a program,” Burnett said. “This is great for all sports programs at YHS.”
Burnett said next year’s football schedule will be more in line with the size of the school.
YHS plays in D-V, but played predominantly D-IV and D-III teams with much higher student enrollments. This season was a brutal one for Badger football. Seven of the nine teams YHS faced were in the playoffs. Six were in the quarterfinals and three in the finals.
“We want to play a challenging schedule, but with schools with closer populations,” Burnett said. YHS will remain in D-V.
Finally, Burnett reviewed how the area football programs have come together. “Our programs see each other at Thursday ‘team meals’ and attend Friday home games,” Burnett said. “Our coaches talk to each other and do things the right way. The parents, especially the ‘team moms,’ do so much for our players. We really value and appreciate their support.”
Awards were also announced. For the YHS varsity the following players were honored: Offensive player of the year: QB Tristan Eames, who averaged 115 yards passing and 25 rushing per game.
Defensive player of the year was sophomore linebacker Ty Peterson, leading the team with 96 tackles.
Coaches’ award: Adam Van Zant - Lineman of the Year (The “Hog Award”): Chase Haleli (defensive line) and Kevin Bulawski (offensive line). Ironman Award: sophomore running back Jesse De La Cruz.
Most Improved Player was DB/RB Johnny Varian.
“He is our smallest player but our hardest hitter,” Burnett said. “He had a great year despite playing in his first season.”
All North Sequoia League selections were announced during the banquet. Second team: Tristan Eames QB; Cannon Eames WR (394 yards/7 TDs); Cass Moreno WR (385 yards/four TDs); Kevin Bulawski OL; Johnny Varian DB; Chase Hateli DL; Tanner Meeks Punter.
“Tanner averaged over 40 yards per kick and was a great weapon for us,” Burnett said.
De La Cruz was selected as honorable mention. He played varsity as a freshman, and this year gained 800 yards rushing. Ty Peterson was selected honorable mention at linebacker.
“Ty did it all for us on defense,” said Burnett. “He played a lot of different positions but still led the team in tackles.”
Finally the Badgers honored four graduating seniors: Hunter Fisk, Tanner Meeks, Dylan Rounsivill, and Armando Villanueva. Burnett cited improvements from the 2014 season to the 2015 season, in scoring average from 6.6 to 14.1 points per game; points allowed from 53 to 42.7, and increased rushing yards by 88 per game.
“But even more importantly we increased our overall GPA as a team to 3.0,” Burnett said. “Overall, eight of our 19 players were selected all-league and almost all are sophomores.”
The team finished the season 0-9, 0-4 in league.
Longtime JV coach Pat Lynch reviewed the JV season and passed out awards. The Badger JV (1-8, 1-4) won the only game of the year in an exciting come from behind win against Sierra in the last game of the season.
“We lost nine players to varsity, but our team stayed together, worked hard, and finished with a great win,” Lynch said. “We overcame a lot of adversity and change, but with persistence the team responded in the end.”
QB Tyler Matyshock was voted most valuable player.
“Tyler was a strong leader at the most important position,” Lynch said.
RB/DB Dylan Micallef was named JV offensive player of the year, and lineman Dylan De La Cruz was defensive player of the year.
Yosemite Youth football
For the Mighty Mites, coached by Arthur Cachu, Anthony Ruiz was offensive player of the year and Arthur Cachu defensive player of the year. Killian Pasqual won the coaches award.
For the Junior team, coached by Randy Matyshock, took home the 2015 Tri-County Junior Bowl championships. Daniel Bodine won the coaches award.
For the Senior team, coached by Pete Mascola, Nicholas Harper was named MVP, and Kevin Cruz took home the coaches award. The Booster Club will permanently display a Senior MVP plaque at Round Table Pizza.
“I love Yosemite,” Burnett finished. “Every career move I made was to raise my family here. Our sports programs are strong overall. Our administration understands the importance of athletics to Yosemite. All of us need to work together to restore the program to greatness.”