Chuck Shidan’s 188th career victory as Sanger High’s football coach was one of his most memorable – a 21-14 County/Metro Athletic Conference conquest Thursday night of top-ranked Bullard at McLane Stadium.
And there was poetic justice attached to this one as the Apaches had lost seven straight to the Knights, including several in the final minutes.
Sure enough, Bullard threatened again, reaching the Apaches’ 37-yard line in the final seconds before a crowd of about 4,000.
But Aaron Mosby defended well on a Jack Taylor pass and Chris Soria intercepted him in the end zone on the final play of the game.
“It’s been so close to Bullard for the last five years, and all coming down to the last possessions,” Shidan said after clinching no worse than a CMAC title tie, his seventh league championship in 26 seasons at Sanger. “And when they got the ball there, you have to think, ‘Oh, no,’ because of what has happened before.”
Sanger, ranked 10th overall by The Bee in the Central Section and No. 3 in Division II, improved to 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the CMAC.
The Apaches will close the regular season at home Nov. 6 against Memorial (6-2, 1-2), which will play Madera South (4-4, 0-3) Friday night in Madera.
Bullard (7-2, 3-1) will finish league against defending D-I champion Edison on Nov. 6 at Chukchansi Park. Edison (3-5, 2-1) will play Madera (4-3, 0-3) Friday night at Sunnyside Stadium.
Seeding for all six of the section’s divisions will be determined Nov. 7 in the office of commissioner Jim Crichlow.
“This win was big,” Shidan said, “but, I mean, we want to go far into the playoffs.”
He’s won three section titles – all in what used to be called Yosemite Division Small Schools – in 1998, 2001 and 2003.
Isaiah Hilliard’s 17-yard run off left tackle on the first play of the fourth quarter proved to be the decisive score for the Apaches. That, followed by Christian Graney’s conversion run, gave them a 21-7 lead.
Bullard answered with a 64-yard scoring run by Charles Williams on a third-and-9 draw not 2 minutes later.
It was the one big play of the night for Williams, who was otherwise well contained. Entering with 1,523 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns, he carried 30 times for 192 yards.
The Knights had two more possessions following the Williams TD, but Sanger’s defense – consistent with its play on the night – was outstanding behind junior linebackers Josh Garza and Miguel Garcia.
“They were bigger; they were faster, and people said we would be scared,” Garcia said. “But, man, we’re never scared; we’re ready for every team.”
He and Ivan Mata recovered fumbles, and Mosby also had an interception to go along with Soria’s.
Taylor, who arrived with a 56% completion rate, 1,148 yard passing and 13 TDs against only two interceptions out of Bullard’s new wing-T, was only 7 of 18 for 83 yards.
The play of the game had Sanger’s Michael Castillo – holding in field goal formation – tossing the ball back to kicker Andrew Azua, who ran it in for a 10-yard TD. Azua’s conversion kick made it 7-0 with 8:19 remaining in the second quarter.
Castillo completed but two of 13 passes, but he was perfect on a deep ball down the right sideline to Mosby on third-and-13, resulting in a 41-yard score and a 13-7 lead with 25.7 seconds remaining in the first half.