Clovis News: Sports

Hoover, Redwood coaches meet for final playoffs

Coaches Pat Plummer of Hoover and John Yavasile of Redwood will shake hands before and after tonight's Central Section first-round Division II football playoff in Visalia.

For one, it will be a final handshake in such a setting.

The coaches, combining 54 years, 329 wins and 591 games in all, each announced before the season that they would be stepping down.

"Every week, I'm doing something for the last time," Yavasile said.

In his most recent example, he earned his last Cowhide win -- 42-17 over Mt. Whitney -- last week.

The Pioneers have got to be giddy about the departure of a coach who went 19-3 against them in his 22-year career.

Now it's on to 13th-seeded Hoover (4-6), which No. 4 Redwood defeated 33-16 in a Sept. 24 nonleague game in Visalia. The Rangers also eliminated the Patriots, 28-0, in a D-II first-rounder last year.

"As long as there's another game to prepare for, I don't think about [retiring] too much," Yavasile said. "But when it's all said and done, and the lights turn out, it's going to be more emotional."

Coach Roger Kelly's former assistant and then successor at Redwood, Yavasile has spent 36 years in the program.

He's won one section title, in 1996, when the ninth-seeded Rangers swept four playoff games on the road, capped by a 16-13 win at Clovis.

And he's equipped to go out with another championship on a team powered by 1,700-yard rusher Dillon Root, who has scored a school-record 29 touchdowns, tight end/linebacker Travis Beck, fullback Ryan Kruse, wide receiver K.C. Pearce and free safety Michael Brown.

Redwood has won 7 of 8 following season-opening losses to Centennial (56-21) and Buchanan (41-27).

"I wanted to leave feeling good, I wanted to leave the program in good shape," Yavasile said. "And it's back and climbing the ladder again. It's been a great ride; I've really enjoyed it."

Plummer, likewise, says every day's been a great day at Hoover. But the ride there has always been a challenge since he arrived from Tulare Western in 1985.

The demographic shift in Fresno, with white flight north of Herndon Avenue, has greatly affected Hoover's ability to produce at a high level.

The Patriots won their first league title in 11 years this season, and that came after being lowered from the County/Metro Athletic Conference to the North Yosemite League.

But they've long earned a reputation under Plummer of competing well against any caliber of competition. And players such as quarterback Ryan Montes, running back Shane Martinez and defenders Andy Avila, Kenny Graves and Craig Jensen have given them a chance again this season.

Now for Plummer's last shot at Yavasile and Redwood, a former annual foe of Plummer's when he was at Western.

"It's been great playing against John," Plummer said. "I've known him as long as I've been in this business. He runs a quality program. I know we're going to get his best shot, and he knows he's going to get ours."