By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
The storylines are strong in the 2016 TRAC football season – from Clovis’ quest for a Valley title to Clovis West’s talented junior class to Central’s athletes to Buchanan’s punishing running game to Clovis North’s new offensive and defensive schemes to Clovis East’s early season struggles.
So, now that the non-league games are over it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty part of the football season – the rugged, no-holds-barred, every-Friday-counts, Tri-River Athletic Conference. This is what these kids play for – the chance to see who the best is in one of the most competitive conferences in the state.
The season promises to be as competitive as ever with the top five teams coming into the October 7 opening night with a combined record of 19-6. Clovis gets the top billing with their 5-0 record but Central and Buchanan are right at their heels at 4-1 with Clovis West and Clovis North sitting at 3-2. Clovis East has had a rough go at 0-5.
Below you’ll find everything you want to know about each team in an easy-to-read format – the schedule, non-league records, a non-league grade, team strengths, players to watch and the overall look of the team. So, when y’all are ready to head on over to your Friday night game these are the stories to look for……….
Six Burning Questions
• Can Clovis High keep coming up with big plays at the end of games while they take everyone’s best shot every week?
• Can Clovis North discover a downfield passing game to match their impressive running game?
• Will Buchanan’s punishing running game open up the passing game?
• Can Clovis West’s talented junior class continue the learning curve and match the physicality
• Will Central continue to dismantle defenses with their high octane offense and stifling defense?
• Can Clovis East be able to keep up physically every week with a depleted roster?
Head coach: Rich Hammond (9th year)
Wins: Burbank-Sacramento 36-0, Turlock 34-28 OT, Stockdale 28-27, Bullard 35-28, Centennial-Bakersfield 58-17.
Non-league grade (A-)
Overview: Clovis doesn’t rebuild, they reload. And just like last year, the 2016 Cougars finished non-league unscathed and 5-0 heading into TRAC play, displaying the same offensive prowess (38.2 ppg) and defensive ability that led them to a co-TRAC title and a berth in the D1 Valley title game last year. Taking the reigns this season is senior quarterback Trey Lake (69-116, 1,109 yards, 13-3 touchdowns to interceptions), senior receiver Tyson Fraser (31 receptions, 539 yards, six touchdown), and senior tight end Clayton Alexander (seven touchdowns) – as deadly a passing attack anywhere in the Central Section. And don’t forget the vaunted rushing attack and the return of elusive senior running back Samir Allen from a broken ankle last year as well as Nash Vidmar and Cole Roberts.
With Clovis football you think big ol’ dudes on the line and this year’s edition includes Seth Nevills (6-foot-3, 275), Cole Acevedo (6-foot-3, 327, Eric Delk (5-foot-7, 220), Anthony Prentice (5-foot-10, 240), Kenny Blowers (6-foot-3, 335).
The Cougars look to be improved defensively from last year and they have some standouts in linebackers Mason Rice and Trevor Hartman, safety Bailey Obernesser and defensive back Dylan Hudec.
They’ll win the TRAC if…..they continue to perform at a high level on offensive and limit opponents’ big plays.
Marquee match-up: Central October 14 at Koligian Stadium. The second game of TRAC season pits two of the very best teams in the Valley in a colossal matchup between Central’s playmakers and Clovis’ balanced team of big dudes and an explosive offense.
Clovis West (3-2)
Head coach: George Petrissans (3rd season)
Wins: Centennial 44-7, Edison 26-20, Bullard 31-27.
Loses: Liberty 24-28, Rocklin 27-28.
Non-league grade (B)
Overview: In a season of high expectations with a talented junior class the Golden Eagles have proved they can hang with any team in the Central Section and beyond and could very easily be 5-0 on the season. The unquestionable leader of the team is sensational junior quarterback Adrian Martinez, the 6-foot-2, 185 pounder with the arm, legs and the leadership ability unmatched in the Valley and who currently hold six Division 1 college scholarship offers. Martinez has totaled 1,319 passing and rushing yards in five games with 16 touchdowns. But the team is not all Martinez and he’s got some good ones in fellow junior Rodney Wright Jr. a dynamic athlete who can line up in the backfield and the slot.
Joining Martinez and Wright are fellow juniors, DJ and Dusty Schramm, the hard-hitting middle linebackers and senior safety and wide receiver Diego Cruz. Defensive backs Nick Coleman and Tykee Woods are not only talented but aren’t afraid to hit. Punter and place kicker Eli Riofrio is the tops in the TRAC.
They got a couple of big o-lineman too in Clive Truschel (6-foot-4, 265) and Krisz Arreola (6 feet, 240).
They’ll win the TRAC if…..they can play consistent football for four quarters, get their athletes into space on offense and keep getting better at finishing games.
Marquee match-up: Clovis High at Veterans on November 4. Always the final game on the TRAC schedule, this could be the big one of the year, the final event in “All-Clovis week.”
Head coach: Matt Giordano (1st season)
Wins: Hanford 33-14, Bullard 28-17, Lemoore 56-30, Porterville 48-0
Loses: Liberty-Bakersfield 14-35
Non-league grade (B)
Coming off a co-TRAC championship last season, the Matt Giordano era has started off well for Buchanan, showing the ability to score (33 ppg) with a pounding ground game matched with a stout defensive led by big-hitting linebackers in seniors Logan Fogg and Zach Presno. The Bears run behind a big offensive line and have some horses in the backfield to pound and grind including Presno, Zak Levatino and Trevor Ervin. Help is on the way in the name of freshman phenom Kendall MIlton, who’s been moved up to varsity after destroying freshman teams. The 6-foot-2, 195 pound Milton is rated as the No. 1 running back in the nation by Under the Radar for the class of 2020. In his first varsity game against Porterville Milton showed he belongs with two touchdowns including a 49-yard run.
Senior quarterback Nolan LeForge has a big arm to match his prototypical quarterback body at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and with the addition of Milton, could open up more opportunities to throw. Toa Scanlan, Ryan Bacon and Anthony Montalvo are all standout lineman as well.
They’ll win the TRAC if…..find a balance between offense and defense and use their running game to open up the passing game.
Team strengths: Tough defense, offensive line, running game, team chemistry.
Marquee match-up: Clovis at Veterans October 21. Yes, their first two games are whoppers against Central and Clovis West, but the middle game in league against the Cougars will make or break their TRAC championship hopes.
Head coach: Casey Quinn (1st season)
Wins: Sunnyside 30-6, Buhach Colony 56-28, Edison 27-21
Loses: Bellarmine College Prep 21-32, Paso Robles 7-24
Non league grade (B)
The Broncos’ two losses this year were to out-of-section opponents but they have an impressive win over Edison, put up 56 points against Buhach Colony on the road and held Sunnyside to six points. First year head coach Casey Quinn installed a new up-tempo offense this season but their strength has been running the ball, led by quarterback Brent Bailey (413 rushing yards, six touchdowns) and running back Jordan Ayerza (416 rushing yards, four touchdowns). Bailey rushed for 183 yards and three touchdowns against Edison and also has 671 yards and four touchdowns in the air. Chad Fugman is the top receiver.
The defense is fast and physical led by defensive back Isaiah Cordova, linebacker Erick Kroll and safety David Akande. Twin brothers Mark and John Halojian anchor the defensive line and are small in stature (5-foot-5, 215) but big in heart.
They’ll win the TRAC if…..they get into grind-em-out games, take chances downfield with the passing game and raise their defense to the next level.
Team strengths: Swarming defense, athletic secondary, power and speed running game.
Marquee match-up: Clovis West, October 9. What a whopper of a first TRAC game for both teams but what a statement game it would be for the Broncos if they beat the mighty Eagles.
Head coach: Kyle Biggs (1st season)
Wins: Sunnyside 56-15, Liberty 38-0,Frontier 59-17, Ridgeview 42-7
Loss: Bullard 3-24
Non-league grade (A-)
After an opening season 24-3 loss to Bullard, it’s safe to say the Grizzlies are the hottest team in the Central Section, blasting top-notch opponents by a combined score of 195-39 in their next four games, including a mauling of defending D-1 champion Liberty 38-0 in Bakersfield. So, how have the Grizzlies done it? It’s never been about talent at Central but new coach Kyle Biggs has the players all in – and it’s working. One reason is the emergence of sophomore quarterback Trent Tompkins who has thrown for 1,248 yards and a 15-3 touchdown to interception ration and the impressive play of heavily recruited defensive back Jaylon Johnson. Johnson is such a talented ballhawk that teams shy away from even throwing his way.
Tompkins is also blessed to have speedy and elusive receivers in Jacob Torrez and Jagade Bishop, who each have four touchdown on the season. On defense linebackers Matt Mendoza and Jacob Hollins and defensive lineman Sam Satele and Brandon Ballard are playing exceptional.
They’ll win the TRAC if…..they can continue to give their best effort every week, and keep riding the momentum they’ve gained in the last four non-league games.
Team strengths: Athleticism, quarterback play, speed and a hard-hitting defense.
Marquee match-up: Home against Buchanan on Oct 7. The Grizzlies can continue to make a huge statement with a big opening TRAC win against the formidable Bears.
Head coach: Jim O’Brien (4th season)
Losses: St. Ignatius 56-20, Redwood 29-14, Sanger 53-13, Sunnyside 50-0, Foothill 56-8
Non league grade (D)
Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, it’s been a perfect storm of disaster in 2016. First, their star running back, Marcus Washington, coming off a sophomore season where totaled over 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns, has battled a hamstring injury all season and has played very little. Second, their participation numbers are down, suiting up only 27 players total in their most recent loss against Foothill.
Transfer quarterback Gerrard Mendez is suppose to help the departed dual-threat quarterback Trey Semien, but has battled some shoulder soreness all season and only started once. He hopes to play in their first league game against Clovis. Another transfer, Chris Silva, from Fowler is a receiver who might see some time at quarterback when he’s eligible for their game against Clovis on Oct 7. Receiver Tanner Tucker had a great season last year and is a threat.
They’ll win the TRAC if…..well, unfortunately it’s going to be tough sledding for the Timberwolves but if Washington and Mendez are healthy and Silva is able to play, they’ll be much improved.
Team strengths: Offensive tempo, running game (when healthy), deep passing threats.
Marquee match-up: Opening with Clovis on Oct 7 will prove extremely difficult but if the Timberwolves can keep it close, that bodes well for the rest of TRAC.
Top ball-hawking defensive backs and safeties
Jaylon Johnson, Central, senior
Isaiah Cordova, Clovis North, senior
David Akande, Clovis North, senior
Diego Cruz, Clovis West, senior
Bailey Obernesser, Clovis, senior
Isaiah Tigler, Buchanan, senior
2016 TRAC football schedule
Clovis at Clovis East at Lamonica
Clovis West at Clovis North at Veterans
Buchanan at Central at Koligian
Clovis at Central at Koligian
Clovis West at Buchanan at Veterans
Clovis North at Clovis East at Lamonica
Central at Clovis North at Veterans
Clovis West at Clovis East at Lamonica
Clovis at Buchanan at Veterans
Clovis West at Central at Koligian
Clovis North at Clovis at Lamonica
Clovis East at Buchanan at Veterans
Clovis at Clovis West at Veterans
Clovis North at Buchanan at Lamonica
Clovis East at Central at Koligian