TRAC Football Roundup: Tafoya shines in Central debut, Clovis and Buchanan win big

Dayton Tafoya never played in front of more people in his life.

Making his debut as Central High’s starting quarterback, Tafoya looked around Deran Koligian Stadium before the Grizzlies’ season opener against Bullard. He admitted, “It was a big shell shocker to me.”

The early jitters showed. The offense punted on its first two drives and Tafoya threw an interception to Bullard defensive back Christian Torres, giving the Knights the ball with a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.

When Tafoya jogged back to the sideline, his teammates were waiting for him.

“All my teammates came up to me and let me know they’re here for me,” Tafoya said. “They got my back. When I threw my interception, they told me to keep my head up and respond.”

Tafoya and the Grizzlies responded in resounding fashion, scoring 30 points in the second half to handily defeat Bullard 51-32 on Friday.

Bullard proved up to the task of facing the three-time defending Central Section champions. Quarterback Roland Russo threw four touchdowns, including a pair to Fresno State football commit Jayden Davis.

When Torres picked off Tafoya, Bullard had more success offensively and defensively to that point. That changed when Central got the ball back.

Tafoya threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Braylen Hall, who was left wide open in broken coverage, to tie the game at 14. On Central’s next drive, Tafoya found Hall again for a 3-yard touchdown pass, giving Central the lead.

Russo connected with Davis on a 33-yard touchdown, but Central blocked the PAT to preserve its lead, 21-20, at halftime. 

Bullard didn’t go down without a fight, matching Central touchdown for touchdown. Russo dumped a pass off to running back Jalyn Utendaal for a 17-yard score, cutting Central’s lead to 38-32 with 7:32 left in the game.

Central wide receiver Marquise Greene delivered the fatal blow. He caught a screen pass and ran 75 yards up the sideline for a touchdown, Tafoya’s fifth of the game. Central cornerback Imari Conley sealed it with an interception on Bullard’s next drive.

Central (1-0) travels to Reno, Nevada next Friday to play Damonte Ranch, currently ranked as the sixth-best team in Nevada according to MaxPreps. Bullard (0-1) travels to another TRAC opponent, Buchanan, next Friday.

Central-Bullard scoring

First quarter:

Jayden Davis 35-yard TD pass from Roland Russo (PAT good), Bullard 7-0

Ladanian Streets 40-yard TD pass from Dayton Tafoya (PAT good), Tie 7-7

Second quarter:

Herman Alvarado 1-yard TD run (PAT good), Bullard 14-7

Braylen Hall 29-yard TD pass from Dayton Tafoya (PAT good), Tie 14-14

Braylen Hall 3-yard TD pass from Dayton Tafoya (PAT good), Central 21-14

Jayden Davis 33-yard TD pass from Roland Russo (PAT blocked), Central 21-20

Third quarter:

Ah’marion Gaines-Smith 2-yard TD run (PAT good), Central 28-20

Daizon Allen 15-yard TD pass from Roland Russo (2-pt no good), Central 28-26

Giovanny Arguello 24-yard field goal Central, 31-26

Fourth quarter:

Marquise Greene 15-yard TD pass from Dayton Tafoya (PAT good), Central 38-26

Jayln Utendaal 17-yard TD pass from Roland Russo (PAT blocked), Central 38-32

Marquise Greene 75-yard TD pass from Dayton Tafoya (PAT miss), Central 44-32

Ah’marion Gaines-Smith 2-yard TD run (PAT good) Central 51-32

Freshman QB leads Clovis East to season-opening win

Four days after his first day of high school, quarterback Ty Miller led Clovis East to a 33-30 win over Dinuba in his first career high school start. 

Dinuba’s pass rush opened holes for Miller to run wild, and he sure did. The freshman rushed for about 175 yards and threw a touchdown as well.

Junior Lamaj Travis returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, giving Clovis East a 21-12 lead headed into halftime.

The Timberwolves built a 33-18 lead with 8:26 left in the game, but the Emperors attempted a comeback.

Dinuba scored back-to-back touchdowns but missed both two-point conversions, bringing them closer to Clovis East, 33-30.

“We just got tired, man,” said Clovis East head coach Ryan Reynolds. “We had kids cramp out, a lot of our linemen cramped out… [Dinuba] has a good football team. They’re going to be good this year.”

Clovis East ran out the final 2:29 of game clock, including a 4th down play where Reynolds deliberately took a delay of game. He then asked Miller to take the snap and run around the field to drain the final seven seconds off the clock.

“I was really impressed with how [Ty] overcame some nerves, because he was really nervous in that first series,” Reynolds said. “He just settled down and played football, and he’s a great football player.”

Clovis East (1-0) plays at Atwater next Friday, while Dinuba (0-1) travels to Tulare Western.

Buchanan routs Kingsburg behind Mandal’s big day

Junior quarterback Jayden Mandal wasted no time in Friday’s game at Kingsburg, connecting with senior Josiah Ayon for a 65-yard touchdown only 47 seconds into the game. 

He threw three more touchdown passes, including another to Ayon, to give the Bears a 33-7 win over the Vikings.

Buchanan senior running back Caden Rodgers also rushed for a touchdown. Buchanan (1-0) will host Bullard for its home opener next Friday. Kingsburg (0-1) goes on the road at Washington Union.

Clovis High roars to big win over Sanger

Senior running back Tristan Risley ran all over the Tom Flores Stadium grass, totaling 160 rushing yards and three touchdowns, as Clovis High opened its season with a 35-12 win over Sanger.

Utah commit senior quarterback Nate Johnson completed 12 of 20 passes, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushed for 67 yards on eight carries.

Johnson opened the scoring with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Nic Viau on Clovis’ first possession. Johnson connected with Viau again to end the first half, giving the Cougars a 28-0 lead. Viau had a big first half, racking up 111 yards and two touchdowns.

Clovis (1-0) will host Bakersfield next Friday, while Sanger (0-1) plays at Fresno High.

Other Tri-River Athletic Conference scores:

Garces 28, Clovis West 7

– QB Tyler Patrick threw his first career varsity touchdown to Jordan Pierro.

San Joaquin Memorial 20, Clovis North 0

Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.