Just like that, POOF! summer vacation is now in the rearview mirror. Those trips to the Central Coast and jaunts to secret lakeside locations are memories that no doubt now live on Facebook and Instagram. And believe it or not my friends, Friday Night Lights is almost upon us. Yes, fall sports is rip-roaring to go, specifically football, and a week earlier to boot. The first football games are scheduled to start on Aug. 17 instead of the customary last week of August, a move CIF decided over two years ago to combat schedule conflicts around state football championships and the state track and field championships. In fact, all sports are moved up a week, so adjust your calendar accordingly.
So, while we all get to watch high school football a week earlier it does force coaches, administrators and players to speed up the process. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard one person who likes it, especially since classes don’t start until Aug. 20. However, there’s no time to complain – it’s time for our student/athletes to strap on their helmets, don those pads and take to the field.
Recently, I got to check out practice sessions for all five Clovis Unified high school practices. Teams are ramping it up pretty quick and before you can say “kickoff,” Aug. 17 will be here. Below is a mini breakdown of each of the five schools and players to keep your eyes on. See you at the stadium!
Buchanan certainly has some unfinished business after losing in the 2017 D-I Central Section title game 29-7 to Central, and this season it looks primed for another run toward a section championship. Headlining the Bears is heavily recruited and 5-star running back Kendall Milton who last season rushed for 1,514 yards and 23 touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. Brock Jones is a super two-way player at safety and slot receiver and strong-armed senior quarterback Carson Bailey is ready to take the reins. The Bears also added Sanger transfer Jalen Cropper, one of the top defensive backs in the state who is a major threat on offense. Despite only returning one offensive lineman, lighting up the scoreboard should not be a problem this year for the Bears.
Buchanan football is relevant again under the direction of third-year coach Matt Giordano, a 2001 Buchanan grad who played in the NFL for eight years. Boasting a roster of around 80 strong, they will be tested during a very tough non-league schedule headlined by national power De La Salle of Concord coming to Veterans Memorial Stadium on Sept. 21. The Bears open at home against Paso Robles on Aug. 17, one of three new schools from the Central Coast that will participate in the D-I Central Section playoffs this season.
Clovis West Golden Eagles
Replacing over 30 seniors from last year’s 9-3 team will be no small feat but the good news for Clovis West is the return of senior quarterback Dante Chachere, who was thrust into the starting position a year earlier than planned due to the injury to highly-recruited Adrian Martinez. Chachere, who holds a scholarship offer from Nevada, filled in extremely well for Martinez, throwing for 3,462 yards and 22 touchdowns and adding 441 on the ground. The team will feature an almost brand new set of skill position players (only 141 receiving yards are returning) and will look to running backs Nick Keenan and Cameron Hicks, and receiver Chris Coleman to step up. Thomas Curran is one of the top linebackers in the section and will anchor the defense.
In his fourth year, head coach George Petrissans has established a strong offensive system evidenced by averaging 31.2 points per game over the last three years. The Golden Eagles have a tough non-league schedule and open with Central Catholic, the top ranked team from the Modesto area, at home on Aug. 17. They then take on Edison on Thursday, Aug. 23 at Sunnyside.
Last season, Clovis fought tooth and nail to finish 7-5 behind a rash of injuries, a real “next man up” season for the Cougars. The 2018 edition of the Cougars will rely on a stellar defensive line and an opportunistic offense anchored by a good receiving corps of Reef Dove, Matthew Sanchez and Grant Lake. Vying for time at quarterback is senior Jake Sanders, who last year completed 51 of 101 attempts for 678 yards and seven touchdowns, transfer Isaiah Robles and Chris Rylant, both juniors. The D-line, perhaps the best in the Valley, consists of 6-foot-4, 240 pound sophomore Keanu Williams, who started at a freshman and already holds an offer from USC, and massive 6-foot-5, 295 pound Nolan Freeman, a senior. Cristian Loera, who was second in the state with 12 interceptions, returns for his senior year as does linebacker Dorian Canjura, the leading tackler last year.
Head coach Rich Hammond is back for his 10th season, the longest tenured coach in the TRAC. The Cougars begin the season at home against Merced on Saturday, Aug. 18 at Lamonica Stadium then travel to Bakersfield to take on Stockdale on Aug. 24.
Clovis East Timberwolves
It’s no secret the once-proud Clovis East football program has fallen on hard times, as the Timberwolves enter 2018 having lost 26 in a row and haven’t won a TRAC game since 2009, spanning 40 contests. Well, times are changing with second-year head coach Ryan Reynolds, who was an assistant during the T-Wolves’ glory days when, from 2002-08 they won six league titles and two D-I Central Section championships. Under Reynolds, the trajectory is certainly headed in the right direction as they’ve hit the weight room hard and are developing a toughness that has been sorely lacking. The culture has certainly changed; after their varsity numbers sunk to 25 in 2016, they now boast 55 this year. While their quarterback situation is murky to start the season, the T-Wolves will look to talented junior running back Jo’Nation Dejohnette as their major offensive weapon. The defense will be shored up with linebackers Asa Morales and Ryan Hunt, lineman Seba Zenteno and Christian Hudiburgh, and defensive back Chandler Hamilton.
The Timberwolves open up the season at Lemoore on Aug. 17 then have a home game against Wood of Vacaville the following Friday.
Clovis North Broncos
The Clovis North Broncos found themselves in uncharted waters last season when they finished 2-9 overall and 1-4 in league, their worst football season since the school opened up in 2007. However, there’s reason for optimism under second year coach Benny Martinez due to a cohesive group and a dedicated and upbeat coaching staff. At quarterback, there’s a battle between a pair of juniors in lefty returning starter D.J. Frampton and Trenton Luera. Jackson Schultz returns at running back after a great second half last year and star wide receiver and defensive back Trenton Holloway, who has Division I potential, will be a top threat. They also added speedster Nathyn Scruggs (a member of last year’s state second place 4×100 relay) and return linebacker/running back Tawasin Akindele. If these guys play to their potential, the Broncos will be no pushover.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the Broncos will only play nine regular season games starting on Thursday, Aug. 23 against Sunnyside at Veterans Memorial Stadium then travel to San Jose to play Bellarmine Prep on Aug. 31.