At Tom Flores Stadium, they proudly display the motto “one town, one tribe, one family.”
And seemingly the whole town came out to witness the Sanger High football program’s crowning achievement to date.
Riding 213 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Andrew Azua, the top-seeded Apaches downed No. 6 and two-time defending champion Ridgeview 20-10 on Friday night in the Division II final for the school’s first unbeaten Central Section championship season.
A crowd of more than 6,000 came out to witness Sanger’s eighth section title and fourth under 27-year coach Chuck Shidan, who is widely speculated to be retiring after the season, which was just extended at least a week.
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I went my whole life for this, me and my brothers.
Sanger football player Christian Graney
The Apaches (13-0) advance to the CIF State Northern California Regionals next week. Pairings will be announced Sunday.
“It’s such a great venue,” Shidan said. “We’re so happy for the town of Sanger. I think everyone came out tonight.”
Sanger twice responded to Ridgeview scores to win its first section title since 2003.
The second, a Christian Graney 3-yard touchdown run with 6:04 left in the game, came eight plays after the Wolf Pack closed to 14-10 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Jamar Moya.
“I knew we needed a big play and I know this team is capable of making championship plays, and that’s what we did,” Graney said. “We fired up the crowd and from there, no one could stop us.”
Ridgeview, which was playing in its sixth straight section final over two divisions, had two more opportunities with the ball, but the first ended on a Moya incomplete pass on fourth down and the second ground to a halt as Nick Steele sacked Keonte Glinton on third down, then Glinton fired off the mark on fourth down.
“These kids have been very poised. They are a veteran group,” Shidan said. “They just took it and scored, and our defense took care of the last two series.”
Sanger’s other big answer came in the first quarter, when it immediately scored after giving up a game-opening 70-yard kickoff return by Ridgeview’s Amir Knox that set up a 36-yard field goal by Fabian Guillen.
These kids have been very poised. They are a veteran group.
Sanger football coach Chuck Shidan
The Apaches came right back and went 62 yards in nine plays, capped by Azua’s 1-yard plunge.
“We knew their run defense was really tough,” Shidan said. “That opening drive we scored the touchdown, that was really really big for us. We went right at them, and I thought that set the tone for the game.”
Azua scored again on Sanger’s next possession, busting off a 48-yard run to get into Wolf Pack territory, then finishing the drive with a 33-yard touchdown as the Apaches went up 14-3 with 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
Azua finished with 213 yards on 30 carries.
“The thing is I run behind my linemen., I give all my props to the linemen,” Azua said. “That’s who makes it happen for me. They are working their butts off every day, grinding out here on this field. I give all my thanks to my team for letting me lead this team.
“We worked for it, and I’m glad we finally got this Valley. It’s going to be nice to have that ring on our finger.”
8 Central Section football titles for Sanger
Sanger had four previous undefeated seasons (1944, 1952, 1955 and 1959), but none of them ended with a section title.
“I went my whole life for this, me and my brothers,” Graney said. “It feels so good after all these years of playing together. This is what we’ve always wanted.”