Roses, thorns and Mike Parsons: Sports – so rewarding, so humbling – finds Mike Parsons.
This is the high school football coach bathed in Gatorade celebrations following Central Section and state championships at Clovis West and Modesto Christian, respectively, the past two seasons.
That's when his teams went a combined 27-1 – the only loss coming last year by a point.
Now he's scrambling for explanations with no alibis following an 0-2 start with a Clovis West team ranked No. 14 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 2 in the section by The Bee in the preseason.
The Golden Eagles have lost 31-30 in double overtime to Merced and 52-18 to Northern California power Del Oro-Loomis.
And now for the heat – a Saturday night date with the state's 11th-ranked Crespi-Encino at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"They have 10 [major-college] guys, give or take," Parsons says. "They have size and speed not seen in the Valley. They are special."
Excuses are forbidden at Clovis West, where across-the-board dominance – 170 section titles in 30 years – is the standard.
"No excuses, we've got to find a way," Parsons says. "We've got everything in front of us – TRAC and Valley championships. And we have the kids to do it."
Only with relatively few of them.
Somehow – with all the Eagles' tradition (nine section titles since 1985) and enrollment (2,300) – they began this season with just 38 varsity players, and suited just 27 against Del Oro because of defections and injuries.
"Yes, we had some guys quit," Parsons says, "and that's OK. Our expectations are too high for some kids to stick with, and that's OK with me. This is a special place; there are no unrealistic expectations."
Stallworth ranks as Tulare's "best": At a time Tulare graduate Marquess Wilson is starting as a sophomore for Washington State, and following a plethora of gifted receivers in a 134-52, 17-year career with the Redskins, coach Darren Bennett says William Stallworth is the best he's had at the position.
The 6-2, 180-pound Stallworth launched his senior season with 144 receiving yards and three touchdowns, plus a punt return for a score, in an 81-14 rout of Golden West last week.
"It looked like a college kid coming home for the weekend," Bennett says.
He said it: "I figured we'd be a pretty good team, and this kind of confirmed it." – Bullard coach Donnie Arax after his team shut out NorCal power Valley Christian-San Jose and nationally ranked running back Byron Marshall in the first half before being outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter of a 28-14 loss.
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Austin Bray, Kingsburg: There will be more going on than strong bloodlines and a recent state athlete of the week honor for the brother of Tennessee starting quarterback Tyler Bray when this latest family gunslinger opposes Washington at what promises to be a feverish John Ventura Field tonight in Easton. The Brays lost their grandmother, Jana Bray, Aug. 28. As a tribute to her, the brothers are wearing T-shirts bearing her picture under their game jerseys for the entire season.
OTHER GAMES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Clovis (2-0) at Centennial (1-1): Potential trap game for the section's top-ranked Cougars a week before they play at home against No. 5 Stockdale. But surely the Golden Hawks have caught Clovis' attention, winning 36-6 in this preleague duel at Lamonica Stadium a year ago behind QB Cody Kessler (now at USC) before winning at Redwood 41-26 last week behind yet another gunslinger in Joe Bresson (405 passing yards, three TDs).
Madera South (2-0) at Clovis North (2-0): Coach Scott Donegan, a former section champion at Chowchilla, has finally got something going after experiencing growing pains to the tune of 6-36 in his first four seasons with the D-III Stallions. But handling the D-II Broncos of the TRAC promises to be a daunting task.
Hanford (2-0) at Dinuba (1-0): Showcase of D-III stars in Bullpups receiver/running back/slot back/wherever you want to put him Brayden Sanchez vs. Emperors QB David Rico. This comes two years after Dinuba defeated Hanford 39-25 in a D-III semi at the same site. But the Bullpups answered at home last September with a 49-14 rout of the Emps.
Mendota (2-0) at Liberty-Madera Ranchos (1-1): After producing unbeaten JV teams the past two years at Mendota, first-year coach Beto Mejia's varsity – top-ranked in The Bee's D-VI – has throttled D-V members Fresno Christian 70-0 and Caruthers 62-6 behind super soph Edger Segura (478 yards rushing, nine TDs). Now yet another D-V target in Liberty, third-ranked in the division.