When Mike Jacot arrived at Buchanan High as football coach in 2013, he brought 16 sophomores and a freshman up to varsity.
After going a combined 4-19 the past two seasons, that group formed the core of the Bears’ first Tri-River Athletic Conference championship team since 2009.
Braylen Williams, one of the sophomores from 2013, returned a kickoff for the game-deciding points, and Nolan LeForge, the freshman in 2013, scored on two short touchdowns to lead Buchanan, The Bee’s seventh-ranked team in the Central Section, to a 31-28 victory over No. 4 Clovis North on Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Bears (7-3, 4-1) share the TRAC title with Clovis, which beat Clovis West 20-12. This is Buchanan’s first winning season since 2010, when it went 6-5 under former coach Mike Vogt.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
The seniors experienced some lumps along the way, but they put in the time and work, and now they are reaping the rewards.
Buchanan football coach Mike Jacot
“We’re excited for the kids and our school,” said Jacot, who expects to receive a top-four seed when Division-I playoff pairings are announced Saturday. “We came in with this goal this year. The seniors experienced some lumps along the way, but they put in the time and work, and now they are reaping the rewards.”
Buchanan broke a 14-14 halftime tie with Mitchell Souza’s 21-yard field goal in the third quarter, then Trevor Ervin’s 49-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth.
Clovis North (5-4, 3-2) pulled to 24-21 on Jeremy Miller’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Tockey with 7:33 left in the game, but Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and 31-21 lead for the Bears.
“That was huge. We got the momentum right back,” Jacot said. “We felt if we just got decent field position, we’d be able to move the ball. But that was even better. Big play for Braylen.”
2009 The last time Buchanan won the TRAC title (going 5-0 that year)
The Broncos closed to 31-28 on Miller’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Chad Fugman with 3:35 remaining, but Buchanan converted two third-and-long plays – 11-yard passes from LeForge to Blake Wells and Souza – that allowed it to run out the remaining clock.
One of the Bears’ current sophomores, Ervin, carried much of the load against Clovis North, rushing for 162 yards on 16 carries.
“We’re stoked,” Ervin said. “But now we’re looking toward Valley. We’ll enjoy this tonight, but tomorrow get back to work.”
Clovis North received 198 yards passing from Miller, and 96 rushing yards and a touchdown from Jayson Lee.