Hanford High’s quest for its first Central Section football title took more than 100 years.
The wait for the Bullpups’ first CIF State championship wasn’t nearly as long.
One season after winning its first section crown, Hanford repeated and entered the expanded CIF State bowl system, where it rode 246 yards passing and three touchdowns from Ryan Johnson, and a defense that held explosive Greg Bell in check nearly all night to a 33-21 victory over Bonita Vista-Chula Vista in the Division IV-AA final Saturday at a wet, slick Neighbor Bowl.
“This is tremendous, I’m so happy for the kids,” Bullpups coach Josh Young said. “To go out on top, these kids deserved it. They are such a good group. They had an extreme determination to make this happen. Bonita Vista is a hell of a football team.”
They had an extreme determination to make this happen. Bonita Vista is a hell of a footballl team.
Hanford High football coach on his team’s 33-21 victory over the Barons for the CIF State Division IV-AA title
Hanford (14-1) becomes the third Central Section football program to capture a state title since the bowl system was launched 10 years ago, joining Division I champ Bakersfield in 2013 and D-III winner Washington in 2011.
Two other section schools failed in bids to land state titles Saturday, with Chowchilla losing to Sierra-Manteca 20-15 in the Division IV-A final and Immanuel getting beat 56-21 by Mater Dei Catholic-Chula Vista in the Division V-AA final.
“I’m so proud of each and every one of these guys,” said the Bullpups’ Joseph McDaniel, who rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns while also contributing on defense at linebacker.
For most of the night, McDaniel outplayed Bonita Vista’s Bell, who was advertised as the best running back in the San Diego area after entering with 2,493 yards and 33 touchdowns for a Barons (12-3) team that won the San Diego Section D-III title before defeating Canyon-Anaheim 24-21 last week in the South Regional.
Bell was held to 56 yards on 20 carries in the first half as Hanford opened a 19-14 lead. Overall, Bell managed more than 5 yards on four of his 34 carries; a 49-yard third-quarter touchdown run and a 23-yard scamper in garbage time were the only ones on which he broke through Hanford’s defense for more than 9 yards. He finished with 167.
30 Number of Greg Bell’s 34 carries on which the Bonita Vista star, who entered with 2,494 yards, was held to 5 yards or less in Hanford’s victory in the state Division IV-AA football titlegame.
“People underestimate our defense,” said Bullpups defensive back/receiver Juwuane Hughes, who helped keep containment on Bell while also catching seven passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. “We have a real good defense. When people talk up a player (such as Bell, the subject of a Bee preview story), our defense takes it personal. We had to stop him and take him out of the game early.”
Hanford overcame a horrendous start when it muffed the opening kickoff.Bonita Vista scored four plays later on Anthony Posada’s 16-yard touchdown to Quentin Harrison.
The Bullpups answered on their next drive, capped by McDaniel’s 2-yard scoring run but they missed the extra point.
“That was huge,” said Johnson, who completed five passes on the nine-play, 78-yard march. “We got back together, fought back and scored.”
A wobbly, short punt out of Hanford’s end zone led to the Barons’ second score, a 16-yard return by Tristan Schultz that made it 14-6.
But Hanford came back with Johnson touchdown passes of 26 yards to Cole Taber and 77 yards to Hughes to take a 19-14 lead into halftime.
Hanford pulled away in the second half behind a 27-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Taber, and a 1-yard scoring run from McDaniel.
Bell’s 49-yard touchdown with 3:28 left in the third quarter cut Hanford’s lead to 26-21, but that’s as close as the Barons would come.
We have a real good defense. When people talk up a player, our defense takes it personal. We had to stop him and take him out of the game early.
Hanford defensive back Juwuane Hughes on the job the Bullpups did against star Bonita Vista running back Greg Bell
“We knew if we could get him going laterally, we had a good chance,” Young said. “The one time we didn’t, he took it to the house.”
Hanford forced and recovered a fumble on Bonita Vista’s next drive, then got the ball back when a fourth-and-goal pass from the 5 fell incomplete, and the Bullpups came up with an interception to stop the Baron’s last drive, making Hanford one of 13 divisional state champions.
“I knew it would be tough with the wet conditions, but we did it,” said Johnson, who passed for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns in Hanford’s postseason run, including a 42-18 defeat of Sonora last week in the North Regional. “I don’t know how we did it, but we did.”