Kickoff to Central Section football was partly about dejection, ejection and, on an entirely different depth of misery for Hanford High, an injury to The Fresno Bee’s 2015 Player of the Year – quarterback Ryan Johnson.
That would be The Bee’s preseason No. 1 Clovis West, misfiring on what should have been gimmie touchdown passes on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter; settling for a field goal after having a first down on the Liberty-Bakersfield three-yard line in the third quarter; and, finally, having a fourth-down option pass intercepted deep in Patriots territory in the fourth quarter – all in a 28-24 loss to a team ranked No. 2 by The Bee and coming off its first Division I title.
That would be Jamar Moya, considered Ridgeview’s senior leader and an all-purpose athlete applauded often by coach Dennis Manning for his intelligence. He was ejected in the first quarter for a personal foul in a 34-20 loss to Stockdale. Ridgeview, the section’s two-year reigning D-II champion, arrived on its home field top-ranked overall in the section by The Bakersfield Californian, No. 6 in the section by The Fresno Bee and No. 22 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
The ejection also draws an automatic one-game suspension, meaning the running back/defensive back will sit out the Wolf Pack’s highly anticipated nonleague showdown at Liberty-Bakersfield this Friday. In addition, the availability of two more Ridgeview stars, wide receiver Jaleyn Prevost and safety Damon Degraffenreid, is unkown. They were suspended last week for disciplinary reasons and didn’t play against Stockdale, according to The Californian.
That would be tied to Johnson only eight months after the San Jose State-bound quarterback led the 14-1 Bullpups to a 33-21 home-field win over Bonita Vista-Chula Vista for the CIF State Division IV-AA title – the 124-year-old school’s athletics pinnacle.
He injured his left ankle and possibly the knee, as well, while being sacked on a scramble on the Bullpups’ third offensive play in what would be a 33-14 loss at No. 11 Buchanan.
Johnson returned for the team’s next possession, was immediately tackled for a safety, then left for good.
The severity of the injuries aren’t known.
It could be something; it could be absolutely nothing. We won’t know for sure until the MRI.
Sandy Johnson, father of Hanford quarterback Ryan Johnson, who was injured in Friday’s season opener
He was taken to Clovis Community Medical Center by his father, Sandy Johnson, at halftime. X-rays were taken, but the father said Saturday they hadn’t been read yet by a radiologist. He also said they hope to have an MRI taken Monday.
“It could be something; it could be absolutely nothing,” Sandy Johnson said. “We won’t know for sure until the MRI. I’m a little tired after being up all night worrying.”
Laying nearby in their Hanford home was his son with an ice machine on his leg.
It was the first football injury in a career that began in fourth grade.
“Not the way I wanted to start my senior year, not at all,” Ryan Johnson said. “But I can’t change it now.”
The loss was only the third in 29 games as a three-year starter for Johnson, who has affected four section titles – two in football and two in basketball – at Hanford. He’s 75-20 in six combined varsity seasons.
Sandy Johnson said his son awoke Saturday morning with his knee slightly swollen, “but not real bad. A doctor made a house call, and he seemed to think the knee felt pretty firm.
“We’re trying to keep positive. Ryan’s in good spirits, but I’ve told him to prepare for the worst because you never know. You have to be prepared with that mindset.”
Hanford, a D-III program in the section and ranked No. 12 by The Bee, operated the quarterback position by committee following Johnson’s departure. The Bullpups, who will play at No. 7 Sanger on Friday, closed the game with senior wide receiver Jordan Perryman taking direct snaps.
Buchanan, meanwhile, coasted in Matt Giordano’s coaching debut. The former Bears star and nine-year NFL player has replaced Mike Jacot.
Central Section 11th-ranked Buchanan will face No. 3 Bullard at 7 p.m. Thursday in one of the big Week 2 games.
A three-yard touchdown run by Zach Presno gave Buchanan a 7-0 lead on its first possession before Johnson got hurt.
The Bears made it 16-0 in the first with the safety and a three-yard TD run by Trevor Ervin. In the second quarter, Presno scored again from two yards, and Jacob Rudolph’s field goal made it 26-0.
The Buchanan win sets up a 7 p.m. showdown Thursday at McLane Stadium against No. 3 Bullard, which opened with a 24-3 rout of No. 5 Central.
Clovis West drops heartbreaker – In a championship-caliber matchup that played out as such – and no matter that it was a season opener in late August – Liberty rallied in the fourth quarter to deny Clovis West.
The Patriots of the Southwest Yosemite League, returning to the same site where they mauled Clovis 56-21 for the 2015 D-I title, took the 28-24 lead on a nine-yard run by sophomore Sammy Stewart Jr. with 7 minutes, 29 seconds remaining.
That followed a 45-yard pass from new quarterback Bryson Faulconer to Johnny Balderas, a key returner from the Patriots’ 10-4 team. Balderas, winning all jump balls – offensively and defensively – also scored on a 49-yard reception to close the first quarter.
Clovis West, trailing 28-24 and facing fourth-and-4 on the Liberty 38-yard line with 3:40 to go, had Jayden Helms’ option pass intercepted by Luke Fringer.
“Our talk all week was about having all 11 (defensive) guys doing their responsibility, and that’s what they did on that play,” Liberty coach Bryan Nixon said.
The Golden Eagles tied it 21-21 on a 10-yard run by quarterback Adrian Martinez with 4:53 remaining in the third quarter, then took the lead three minutes later on Eli Riofrio’s 21-yard field goal.
I wish I would have called a different play. I put Adrian in a position not to be successful.
Clovis West coach George Petrissans on a key play in which quarterback Adrian Martinez, on a designed run, was dropped for an eight-yard loss
That, however, was actually a disappointment for Clovis West, which, three plays before the field goal, had a first down on the Patriots’ three-yard line after Blake Schafer’s 32-yard interception return. Martinez, on a designed running play, was dropped for an eight-yard loss by linebacker Brock Anderson on the first play of the series.
“I blame that on myself,” Clovis West coach George Petrissans said. “I wish I would have called a different play. I put Adrian in a position not to be successful.”
Martinez, a junior considered one of the state’s top quarterbacks and already offered a scholarship by Fresno State, had his moments in a 191-yard passing and 75-yard rushing night. But he twice in the second quarter overthrew Rodney Wright after the running back had raced behind the Patriots’ secondary. Martinez also had a deep pass dropped in the quarter.
Reyes resigns – It’s all over for Ray Reyes, one of the most respected football coaches the section has known.
He has stepped down as Fresno High’s coach after resuscitating the program for the second time.
Reyes, 66, said the Warriors’ rapid improvement, having a solid coaching staff in place to carry on what he has started and a minor health scare influenced his decision.
When I came back to do this, I promised them three years, but my health is always first priority.
Fresno coach Ray Reyes, who stepped down ahead of the season opener because of health concerns
Reyes, stricken by shingles and later a pinched nerve in his neck over the summer, conditions that a doctor described as stress related, was weeks away from launching what would have been the third season of his second go-round with Fresno. He will remain involved in the program, however, as a mentor to interim coach Joe Marquez.
“When I came back to do this, I promised them three years, but my health is always first priority,” said Reyes, who watched the Warriors’ season-opening 28-21 loss to No. 7 Sanger on Thursday from the stands. “And things turned around so much quicker than I expected. It usually takes three years.”
He closes a 21-year career that included stops at Parlier and Edison with a 141-86-4 record, nine league championships and one section title (Yosemite Division Small Schools at Edison), according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Fresno hadn’t had a winning record in 36 seasons, according to Barnett, before Reyes guided the Warriors to an 8-5 mark and an appearance in the D-III final in 2004. But he stepped down after the season while recovering from coronary bypass surgery.
Nine consecutive seasons at Fresno followed without a winning record before Warriors athletic director Dave Barton coaxed Reyes out of retirement in 2014.
Our goal was to get the program back where it should be, where it can compete for league titles, and Ray’s done that.
Fresno athletic director Dave Barton on ex-football coach Ray Reyes
Fresno went 7-5 and won a playoff game during the first season of Reyes’ second stint. He then guided the Warriors to a 10-2 mark and the North Yosemite League title last season.
“Our goal was to get the program back where it should be, where it can compete for league titles,” Barton said, “and Ray’s done that. He’s put health back into the program.”
Reyes said being succeeded with Marquez, along with a defensive staff bolstered by the addition of assistants Marlon Jackson, Jim Conley and Donald Speed, leaves the program in capable hands. Marquez, who played under Reyes at Edison, was the Warriors’ offensive coordinator last season.
“When you leave, it’s a precarious accomplishment, because it can slip back, and that’s what happened at Fresno last time,” Reyes said. “So I not only wanted to get kids excited about football again, but I also wanted to put a coaching staff in place that could take over with our philosophy about how we coach and treat kids. I feel really good about the long-term future at Fresno High. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of good football guys who know how to talk to kids.”