It’s been 12 seasons since Redwood High – once the pre-eminent football program in Tulare and Kings counties – last won a league title.
The drought stretches 20 years since the Rangers’ last Central Section championship, a 16-13 victory over Clovis in the 1996 Yosemite Division final.
But The Bee’s No. 16-ranked team appears poised to contend for both heading into Friday’s marquee matchup with No. 13 Tulare Western (2-0) at Bob Mathias Stadium.
The Rangers, who compete in Division II for the playoffs, are on a three-game roll after opening with a 48-7 win over Reedley. They followed that with a 29-14 defeat of Division I Clovis East from the powerful Tri-River Athletic Conference and last week downed perennial D-II power Tulare, 46-35.
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“It’s going to be up to them and the belief system they have,” sixth-year Redwood coach Shaun Ball said. “But I’m excited to see what they are going to be able to accomplish as a group.”
It’s going to be up to them and the belief system they have. But I’m excited to see what they are going to be able to accomplish as a group.
Redwood football coach Shaun Ball
Redwood is averaging 41 points per game behind an offense led by quarterback Frankie Ayon, running back Michael Bean and receiver Kobe Garner. Ayon passed for 405 yards and five touchdowns while Garner caught seven passes for 201 yards and a score in last week’s shootout win over Tulare, which features two of the most explosive players in the section in receiver Emoryie Edwards and running back Kazmeir Allen.
Ayon (one interception) and Garner (two) contribute to a secondary that has four interceptions overall. The defense also has been led by Damian Lujan (26 tackles), Trent Beck (13) and Brayden Melvin (4.5 sacks). Cooper Allen has made an impact as a defensive back (one interception), receiver (106 yards, two touchdowns) and on special teams (where he averages 39.6 yards per punt and has converted all 16 of his kicks, including three field goals).
“This is a close-knit group,” Ball said. “They enjoy being around each other and playing the game. And if you are having fun, that makes all the difference in the world.”
Redwood won seven West Yosemite League titles in the 15 seasons before the opening of El Diamante, Visalia’s fourth high school, in 2004. Since then, the WYL has been ruled by the Miners (who have won outright or shared seven titles), Lemoore (won or shared four titles) and Hanford (one), with all three going on to win at least one section title.
The Redwood Rangers are 60-64 overall and 39-27 in the WYL since their last league title in 2004.
Redwood opens WYL play Sept. 23 at home against two-time reigning champion Lemoore.
“Redwood is such a great place with a tradition of winning,” Ball said. “We’ve been successful in so many other sports since I’ve been here, and we need to pull our weight a little more as far as football goes. We want to get back to that point where we’re consistently successful.”
Holy Bowl bash – The annual Holy Bowl will unfold Saturday night in Kern County, matching Memorial (3-0) and Garces (2-1).
Memorial, ranked second in Division III and 14th overall, is powered by Dashawn Holliman, a 5-11, 240-pound junior running back with 339 yards rushing, a 7.2 average per carry and seven touchdowns. He’ll be opposed by a Garces defense blueprinted by second-year coach A.J. Gass, a former Fresno State defender.
Other top games to watch (all Friday):
Frontier (1-2) vs. No. 2 Central (2-1), at Koligian Stadium: The Grizzlies are suddenly the section’s hot ticket after rolling 38-0 last week at then-No. 1 Liberty-Bakersfield, the defending D-I champion.
No. 4 Buchanan (3-0) at No. 7 Liberty (2-1): Buchanan figures to walk into a beehive in this one with the Patriots surely in a foul mood following the Central spanking.
No. 10 Edison (0-3) vs. No. 9 Clovis North (2-1), at Veterans Memorial Stadium: It’s all about competition, and Edison continues to run the quality gamut, having lost to Brophy College Prep-Phoenix (33-0), Damonte Ranch-Reno (26-10) and Clovis West (26-20).
Washington 29, Roosevelt 28, OT
Hanford 40, Porterville 22
Chaminade-West Hills 28, Bakersfield 20
Caruthers at Sierra, 7 p.m.
Fowler at Liberty-Madera Ranchos, 7 p.m.
Kingsburg vs. Monache (Granite Hills), 7 p.m.
McFarland at Kern Valley-Lake Isabella, 7 p.m.
Strathmore at Orosi, 7 p.m.
Buchanan at Liberty-Bakersfield, 7 p.m.
Farmersville at Lindsay, 7:15 p.m.
Chowchilla at Central Valley Christian, 7:15 p.m.
Clovis at Stockdale, 7:30 p.m.
Centennial vs. Bullard (Sunnyside), 7:30 p.m.
Exeter at Taft, 7:30 p.m.
Frontier vs. Central (Koligian Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
Granite Hills at Orange Cove, 7:30 p.m.
Sunnyside vs. Clovis East (Lamonica Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
Edison vs. Clovis North (Veterans Memorial Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
Lemoore at Sanger, 7:30 p.m.
El Diamante at Dinuba, 7:30 p.m.
Wasco at McLane, 7:30 p.m.
Redwood vs. Tulare Western (Mathias Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
Firebaugh at Riverdale, 7:30 p.m.
Foothill at West, 7:30 p.m.
Arvin at Mira Monte, 7:30 p.m.
Golden Valley at Shafter, 7:30 p.m.
Hanford West vs. Sierra Pacific (Neighbor Bowl), 7:30 p.m.
Highland at East Bakersfield, 7:30 p.m.
Immanuel at Mendota, 7:30 p.m.
Coalinga at Selma, 7:30 p.m.
Kerman at Kennedy, 7:30 p.m.
Golden West vs. Madera South (Madera High), 7:30 p.m.
Mission Oak vs. Mt. Whitney (Mineral King Bowl), 7:30 p.m.
North at Delano, 7:30 p.m.
South at Independence, 7:30 p.m.
Tehachapi at Bakersfield Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Tranquillity at Minarets, 7:30 p.m.
Clovis West at Rocklin, 7 p.m.
Fresno at El Capitan-Merced, 7 p.m.
Desert Christian-Lancaster at Rosamond, 7 p.m.
Lancaster at Desert-Edwards AFB, 7 p.m.
Los Banos at Dos Palos, 7 p.m.
Madera vs. Merced (Golden Valley), 7 p.m.
Fresno Christian at Laton, 7 p.m.
Yosemite at Mariposa County, 7:30 p.m.
Memorial at Garces, 7:30 p.m.
INTERSECTIONAL (8 MAN)
Pinewood-Los Altos Hills at Riverdale Christian, 1 p.m.