Friday night lights return: A non-league preview of our five Clovis schools

Buchanan cornerback Jack Wilkins will be counted on to help lead the Bear defense this season. (Photo by Nick Baker/Rawsportz Media)

Oh man, I’ve been waiting for August 25 for a while now; those Friday Night Lights that draw me in like I’m floating in a trance, the players rushing onto the field before the game in a frenzy, the band strutting their stuff at halftime, the coaches and their headsets prancing up and down the sidelines like wild banshees, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Where else can you get all those emotions and sights and sounds in a two-hour event?

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention the yummy taco stands that get my money every time.

Well, tacos aside, it’s time for the boys from the five Clovis schools to take the field and play for pride, coaches, family and their teammates they call brothers.

Here is a breakdown of what to look for in the non-league schedule, the first five games of the season before the rugged TRAC season begins on Oct. 6.

Clovis West Golden Eagles

Last year’s record: 8-4, lost to Central 34-28 in overtime in Division I playoff semifinal

Head coach: George Petrissans

Outlook for 2017: Boasting six seniors who hold college football scholarships, the Golden Eagles have been primed for the 2017 season with an outstanding senior class and no shortage of talent. The offense is strong led by all-everything Rodney Wright III and an excellent collection of wide receivers in transfer Ricardo Arias, Nick Coleman, Chad Day and Hayden Leach.

But, don’t forget a just-as-impressive defense with the Schramm twins, D.J. and Dusty, manning the inside linebacker positions with junior Thomas Curran. The secondary is athletic with Tykee Woods and Dakota and Jayden Helms. Coach Petrissans thinks that defensive lineman Barry Lualemaga is going to have a big year too.

All eyes will be on junior quarterback Donte Chachere, who will be filling in for the injured four-star recruit Adrian Martinez and his overall 4,000 total yards and 39 touchdowns last season. Martinez, the University of Tennessee commit, is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and is still holding out hope to return this season. Chachere possesses good arm strength, running ability and leadership skills – in short, the coaches love him – but the loss of Martinez will certainly be felt.

Non-league matchups: There are no cupcakes on the schedule and they hit the ground running at Liberty in Week 1. Both teams, along with Central and Bakersfield High, are considered heavy hitters this season in Division I and will be a huge game for both schools come playoff seedings. After traveling again to Bakersfield in Week 2 to face Centennial, they finish non-league with three home games against Edison, Rocklin and Bullard – all formidable opponents.

Buchanan Bears

2016 record: 8-4, lost in second round of Division I playoffs 44-14 to eventual champion Bakersfield.

Head coach: Matt Giordano

Outlook for 2017: Three years removed from a miserable 1-9 season, Buchanan has righted the ship behind second year head coach Matt Giordano with a solid 2017 squad, balanced on offense and defense. Headlining the offense will be sophomore running back Kendall Milton, who has size (6-foot-1.5, 215 pounds) and speed, landing offers from the likes of USC, UCLA and Washington this summer. The quarterback situation will be kept a close eye on with senior Ty Hall and junior transfer Carson Bailey. Hall is quick and knows the offense well and Bailey has the bigger arm. They’ll throw to receivers Jordan Huddleston and Cornell Washington and junior transfer Brock Jones will see time in the slot position.

The defense will be a strength with two-sports star Jones (multiple D-I baseball scholarships) patrolling safety also with cornerback Jack Wilkins. Trevor Ervin is moving from running back last season to linebacker and will join Keenan Wolf as a fearsome duo. Toa Scanlan is a standout defensive lineman.  

Non-league matchups: The good news is that the Bears will win games big but the bad news is there seems to be too many easy wins on the schedule. The two toughest games will fortunately be home games against Bullard on Sept. 1 and Liberty on Sept. 15. The rest of their games are at Hanford (Division II) in Week 1, Lemoore (D-II) on Sept. 8 and Porterville (D-III) on Sept. 29.

Clovis Cougars

Last year’s record: 7-4, lost to Clovis West 41-28 in quarterfinals of D-I playoffs.

Head coach: Rich Hammond

Outlook for 2017: Last season the Cougars were looking extremely strong coming out of the gate 6-0 but fell mightily the last six games and finished 7-4. The 2017 version is looking to get back to Cougar football under head coach Rich Hammond, entering his 10th year at the helm, the longest tenured coach in the TRAC. The Cougars will always be huge upfront and this year is no exception with Cole Acevedo (6-foot-4, 300), Matt Olff (6-foot-6, 280) and Avery Castillo (6-foot-3, 240). On the defensive line will be freshman standout Keanu Williams, a manchild at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. Matthew Fraser will be a top cornerback.

There is promise with senior quarterback Payton Mayer and senior running back Cole Roberts (5-foot-11, 200) who played well in limited action last season. Jackson Schultz will get some run at running back too. The main targets for Mayer will be junior Matthew Sanchez and tight end Colton “Bubba” Byrd.

Non-league matchups: The last two years the Cougars have gone undefeated in non-league and Coach Hammond likes the challenge of playing a couple of out-of-section teams. They open up at Burbank in Sacramento followed by a home game against Turlock. A road clash with Bullard is followed by two Bakersfield schools – Stockdale (now D-II) at home then at Centennial.

Clovis North Broncos

Last year’s record: 6-6, lost to Liberty 33-28 in last year’s D-I playoff quarterfinal

Head coach: Benny Martinez

Outlook in 2017: Since becoming the first Central Section team to reach a Division I  Southern California Regional in 2013 (falling to Long Beach Poly High, 28-7), the Broncos have yet to again reach the pinnacle and regressed to 6-6 last year. And now Bronco Nation is turning to new head coach Benny Martinez, the program’s third coach in three years. Martinez has been a part of the program since the school’s inception in 2007 in what looks to be a rebuilding year. All signs point to sophomore DJ Frampton as the starting quarterback, a tall lanky lefty the coaches are high on.

Senior running back Josh Gonzalez is expected to get the bulk of the carriers and Nick Caviglia will be a main target at wide receiver. A strength will be seniors Noah Riley and Trent Lindsay will will see double duty as linebackers and tight end.

Non-league matchups: It could be tough sledding for Clovis North during their non-league schedule. They open up with a solid Sunnyside team, then travel to Bellarmine Prep in San Jose and Buhach Colony in Atwater. Finally a home game against Edison then Paso Robles on the road.  

Clovis East Timberwolves

Last year’s record: 0-10, did not make playoffs

Head coach: Ryan Reynolds

Outlook in 2017: The downfall of the once mighty Timberwolves is no secret, from 2001-08 they won six TRAC titles and two D-I Central Section titles with a combined record of 76-22. But, from 2009 to the present, they’ve gone 17-70, including 0-35 in league the last seven years. Enter Ryan Reynolds, the first year head coach, a man familiar with the program as he was an assistant coach during the glory years. First item of business was to get the number of participants in the program up and he’s accomplished that with over 50 on varsity alone. Attitudes in the weight room and on the field have already improved. Yes, it will be a process but the seeds have been planted. A strength is senior quarterback Gerrard Mendez, who possess a strong arm and good running legs – he’s been a four-year varsity player, starting at Sunnyside then Edison and now Clovis East.

Paiton Echols, a junior, will get the bulk of carries on offense and Trevin Qualls will be a target for Mendez. On defense they’ll be led by Ryan Hunt, Christian Brusellas, Asa Morales, Romello Knight and Reggie Williams.

Non-league strength of schedule: They open with two winnable games with St. Ignatius at home then on the road to Visalia to take on Redwood. Then the T-Wolves face three tougher games against juggernaut Sanger on the road, Sunnyside at home and finish at Foothill from Palo Cedro in NorCal.

Non-league schedules

August 25
Clovis West at Liberty-Bakersfield
Clovis at Burbank-Sacramento
St. Ignatius at Clovis East
Sunnyside at Clovis North
Buchanan at Hanford

September 1
Clovis West at Centennial
Turlock at Clovis
Clovis East at Redwood
Clovis North at Bellarmine Prep
Bullard at Buchanan

September 7
Clovis East at Sanger

September 8
Edison at Clovis West
Clovis at Bullard
Buhach Colony at Clovis North
Buchanan at Lemoore

September 15
Rocklin at Clovis West
Stockdale at Clovis
Clovis East at Sunnyside
Clovis North at Edison
Liberty-Bakersfield at Buchanan

September 22
Bullard at Clovis West
Clovis at Centennial
Foothill at Clovis East
Paso Robles at Clovis North

September 29
Buchanan at Porterville

Paul Meadors is a man of many talents. He is a elementary school teacher, Junior High athletic director, and basketball coach in Traver, CA, in addition to serving as the Sports Editor for the Clovis Roundup. He is also the author of the humorous book “Letters to eBay,” and he has recorded a piano album of his own compositions titled “Surviving the Storm.” He lives in Fresno with wife Lori and daughters Georgie, Alex and Ruthie.