It’s clear sailing now toward several major objectives for Sanger High football.
Having already defeated Bullard in the County/Metro Athletic Conference, the Central Section’s sixth-ranked Apaches dominated their other annual calendar-circling league foe, Edison, with a 28-18 decision Friday night at McLane Stadium.
Andrew Azua apologized for one mistake – a goal-line fumble – by rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns as Sanger improved to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the CMAC while marching toward the league title, a Division II top seed and coach Chuck Shidan’s 200th victory.
Shidan, in his 27th and likely final year with the Apaches, has 198 entering two final regular-season games in which they’ll be prohibitive favorites – at home against Madera next Friday and at Memorial on Nov. 4.
Section seeding, as determined largely by a coaches poll, will be announced Nov. 5 and playoffs will begin a week later.
And it will be then that Sanger will attempt to capture a fourth section title under Shidan, the ideal getaway party for the man who has made clear – while not making an official announcement – of his intention to retire as a coach.
Azua has played three years for him and maybe never better than Friday night, when he carried 28 times and scored from 11, 10 and 1 yards while running out of the program’s customary wing-T.
I’m glad coaches have faith in me because I have faith in my team. We all know we have each other’s back and do what we have to at the end of the day.
Sanger’s Andrew Azua, on bouncing back from an early fumble to run for three touchdowns in the win over Edison
The 1-yarder with 1 minute, 24 seconds remaining in the first half was most impressive, and here’s why: The Apaches, leading 14-10, had reached the Edison 1-yard line on their previous possession. It was there that Azua was stripped by Jake Hanson and fumbled, with the Tigers’ Teyjohn Harrington recovering.
When Sanger resumed possession a few minutes later on the Edison 32, Azua carried on all six plays, capped by the 1-yard TD.
“I’m glad coaches have faith in me because I have faith in my team,” Azua said. “We all know we have each other’s back and do what we have to at the end of the day.”
Tigers senior quarterback Jimmy Gray carried 11 times for 158 yards, including gains of 39, 45 and 42 yards.
But No. 13 Edison (2-6, 2-1), which had won two straight after an 0-5 start against a daunting nonleague schedule, was otherwise stuffed by a senior-based Apaches defense.
The Tigers completed 10 of 28 passes for 62 yards while being outmatched by a Sanger secondary comprising cornerbacks Aaron Mosby and Chris Soria, and safeties Christian Graney and Jalen Cropper. And linebackers Miguel Garcia, Adrian Valencia, Josh Garza and Josiah Arreola were typically superb.
Sanger mourns loss – Sanger fans watched the game with heavy hearts after the loss Tuesday of one of the most popular coaches and teachers the community has known, Dean Nicholson.
“Mr. Nicholson was more than a coach and teacher,” longtime Sanger statistician and historian Ron Blackwood said. “He was a tremendous person and a very strong Christian. He touched the lives of thousands of students.”
Nicholson, 92, died after an extended challenge with health problems.
Nicholson won 215 games and five league titles in 24 years as Sanger’s basketball coach from 1953-76, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
He also coached championship golf teams and assisted on the Apaches’ first section-winning football teams, in 1951 and ’56.
But Nicholson and surviving wife Jean have been best known for community service, testament to a celebration of his life that packed downtown Sanger in October 2013. It was held to establish a scholarship fund for high school seniors.
Nicholson is also survived by sons Bob Nicholson and Tom Nicholson. A daughter, Cindy, died last year.
A memorial service for Nicholson will be Oct. 29 in the school gymnasium at the corner of Annadale and Bethel.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly listed Azua with three touchdowns and 175 yards.