The eighth week of Central Section football opened with nine teams clinging to hopes of going undefeated.
Only five – Sanger, Redwood, Selma, Mendota and Strathmore – remain heading into the final three weeks of the regular season and a postseason that will begin Nov. 11.
The Bee’s section No. 7-ranked Sanger remained among the undefeated with a 49-14 victory over Madera South on Friday that featured touchdown passes of 21 yards to Jalen Cropper, 57 yards to Aaron Mosby and 3 yards to Christopher Soria from Jacob Tijerina.
“It’s sure a lot better than being 3-4 or something, that’s for sure,” Apaches coach Chuck Shidan said. “We told the kids we want to finish this out because you don’t get the chance to run the table in high school football that often. We’re happy where we’re at right now.”
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Elsewhere around the section, No. 16 Selma defeated Dinuba 28-21 in the Central Sequoia League, Division V top-ranked Mendota knocked off previously unbeaten and D-V No. 2 Firebaugh 58-20 in the West Sierra League, and D-VI No. 1 Strathmore topped Sierra Pacific 42-28 in the East Sequoia League. All moved to 7-0.
Redwood (7-0) was idle.
In addition to Firebaugh, teams dropping from the undefeated ranks were No. 1 Clovis, which lost 21-17 to No. 2 Central in the Tri-River Athletic Conference; East Bakersfield, which was beaten 19-14 by Tehachapi in the South Yosemite league; and Chowchilla, which fell to Washington Union 23-21 in the North Sequoia League.
Sanger, top-ranked in D-II, also received touchdown runs of 7 yards by Christian Graney, 3 yards by Soria, 52 yards by Cropper and 18 yards by Jacob Garnica while moving to 2-0 in the County/Metro Athletic Conference and setting the stage for an Oct. 21 matchup at McLane Stadium against No. 13 Edison (2-5, 2-0) for sole possession of first place in the league.
We told the kids we want to finish this out because you don’t get the chance to run the table in high school football that often.
Sanger coach Chuck Shidan, whose Apaches are one of five remaining undefeated Central Section football teams following a 49-14 victory over Madera South
The Tigers have won two in a row after opening with losses to state powers from Arizona (Brophy College Prep) and Nevada (Damonte Ranch) and section heavyweights Clovis West, Clovis North and Garces Memorial.
“I don’t know anyone who’s had a harder schedule than Edison. They have taken on the world,” Shidan said. “We know one slip sends us from the top of the hill to the bottom real fast. Our kids are very aware of that. We know what we’re up against. You can throw out their record.”
Mendota, meanwhile, established itself as the team to beat in D-V with a commanding victory over Highway 33 rival Firebaugh, which entered 6-0 under first-year coach Dejon Kelly.
“I knew the magnitude of the game, and I’m not trying to downplay it, but we prepare for every team, and Firebaugh was just another game,” Aztecs coach Beto Mejia said. “We took care of what we had to take care of.
“It’s on to the next game for us. We can’t be stuck in the moment. That’s not our goal. Our goal is to be league champion and put ourselves in a good position for the playoffs.”
Mendota (7-0, 2-0) rode four touchdown passes from Junior Cardenas, who connected for scores of 71 yards to Marquez Navarro, 74 to Cristian Muratalla, 40 to Fabian Jasso and 19 to Julian Cardenas.
Junior Cardenas finished 7 of 15 for 242 yards.
Navarro added a 96-yard touchdown run, and Erick Segura scored on a 19-yard run and a 99-yard interception return for Mendota, which sits alone atop the WSL heading into next week’s game at Avenal.
The Aztecs are seeking their first section D-V title. Mendota captured consecutive D-VI titles in 2011 and 2012 before being promoted under the section’s competitive-equity system.
“I’ve been in this position before so it’s nothing new,” said Mejia, whose 2011 team went 12-0. “But it is exciting to experience this with a new group of kids. When this happened a few years back, these kids watched it. And they told themselves, ‘We want to be a part of a program that raises the bar even higher.’ We have not lowered expectations here in Mendota; we continue to raise them.”
Wildcats flying high – Behind the school’s single-game record of six touchdown passes from Nate Hughes, No. 17 Sunnyside rolled to its fifth consecutive win while setting up a showdown for sole possession of first place in the North Yosemite League on Oct. 21 against Fresno.
Hughes fired two touchdown passes to Breaun Heights and one each to Johnny De La Cruz, Joshua Woods, Tyren McIntyre and Aaron Moton in the Wildcats’ 55-6 NYL victory over McLane on Friday.
Sunnyside and Fresno will each arrive at the 7:30 p.m. meeting at Sunnyside Stadium 2-0 in the league and 5-2 overall.
The Wildcats are averaging 35.9 points per game and 46 during their five-game winning streak that followed opening losses to D-I powers Clovis North (30-6) and Central (56-15), teams that are ranked 12th and second, respectively, in the section by The Bee.
“That is one of our goals, to win the NYL,” Sunnyside coach Gordon Wood said. “That’s why we schedule teams like Central and (Clovis) North, to help our kids understand what they need to do to compete in competitive games.”
Hughes fired five first-half TD passes.
That is one of our goals, to win the NYL. That’s why we schedule teams like Central and (Clovis) North, to help our kids understand what they need to do to compete in competitive games.
Sunnyside coach Gordon Wood, whose team beat McLane 55-6 on Friday to set up a showdown for first place in the North Yosemite League on Oct. 21 against Fresno
The second-year starting quarterback who averages more than 200 yards passing per game was pulled two series into the third quarter as Wood and his staff tried to balance keeping their starters sharp while prepping for the D-II playoffs against running up the score.
Sunnyside is seeking the school’s first section football title.
“We’re trying to get them to understand when you practice today, it’s not necessarily to beat the team on Friday but to get better for the big picture, too,” Wood said. “The thing we’re excited about is they are starting to understand the process and are starting to see the results of their efforts.”
Panthers’ rising – Washington Union cleared a major hurdle toward a potential second consecutive NSL title and positioned itself for a likely move into The Bee’s D-IV rankings with a 23-21 win over Chowchilla.
The Redskins were ranked No. 2 in the division while outscoring opponents 246-48 during a 6-0 start – coming a season after Chowchilla won the section’s D-IV title (beating Washington Union 20-16 in the final) and finished runner-up in the CIF State’s Division IV-A.
The Panthers (5-3, 2-0) preserved their fifth consecutive victory when defensive tackle Martin Tolentino stopped Chowchilla quarterback Cody Woolsey short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the score with 1:25 left.
It was one of several big plays made by the Panthers’ defense, which also received a strip and 85-yard fumble return by Noah Beukers and an interception from Devontae Massey that led to a field goal.
The turnovers helped the Panthers roll to a 23-7 first-half lead while continuing to rebound from an 0-3 start that included losses to No. 18 San Joaquin Memorial (21-14), No. 16 Selma (25-3) and unranked Kingsburg (22-8).
“The reason we schedule those tough teams early is to get battle-tested for a league run and a playoff run,” Washington coach Dennis Randle said. “We know how to handle those situations. They don’t panic. They stick together. This is a great group of kids with a great group of leaders.”
Washington Union will play at Liberty on Oct. 21 in a clash of the only teams unbeaten in North Sequoia play.
“It’s another top-flight opponent and another league championship game,” Randle said. “And we’re going to treat it as such.”