High School Football

Prep football: Dinuba debuts new lead back in victory

No Michael Wright, no problem for the Dinuba High football team.

Elijah Benham stepped into the role of lead rusher following the graduation of Wright, the school’s career leading rusher now at Sacramento State, and carried the Emperors to a 31-21 season-opening victory over Mission Oak on Friday at Bob Mathias Stadium.

Benham, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior, rushed for 146 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown that put Dinuba ahead to stay with 11:40 left in the game.

Benham ran for 64 yards in the fourth quarter alone as the Emperors – section divisional finalists three years running – milked the clock.

I just had to pound it out for them.

Dinuba running back Elijah Benham, who rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 31-21 win over Mission Oak

“I had to do it for my team,” Benham said. “They had been working hard all game. I just had to pound it out for them.”

Isaac Leppke, Dinuba’s second-year quarterback, was 14 of 22 for 128 yards and a touchdown.

He said the Emperors were far from perfect on opening night but good enough to win.

“We had a lot of first-game mistakes we messed up on,” Leppke said. “I feel we could have scored a lot more points. Next week we’re going to come back ever harder.”

Nick Giannandrea: 559-441-6103, @NickG_FB


  • 1: Isaac Leppke is in charge. The second-year Emperors quarterback passed for 128 yards but could have had more if not for a drop on a sure 40-yard-plus play and another when his receiver caught a beautifully thrown ball an inch outside the end zone.
  • 2: Dinuba’s line can still open holes. Left tackle Ricardo Tovar, left guard Jimmy Valdez, center Zack Martinez, right guard Ruben Martin and right tackle A.J. Rodriguez cleared the way for 206 yards on the ground.
  • 3: Mission Oak looks to have a new playmaker in freshman receiver Keshon Logan, who had four receptions for 107 yards. He had two plays of 35 or more yards.
Related stories from Fresno Bee