Gregg Dodderidge

Friday football losses shine light on tough schedules that Minarets, YHS are playing

Jordan Rodkey sets off on a return against Fowler.
Jordan Rodkey sets off on a return against Fowler. Special to the Sierra Star

It was rare to see all football teams from Minarets and Yosemite lose last Friday. Both varsity programs were brought down hard. Both programs lost to teams headed to the playoffs.

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Minarets’ prospects

The Minarets varsity lost 51-29 to Fowler. MHS has not defeated Fowler since the football program’s founding eight years ago. But Fowler has a consistently strong small-school football tradition. Fowler, a Central Section Division V school, is a perennial playoff program on its way to another posteason with a 3-2 record despite a tough schedule.

It doesn’t get any easier for Minarets. Along with Fowler the West Sequoia League has some top small-school programs, namely 2017’s section D-V champion Caruthers. Mendota moved to the West Sierra League but Orange Cove and Orosi were added to the West Sequoia. Orange Cove is 5-0 and Orosi is 3-1.

Minarets has played a good schedule which is a huge criterion for playoff selection. When the Mustangs limit mistakes and penalties, they can be really good. MHS has dynamic offensive weapons. If the team can shake off the loss to Fowler it can put together a positive run in the second half of the season which will give Minarets positive momentum going into the D-VI playoffs.

McLane feels like Yosemite South

The Badgers saw the return of former head coach JD Burnett with his new team, the McLane Highlanders. It was also the Battle of the Unbeatens. It was a big deal. Even ESPN radio was in the booth, just like the old days of Mountain Cat Radio.

McLane defeated Yosemite 42-13, pulling away in the fourth quarter. McLane was tough and athletic imposing its will in the ground game.

It’s not easy winning at Badger Stadium. McLane snapped a nine-game Badger home winning streak.

But bigger picture McLane was 0-10 last season. Now McLane is driving for the playoffs. You’ve seen this before. Burnett led YHS to two playoff runs in 2016 and 2017 after turning around a program that had lost 27 straight in three seasons. Burnett went 0-9 in year one. Burnett was 18-5 his last two years. It was a remarkable turnaround. It was noticed section-wide.

Burnett is doing it again. McLane is undefeated. McLane has a winning attitude. We are seeing a McLane team with many of the players from last year’s 0-10 team winning tough road games (Mendota and YHS). Yes it’s just near the halfway point in the season but I like the odds of McLane making the playoffs. I wouldn’t want to play them.

There is a strong Badger-Highlander connection. Along with Burnett, assistants Bonner Cunnings and Brian Johnson are ex-Badger players and coaches. Minarets head coach Becher Marr was also once part of the McLane coaching staff. Coach Cunning’s son Bladen is a starting running back who along with John McWilliams gashed the middle of the Badger defense.

“They have a great group of seniors down there,” Marr said. “There is really good talent and more kids came out this year. McLane plays a good schedule. too. Their staff has done a great job.”

Return to the NSL

What Burnett did not have to face last year at YHS was the North Sequoia League. Yosemite begins play in the NSL hosting Liberty on Friday at Badger Stadium. Along with Liberty the NSL has perennial playoff teams.

The Badgers have played two consecutive physical games. They will see more physicality in the tough NSL. Combined Liberty (4-1), Chowchilla (3-2), Kerman (3-2) and Washington Union (2-3) are 12-8 with all teams playing a good pre-league schedule. Sierra will not play in the NSL this season but is on the Badgers’ schedule.

Coach Chance Sigala has guided YHS to a 4-1 start. Overall it has been a good early season. Like Minarets, YHS will have to bounce back from a loss. YHS has some key injuries but still possesses a strong ground game and a quarterback who is 13-2 as a starter.

The Badgers won’t be an easy win for any of their NSL opponents. The Badgers will have a good strength of schedule at the end of the regular season despite what happens in the NSL and should be looking at a D-V playoff berth.