Buchanan first-year coach Matt Giordano, as a former nine-year NFL player, is savvy enough not to get ahead of himself entering Week 3 and begin talking Central Section championship.
“We haven’t been great,” he says, “but we’re very, very thankful for the 2-0 start, that’s for sure.”
Yet at Buchanan, the theme of section titles is a natural one.
The Bears for years have either led the section in top-division championships or finished second to Clovis West.
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Last school year, Buchanan won an astonishing nine section titles out of a possible 23 while being named Cal-Hi Sports State Boys School of the Year. And the Bears ran a close second to Torrey Pines-San Diego for Cal-Hi’s overall School of the Year.
Buchanan’s section titles were in boys soccer, baseball, track and field, volleyball and wrestling, and girls tennis, softball, badminton and track and field. The Bears finished top-ranked nationally in several baseball polls and also won the state in wrestling.
Buchanan has won one section football crown in the 23-year history of the program, according to section historian Bob Barnett. And Giordano starred on that one in 2000 before playing safety for five teams in the NFL, including St. Louis to close his career in 2013.
It was soon after that he and wife Laura (Enns), a Clovis High graduate, agreed it would be best for him to coach.
And Giordano says it’s not unusual for retired NFL players to launch coaching careers with the prep level.
“My wife and I knew I had aspirations to coach,” he says after a practice this week. “And, while it’s always possible to do that at the highest level (NFL), we prayed about it and figured it was best for us to come back to our hometown and teach and coach for a while.”
1 Central Section football titles in Buchanan’s 23-year history
Giordano teaches physical education at Buchanan.
The Giordanos have children ages 7, 5 and 2.
“Laura has the most important job – a stay-at-home mom,” he says.
The Bee’s fourth-ranked Bears, perhaps not coincidentally with a former NFL defender blowing the whistle, has opened with two punishing wins – 33-14 over two-year reigning section Division III champion Hanford and 28-17 over then-No. 2 Bullard. They will return to Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday night to play Lemoore (0-2), the 2015 D-II runner-up, in another nonleague game.
Against Bullard, Buchanan led 28-0 and with a 211-55 advantage in total yards at halftime in what Knights 17-year coach Donnie Arax says ranked among the three worst two-quarter beatings he’s experienced at the program.
Full disclosure: Bullard played Friday without two-year Fresno Bee All-Star linebacker Ben Baker (shoulder), and Hanford quarterback Ryan Johnson (knee) – The Bee’s 2015 Player of the Year – was knocked out of the game after four offensive plays.
But, while Arax says Baker’s absence “really, really hurt us,” he adds: “I don’t want to diminish what Buchanan did; they outplayed us and outhustled us.”
The player of the game was Bears senior Zach Presno as a running back (108 yards, three touchdowns) and middle linebacker.
“He’s our warhorse,” Giordano says of The Bee All-Star catcher who has committed to Fresno State for baseball. “I would not be surprised to see him play pro baseball. And, if he chose football, I could see him go very far, also. He comes out here with a pure professional motive; nobody works harder. And he has all the intangibles – moxie, intelligence and savviness.”
Offensively, senior quarterback Nolan Leforge has been in command while operating behind a line led by center Ardie Burton and guards Noah Salcido and David Robles. And Giordano says he’d rank offensive line coaches Ross Wood and Gary Delsimone with “anybody in the state.”
Defensively, Presno has considerable help, also featuring tackle Ryan Bacon, outside linebacker Logan Fogg and safety Blake Wells.
Other top games (all Friday)
▪ No. 12 Central (1-1) at No. 1 Liberty-Bakersfield (2-0): Central beginning to settle under first-year coach Kyle Biggs. Liberty the defending D-I champ.
▪ No. 5 Bullard (1-1) at No. 2 Clovis (2-0): Top quarterback duel with the Knights’ Jack Taylor vs. the Cougars’ Trey Lake. But Baker’s doubtful for Bullard, and that’s huge.
▪ No. 6 Clovis West (1-1) vs. No. 8 Edison (0-2), at Sunnyside: Edison finally returns to Fresno after playing some of the best from Arizona and Nevada.
CENTRAL SECTION FOOTBALL RANKINGS
- 1. Liberty-Bakersfield (SWYL, 2-0)
- 2. Clovis (TRAC, 2-0)
- 3. Bakersfield (SWYL, 2-0)
- 4. Buchanan (TRAC, 2-0)
- 5. Bullard (SMAC, 1-1)
- 6. Clovis West (TRAC, 1-1)
- 7. Ridgeview (SYL, 0-2)
- 8. Edison (CMAC, 0-2)
- 9. Clovis North (TRAC, 1-1)
- 10. Stockdale (SWYL, 2-0)
- 11. Sanger (CMAC, 2-0)
- 12. Central (TRAC, 1-1)
- 13. Tulare Western (EYL, 2-0)
- 14. Memorial (CMAC, 2-0)
- 15. Dinuba (CSL, 2-0)
- 16. Redwood (WYL, 2-0)
- 17. Tulare (EYL, 2-0)
- 18. Selma (CSL, 2-0)
- 19. Fresno (NYL, 1-1)
- 20. Centennial (SWYL, 0-2)
- Division I: 1. Clovis; 2. Liberty-Bakersfield; 3. Bakersfield
- Division II: 1. Ridgeview; 2. Sanger; 3. Dinuba
- Division III: 1. Tulare Western; 2. Memorial; 3. Fresno
- Division IV: 1. Selma; 2. Chowchilla (1-0); 3. Golden West (2-0)
- Division V: 1. Mendota (2-0); 2. Dos Palos (2-0); 3. Firebaugh (2-0)
- Division VI: 1. Kennedy (2-0); 2. Sierra Pacific (1-1); 3. Strathmore (2-0)