The promise of the first North Sequoia League title this decade loomed large for the Yosemite Badgers Football program. The Badgers were ranked No. 1 in the Central Section Football Division V rankings, according to MaxPreps.com.
It was also Senior Night, always an emotional time for any team. All the Badgers had to do to take the NSL was defeat the No. 1 ranked D-IV Panthers of Washington Union.
It looked promising at halftime, but after that, the Badgers NSL title dreams were buried under a 29-0 Panther second-half onslaught. The loss moves YHS to 8-1 overall and 3-1 in the North Sequoia League.
If the Panthers (9-1, 3-0) defeat Kerman next week they will win the NSL outright. If the Lions upset the Panthers, YHS would share the NSL title.
The Badger defense kept Yosemite in the game until halftime. The Badgers stopped the Panthers three times deep in their own territory, including an interception by Holden Eames, his ninth of the season.
The Union passing game was not firing on all cylinders, but their ground game made up for it. Union rushed for 243 yards on 28 carries averaging 9 yards per rush.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Badgers struck first. With less than five minutes before halftime, the Badger offense awoke. The Badgers, starting from their own 28, went to senior running back and all-time career rushing leader Nicholas Harper, who ran six times for 62 yards to set up YHS at the Union 15. From there, YHS QB Jadyn Carter hit Eames on a 15-yard slant for a touchdown.
The Panthers answered with a quick scoring drive. The point after failed and the Badgers led 7-6 at the half.
The Badgers came out strong in their first possession of the second half. YHS drove to the Union 8 but could not score.
Then the game changed.
The Panthers roared back on an 88-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Laurence Stell to Tony Horton. The Panthers scored on a 2-point conversion and just like that it was 14-7. It was the beginning of 29 unanswered points by Union.
Horton scored again along with two TDs by Darius McCray. The Panther defense stepped up their game.
The Badger offense did not produce in the ground game and Carter uncharacteristically threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.
Carter 8-16 49 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; Nicholas Harper 24-123. It was a tough outing for Harper and the Badger running game.
Gabe Swigert 8, 2 tackles for loss. Welborn 7 tackles. Harper had 6 tackles including two for loss.
Yosemite honors 15 senior players
The Badgers honored a huge graduating senior class. Overall, there were 15 seniors: Dominic Aguilar DB, WR, K; Caleb Burke OL, LB; Fernando Castillo OL, DL; Jake Conklin C, DT; Luke Driscoll C, LB; Matthew Dugovic RB, WR, LB,; Xander Hammond OL, DL; Nicholas Harper RB, LB, S; Derrick Ivey WR, DB; Ernie Jimenez RB, DB; Jose Murillo RB; Jorge Olmedo OL, DL; Michael Orabuena OL, TE, DL; Dmitri (DJ) Wassem WR, CB; Kevin Welborn WR, LB.
The Mountain Bowl
The Badgers travel to Sierra to play in the 36th Mountain Bowl. Game times: JV 5pm/Varsity 7pm.
While this is still and always will be a rivalry game, the significance has diminished. It is YHS’s oldest opponent. This year it will be a non-conference game.
The Badgers will face a Sierra program that is 0-9 for the season. Going back to 2018, the Chieftains have lost 13 straight games.
Like YHS in 2016 & 2017, the Chieftains, while still a North Sequoia League member, will not play football in the NSL to reset the program. It is a program with a storied football history.
The Badgers defeated Sierra 48-7 at Badger Stadium last year. The Chieftains are coming off a 40-21 loss at Minarets last week. Sierra is coached by Ricky Kelly. The Chieftain offense has not produced many yards or points this season. Overall, the Chieftains have scored 61 points and given up 343 this season. The 21 points scored against Minarets were a season-high for Sierra. Sierra’s offense is balanced averaging 71 yards passing and 88 yards rushing per game.
Sierra is lead by junior quarterback Malcom Denomme. Denomme is 41 of 132 with 0 TDs and 2 INTs. Denomme has rushed for 246 yards and a touchdown. Senior Logan Whittington leads Sierra with 261 yards rushing and 2 TDs. Senior Dryden Ray has 206 yards rushing and a touchdown. Ray is Sierra’s leading receiver with 289 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Badgers could see the return of starting lineman Sean Miller who has been out since the early season.
The Badgers are beat up and trying to stay healthy for the upcoming Division V playoffs.