2017 TRAC football preview: The lowdown and breakdown of the six teams of the Tri-River Athletic Conference

Pictured from left to right: Rodney Wright III (Clovis West), Noah Riley (Clovis North), Kendall Milton (Buchanan), Romello Knight (Clovis East), Koa Ramos (Clovis) and Jacob Torrez (Central) are some of the TRAC’s best. (Photo by Nick Baker/Rawsportz Media)

Now that non-league is over, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty and enter the wide world of the Tri-River Athletic Conference.

On this page you’ll find all the information you need: What each team needs to do to compete and win a TRAC and Valley title, the strengths of each team, and the stud players to watch.

So, grab yourself your favorite beverage of choice, sit in your most comfortable place, and dive right in of all the good football stuff around Clovis.

Six Burning Questions

  • Will Central continue to dominate Central Section opponents with a devastating defense and explosive offense?
  • Can Clovis West ride the momentum of a four-game winning streak with a talented junior quarterback and senior-hungry squad?
  • Will Buchanan find a consistent passing game to compliment its powerful rushing attack?
  • Can Clovis High continue to find late-game magic and rely on a stout defense?
  • Will Clovis North find some rhythm in a season of inconsistency?
  • Can Clovis East continue its improvement enough to win its first league game in seven years?

Buchanan (5-0)
Head coach: Matt Giordano (2nd season)

Wins: Hanford 48-6, Bullard 55-18, Lemoore 49-0, Liberty 34-28, Porterville 48-0

Buchanan senior quarterback Ty Hall lets a pass fly against Liberty. The Bears are 5-0 on the season and are looking for the first Valley title since 2000. (Photo by Eye For It All Photography)

In Matt Giordano’s second year as head coach, the Bears have turned into a high-level program, outscoring opponents 234-52 leading to a 5-0 record this season. However, it’s no secret their non-league schedule has been suspect, playing only two Division I teams (Liberty and Bullard). That being said, there’s no questioning the talent on the field and the the five games in the TRAC will be the true test on where they stand this season.

The Bears feature one of the top running back duos in the Central Section in sophomore Kendall Milton and senior Trevor Ervin. Milton is a 6-foot-2, 210 pound load (see How to Build the Ultimate Football Player article) evidenced by his over 700 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on the season. He currently holds scholarship offers from powerhouse Pac-12 schools USC, UCLA and Washington. Ervin is a strong-as-steel football dude with surprising speed and toughness. And check this out – both play a mean linebacker as well and are two of the strongest players on the team.

The quarterback is senior Ty Hall, who has good quickness and a great handle of the offense. Junior transfer (from Clovis North) Carson Bailey is also in the conversation at the position and has a very good arm. They could share the position during league.

Defensively, besides Ervin and Milton, they have some standouts including senior linebacker Keenan Wolf, senior cornerback Jack Wilkins, senior defensive lineman Toa Scanlan, sophomore Matthew Merritt and senior Reece Bacon. Brock Jones, a junior transfer from Clovis North, is one of the most exciting players in the TRAC at his safety position and also in the slot on offense. He’ll also return punts.

And we can’t forget the “Hogs:” offensive lineman Theo Meyer, Matt Merritt, Shawn Barron, Tyler McClellen and Josh Burdine.

Bottom line: There’s no denying Buchanan has played a soft schedule and the two biggest games in the TRAC come early against Central and Clovis West. They have a powerful run game but need to complement it with a strong passing game. We’ll find out after the first two games in league exactly where they stand.


Clovis West (4-1)
Head coach: George Petrissans (4th season)

Wins: Edison 30-9, Rocklin 42-12, Bullard 37-13, Centennial 49-35
Loses: Liberty 31-30

Golden Eagles: With high expectations coming into the season that includes a senior class loaded with talent, Clovis West has had to adjust to losing superstar quarterback Adrian Martinez to a shoulder injury suffered back in a basketball game in late February that required surgery. However, after an opening loss at Liberty-Bakersfield, the Golden Eagles have been a force to be reckoned with, reeling off four straight convincing wins, averaging nearly 40 points in that time with precision offense and a very talented defense.

With Martinez out, junior Dante Chachere has stepped up tremendously, showing great poise, strong arm and using a depth of offensive weapons including senior Rodney Wright III, a shifty and explosive player who can line up anywhere on the field. Chachere has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,308 yards and 12 touchdowns. Opposing teams have to account for a plethora of receivers in Ricardo Arias, Nick Coleman, Chad Day, Gabe Solorio and Hayden Leach at all times.

The defense is solid led by an excellent linebacking crew in D.J. and Dusty Schramm (both Division I recruits) and Thomas Curran. The secondary is led by Jayden and Dakota Helms and Tykee Woods, who are athletic with good speed.

They also have one of the best punters and kickers in the state with lefty Eli Riofrio.

Bottom line: 2017 is the year that has been talked about since this current class of seniors was dominating at Kastner Intermediate School. Despite the huge loss of Martinez, the Tennessee verbal commit, there’s still a lot of talent on the field that has aspirations for a TRAC and Valley championship.


Central (4-1)
Head coach: Kyle Biggs (2nd season)

Wins: Bullard 44-0, Sunnyside 56-6, Liberty 30-3, Ridgeview 56-3
Losses: De La Salle 49-30

Central quarterback Trent Tompkins is having another outstanding season for the 4-1 Grizzlies, their only loss at nationally ranked De La Salle 49-30. The junior quarterback has thrown for 1,229 and 15 touchdowns with only three interceptions. (Photo by Marty Martinez)

There’s no denying the Grizzlies are absolutely loaded this year and the evidence speaks for itself. They obliterated four section opponents and outscored them 186-12 in the first four games before taking on nationally ranked No. 12 De La Salle in Concord and competed extremely well before losing 49-30. De La Salle (who famously had a 115 game winning streak from 1993-2004) players and coaches were raving about the Central squad after the game about their competitiveness and skill.

The team’s feature player is junior quarterback Trent Tompkins, a football player in every sense of the word who can beat you with a strong arm, legs and his savviness. On the season he’s thrown for 1,229 yards and 15 touchdowns. His go-to receiver is senior Jacob Torrez, who, along with Avery Boyd and sophomore Jeremiah Hunter form a nice triple threat. Running back Jevon Bigelow is one of the best running backs not only in the section but in the state, averaging 10.3 yards per carry and six touchdowns in four games.

Defensively, they have studs too, especially at linebacker in seniors Tre Walker and Jacob Hollins, guys who are fast and hit like a ton of bricks. Marcus Washington, who started at running back on varsity at Clovis East for his first three years has become a starting defensive lineman.

Bottom line: The Grizzlies are primed for another TRAC title and a run at a Valley title after falling short last year when they lost 21-14 to Bakersfield. They have the players in place and are playing with extreme confidence as they enter league with apparently no glaring weakness.


Clovis (4-1)
Head coach: Rich Hammond (10th year)

Wins: Burbank 27-0, Bullard 17-13, Stockdale 17-14, Centennial 35-28
Loses: Turlock 14-13

Cougars: The last four games could be titled “The crazy, wacky world of Cougar football.” They survived against Bullard after losing their starting quarterback, Payton Mayer, when Jason Hunt stepped in to throw two touchdown passes, used a touchdown pass from Jake Sanders to Michael Machado in the fourth quarter to beat Stockdale and scored an amazing 22 points under 6:09 in the fourth quarter to stun Centennial in Bakersfield.

This is a different looking Clovis offense than years past, less explosive with more of a grind-it-out approach. After Mayer’s injury in the Bullard game, they’ve rotated between Hunt, a better runner, and Jason Sanders, the passer. Tight end Colton Byrd is an excellent receiver and has 242 receiving yards and three touchdowns and junior receivers Patrick Machado and Matthew Sanchez have combined for 364 yards and seven touchdowns. Cole Roberts has been the workhorse on the ground through the first four games with 334 yards and three rushing touchdowns.

The defense has always been a strength of Clovis this year is no different led by Koa Ramos, a hard hitting safety, linebacker Dorian Canjura and defensive lineman Joey Jaramillo. Freshman defensive end Keanu Williams has made his presence known and Cristian Loera and Nick Delgado have two interceptions each.

Bottom line: Clovis is solid, if not spectacular, and if expected to compete against the upper echelon of the TRAC teams this season, the Cougars will need to dig deep to score points and rely on a very good defense.


Clovis North (1-4)
Head coach: Benny Martinez (1st season)

Wins: Sunnyside 20-19
Losses: Bellarmine Prep 16-13, Buhach Colony 28-21, Edison 20-0, Paso Robles 27-7

Clovis North senior lineman Ryan Regier is one of the top lineman in the TRAC and is praised by head coach Benny Martinez for his not only his athletic ability but his leadership skills. (Photo by DeAnna Turner)

With their fourth head coach in five years, the Broncos have had a tough go of it so far in 2017 in going 1-4, scoring only 61 points and allowing 110 on defense. One of the main reasons is their numbers are down and have been affected by transfers. But, that hasn’t deterred new head coach Benny Martinez and his enthusiasm for the program – he’s a Bronco though and through since the program’s inception in 2007.

The offense has turned to sophomore quarterback D.J. Frampton, a tall lefty who has thrown for 726 yards and three touchdowns. The offensive load has been carried on the ground in the form of junior running back Jackson Schultz and his 48 carries for 308 yards and three touchdowns. Brandan Bechtel has caught 20 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns and Trenton Holloway has been very effective as a receiver and defensive back.

Noah Riley and Trent Lindsey form an impressive linebacking duo and Ryan Regier is as tough a lineman you’ll find.

Bottom line: Clovis North will need players to really step up to compete this season in the TRAC as injuries and transfers have hurt the Broncos this season. The defense needs to continue to bend and not break to be able to stay in games this season.


Clovis East (0-5)
Head coach: Ryan Reynolds (1st year)

Losses: St. Ignatius 7-0, Redwood 36-14, Sanger 34-7, Sunnyside 21-14, Foothill 27-24

First of all, throw out that 0-5 record, three of their losses have all been by one score each. And yes, we all know that Clovis East is still looking for its first win in the TRAC in seven years. But hope is here in new head coach Ryan Reynolds, who was a major part of the coaching staff back in the Timberwolves glory days in the 2000s when they won Valley titles in 2003 and 2006, returns to take over the program and has established at least two foundations: a commitment to team and a weight room mentality. The wins may not be there yet but they were tied or ahead in the fourth quarter of two games this season. 6

Their offense is called the “Shotgun Wing” and Linebacker Asa Morales is playing excellent football as is Christian Brusalles.

Bottom line: The good news is that they are improving and will continue to do so. The bad news for the Timberwolves is that they are a year or two from really competing in the always-tough TRAC.


SCHEDULE

October 5
Central at Buchanan (Veterans) 7 p.m.

October 6
Clovis at Clovis East (Lamonica) 7 p.m.
Clovis West at Clovis North (Veterans) 7 p.m.

October 13
Buchanan at Clovis West (Veterans) 7 p.m.
Clovis North at Clovis East (Lamonica) 7 p.m.

October 14
Central at Clovis (Lamonica) 1:30 p.m.

October 20
Buchanan at Clovis (Lamonica) 7 p.m.
Clovis North at Central (Koligian Stadium) 7 p.m.
Clovis East at Clovis West (Veterans) 7 p.m.

October 26
Central at Clovis West (Veterans) 7 p.m.

October 27
Clovis at Clovis North (Veterans) 7 p.m.
Buchanan at Clovis East (Lamonica) 7 p.m.

November 3
Clovis West at Clovis (Lamonica) 7 p.m.
Buchanan at Clovis North (Veterans) 7 p.m.
Clovis East at Central (Koligian) 7 p.m.