Edison High’s return to football following a Central Section championship season found pasture-like practice conditions Monday while new sod settles on its primary field, the loss of seven Fresno Bee All-Stars, including a Player of the Year and quarterback, and the loss of its offensive coordinator as well.
And to that, coach Matt Johnson says, no problem: “We’ve set the standard now; there’s no more excuses. We did it; we got over the hump.”
The Tigers’ first top division championship in 39 years was delivered with stirring stretch runs in 21-14 semifinal and final wins over Clovis and Liberty-Bakersfield.
Edison closed 12-2 and ranked No. 24 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
“Sure, we had talent,” says Johnson, The Bee’s co-Coach of the Year in only his second season as the program’s head coach after assisting Tim McDonald for eight years. “But, more than anything else, it was belief. Rather than folding in big games, we came through with a belief these guys carry in a family mantra.”
That said, the family has taken a big hit.
7 Number of Bee All-Stars Edison lost from 12-2 team
Gone are Vance Sams III, The Bee’s Player of the Year and a two-way force as an offensive lineman and linebacker, quarterback Hunter Swearingen and fellow Bee stars A.J. Greeley, Tyler Horton, Kamron Lewis, Anthony Shepard and Khai Williams.
Gone also are offensive coordinator Vince Branstetter (now Fresno City College quarterbacks coach) and four other assistants.
Running backs coach James Tillman gets the promotion to OC, and Johnson finally succeeded in his pursuit of former Sunnyside coach Jason Murray, who will assist defensive coordinator Marlyn Jackson while also managing daily details as essentially a quality control officer.
Who quarterbacks Edison in a season opener against Buchanan on Aug. 28 at Sunnyside Stadium as opposed to the one behind the steering wheel in a County/Metro Athletic Conference finale Nov. 7 against Bullard at Chukchansi Park could very well involve different players.
Juniors Matthew Torres and Shareef Goodwin, who shared the position last year on the junior varsity, will be the early frontrunners.
Senior Will Lee, one of the section’s premier players and a major college recruit, will surely be dashing with direct snaps via wildcat plays all along. And he’ll start again at free safety.
But the player to watch at quarterback in early October will be transfer Gerard Mendez, who started for Sunnyside last year as a freshman. He’ll be sidelined for at least the first four games as mandated by the California Interscholastic Federation’s 30-day transfer rule.
Nose guard Leevel Tatum is a returning Bee All-Star at nose guard. And the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder will also play fullback and tight end.
Returner Deandre Lockhart and a deep pool of running backs will fire behind arguably the section’s finest left guard in Miguel Marquez (6-1, 260) and center Alim Shabazz (5-10, 240), who will also be featured in an accomplished defensive line.
The Tigers’ formidable nonleague schedule will follow Buchanan with state standard-bearer Bakersfield, Merced of the Sac-Joaquin Section and the Tri-River Athletic Conference’s Clovis North and Clovis West.
Edison will open the CMAC on Oct. 9 at Memorial.
Edison’s 2015 schedule
- Aug. 28: vs. Buchanan (Sunnyside), 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 4: at Bakersfield, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 11: at Merced (Golden Valley), 7 p.m.
- Sept. 18: vs. Clovis North (Sunnyside), 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 2: vs. Clovis West (McLane), 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 9: at Memorial, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 16: at Sanger, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 23: vs. Madera South (McLane), 7 p.m.
- Oct. 30: vs. Madera (Sunnyside), 7:30 p.m.
- Nov. 6: at Bullard (Chukchansi), 7:30 p.m.