Clovis News: Sports

Sunnyside down thanks to injuries

An unconventional season to begin with has turned bizarre for Sunnyside High's football team.

It has gone like this:

  • In August, coach Shannon Pulliam agreed with Sierra officials to coach the Chieftains in 2010, but on the condition that he remain with Sunnyside to close it out with a strong senior class.
  • The Wildcats opened the season dramatically, scoring a last-minute touchdown and 2-point conversion to win 22-21 at Torrey Pines-San Diego.
  • But they've lost eight starters to injuries, causing the Wildcats at times to dip down to third-stringers at quarterback and running back, and have lost four straight while being outscored 171-49.
  • "This really wasn't supposed to happen; it wasn't supposed to be like this," Pulliam said. "We're supposed to be something like 4-1 and rolling. But we were a totally different football team when we strapped it on against Torrey."

    How different?

    "We've gone from 38 kids dressed to 24," he said.

    It all bottomed out Friday against Central when the Wildcats lost their top two quarterbacks, Pedro Lopez and Cameron Hudson, to injuries.

    That forced Pulliam to turn to receiver/linebacker Ron Yom at quarterback and stuff the ball into the gut of LeJon Mason, who carried 38 times for 167 yards in a 73-7 loss to the now 10th-ranked Grizzlies.

    Mason now has to carry the load with senior running back Jacob Holloway gone for the year with a broken foot suffered in the first half against Torrey Pines -- a game Sunnyside pulled out on third-string running back Jerrold Tanner's conversion run with 19 seconds remaining.

    "We were so high after the Torrey game," Pulliam said.

    But then the lows: losses to Sanger (31-14), Reedley (13-10) and Washington (54-18) before Central, which led 53-0 at halftime.

    "I told the kids at halftime, 'It can't get any worse,' " Pulliam said. "That's about all I could tell them. And they came out and played hard and played for the respect of themselves, their teammates and coaches."

    The Wildcats will host No. 14 Hoover on Friday before opening North Yosemite League play Oct. 16 against Madera South.

    "I told our kids [Monday], 'Hey, man, it's nothing but uphill from here. We still have a league championship to play for.' "

    Next year, Pulliam will be coaching for a title in the North Sequoia League at Sierra, where he once had a long-term substitute teaching job.

    "I love the area. It's beautiful and the setting is great," said Pulliam, who lives 20 minutes from the Tollhouse school in northeast Clovis. "It's a personal move more than anything."

    He'll replace Rob Hastie, who was laid off as a teacher at Sierra after the 2008-09 school year, then asked to come back and teach and coach the varsity after J.D. Burnett resigned following the first day of practice.