Hanford High played its first football game in 1899 and won its first Central Section football championship in 2014.
The wait wasn’t as long for title No. 2.
Behind a combined five touchdowns from junior quarterback Ryan Johnson, the top-seeded Bullpups rolled past No. 2 Memorial 42-28 on Friday at Neighbor Bowl for a second straight Division III crown.
Hanford (12-1) advances to the expanded CIF state playoffs and will play a Northern California Regional game on Dec. 11 or 12. The division, opponent and site will be announced Sunday.
Johnson, who has captured four section titles between football and basketball, helped Hanford build a 14-7 halftime lead with a 19-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 36-yard scoring pass to his cousin, Brandon Sanchez, in the second.
Coach said we’d take shots deep, and we did. It paid off for us.
Hanford receiver Brandon Sanchez, who caught four passes for 115 yards in D-III title win
Then the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder delivered touchdown passes of 24 yards to Sanchez and 21 to Juwuane Hughes to help the Bullpups pull away.
“He’s matured so much. Every game, he keeps getting better and better,” Hanford coach Josh Young said of Johnson, who is 24-2 as the starting quarterback. “The sky is the limit for the kid.”
Johnson delivered perhaps his best pass when Hanford needed it most.
After Memorial cut its deficit to 28-20 on a 68-yard Joey Ruiz run, Johnson delivered a 42-yard strike to Chris Cano for a touchdown on the next play from scrimmage.
36, 43, 24 three of Ryan Johnson passes to Brandon Sanchez, two for TDs and three of 12 plays of 19-plus yards for the Bullpups
Johnson finished 11 of 23 for 285 yards and ran for 60 yards on 11 carries.
“This is what we all wanted. We knew we had it in us,” Johnson said. “I’ve got to give big credit to the line and the receivers. They executed everything perfect. They won this game.”
Entering the game, Memorial coach Anthony Goston said his team would have to limit Hanford big plays.
The Bullpups would strike for 43 yards – on a Johnson pass to Hughes – on their fourth play from scrimmage and go on to make 12 plays that covered 19 or more yards, including passes of 36, 43 and 24 yards to Sanchez, who transferred from Buhach Colony-Atwater.
“Coach said we’d take shots deep, and we did,” said Sanchez, who caught four passes for 115 yards. “It paid off for us.”
We wanted to be like El Diamante, like the Redwood of old and be successful year after year. This is a step in the right direction.
Hanford coach Josh Young on the important of repeating as section champs
Hanford capped its scoring on a five-yard run by Joseph McDaniel, who finished with 153 yards on 26 carries.
“It’s tough to go back-to-back,” Young said. “I’m proud these guys stayed the course and got it done. When I got this job, we didn’t want to have peaks and valleys. We wanted to be like El Diamante, like the Redwood of old and be successful year after year. This is a step in the right direction.”
Memorial, which also received Michael Alvarez touchdown passes of 22 yards to Chris Paz and nine yards to Peter Pozovich and a five-yard Ruiz scoring run, lost its top cornerback, Demarcus Wilson, to injury on the opening kickoff. The Panthers (9-4) also lost kicker Luis Pelayo.
“That obviously hurt,” said Goston, attempting to add a seventh section title to the school trophy case. “We can’t afford to lose guys like that with the depth we have.”