Tim, Tigers are back: Edison High last defeated Clovis West in football seven years ago. But the Tigers, in coach Tim McDonald's return and with quarterback Khari McGee's continued development, will be prohibitive favorites Friday against the winless Golden Eagles at Sunnyside.
"We're getting better and better every week," McDonald says of a 3-1 and sixth-ranked team that has rebounded from a 33-14 loss to No. 2 Bakersfield with wins over Merced (42-35) and Buchanan (48-14).
McGee, whose blend of running and throwing ability has no rival in the Central Section, completed 18 of 27 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for 100 yards and two scores against Buchanan.
He's 6 feet, 3 inches, 200 pounds and only a junior. And his job responsibility grew when Edison lost top running back Kevin Nutt for the season with a broken wrist against Bakersfield.
"That did put more pressure on Khari," McDonald says. "But he's growing by leaps and bounds and doing things pretty darn special."
The Tigers, 0-7-1 against Clovis West since beating the Eagles 45-13 on Sept. 24, 2004, complement McGee on the perimeter with receivers Terell Green, Vadal McDonald and Preston Scott.
For Clovis West, troubles mount.
An 0-4 team already reduced to a 30-man roster because of injuries and defects, the Eagles lost yet another player – and their best yet – when left offensive tackle Jeff Barth quit this week.
That means Clovis West, against an Edison defense that promises to bring the heat, will be without its two top tackles tonight – with Chad Specht also gone after being ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct in the fourth quarter of a 35-32 loss to No. 3 Bullard last week. An ejection, by CIF rules, draws an automatic one-game suspension.
Further, the Eagles will start five sophomores among their front six, including their tight end.
"Watch our practices this week and you'd never know it," Clovis West coach Mike Parsons says a year after going 12-1 and winning Tri-River Athletic Conference and Division I titles. "The spirit and morale are great. The kids are ready and excited for Edison."
Marty's latest gig: Good times for Marty Martin.
The new Mt. Whitney coach – following stops at Clovis West and Kerman – finally sold his home in Clovis, which wasn't easy because of the economy.
He's relocated 5 minutes from the Pioneers' campus. And it's there in Visalia that football has found new life in a 3-1 start that matches Mt. Whitney's best since it opened 5-1 en route to a 12-2 and D-II-winning season of 2006.
"I think we've got a chance to be pretty good," Martin says. "It's been a culture shock for a lot of the players because some things are being required of them that haven't been required. But they've bought into the system."
The Pioneers will roll into Fresno tonight for a nonleague game with No. 4 Memorial (4-0) on a high, having rallied from a 28-14 deficit to beat El Diamante 30-28 on Alex Martens' 18-yard field goal with 58 seconds left. The Miners had won 28 consecutive West Yosemite League games dating to 2006.
"For our kids to do that, and the way they did it, coming from behind, that was pretty special," Martin says. "It's a big step for us in developing the program."
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Carlos Ramos, Firebaugh: When coach Bill Magnuson took over Firebaugh's football program in 2009 he had a message for Ramos and five fellow sophomores: "We're shooting for a Valley championship your senior year. And they believed it."
While it's early October and leaves are just beginning to turn color, the 4-0 Eagles have established themselves as the team to beat in D-V in their quest for the program's first section title since 1994, when they won the Sierra Division.
Key to the start, which included a 24-12 season-opening conquest of defending D-V champion Fowler, has been Ramos.
Playing big at 5-7, 150, he's rushed for 361 yards and six touchdowns, increasing his career totals to 2,144 and 26.
He delivered three of those scores, including a game-sealing 25-yard run and conversion run, and two late fourth-down conversions to help rally the Eagles from a 20-0 deficit and to a 29-20 win over Caruthers last week.
"He has athletic ability and strength," Magnuson says, "but his strong suit is he can work hard for 21/2 hours. He's just a workhorse. And he communicates well and is just full of character."
Joining Ramos as three-year impact players have been tight end/defensive end Wyatt McBee, running back/safety Rene Cervantes, quarterback/linebacker Markus Espinoza, fullback/defensive tackle Brian Cervantes and wide receiver/safety Francisco Godoy.
OTHER GAMES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Hanford (3-2, 1-0) at El Diamante (0-4, 0-1): Not the WYL game of the year as advertised in August, but will likely impact the conference title race.
Selma (3-1) at Coalinga (5-0): A week after throwing a scare at D-IV's No. 1 Washington, the Bears now shift to the division's No. 2 Horned Toads.
Frontier (3-0) at Ridgeview (4-0): A score to follow for many in the section with D-II's No. 2 Titans visiting the D-III's No. 1 Wolf Pack.