El Diamante’s introduction to the 2015 Central Section football campaign was a baptism by fire — the Miners had the daunting task of trying to slow down Romello Harris and Tulare Union.
Things didn’t go to well for El Diamante against the Redskins. Harris rushed for 333 yards and five touchdowns in Tulare Union’s 41-14 win.
However, since the outing against Tulare Union, El Diamante has been terrific.
The Miners posted a 7-0 shutout of Sunnyside on Sept. 4. And Sunnyside’s offense isn’t too shabby, just ask Mt. Whitney — Sunnyside defeated Mt. Whitney 49-19 last week.
El Diamante followed up the victory over Sunnyside with a 42-14 win over Monache. The margin of victory the Miners achieved over the Marauders was two points more than the West Yosemite League favorite Hanford had over the Marauders (Hanford defeated Monache 40-14).
“We’re a really young team. We’re starting six sophomores. We’re starting just four seniors, two on offense, two on defense. So, the learning curve is very high,” El Diamante coach Mark Rogers said. “We’ve gained a lot of knowledge over the course of the first three games. They’re a great bunch of kids. They work hard. They’ve made some silly mistakes, but they’re cutting down on those mistakes. They’re improving, and that’s the main thing.”
Could El Diamante be Visalia’s top WYL hopeful?
We’ll get a better idea of that notion this week.
El Diamante (2-1) hosts Dinuba (2-1) Friday at Groppetti Automotive Visalia Community Stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
In terms of Tulare County excellence, Dinuba has set the bar The Emperors have played in a Central Section championship game in each of the previous three seasons (winning the 2013 Division III crown). Dinuba won last year’s meeting against El Diamante, 28-22.
“Very good team,” Rogers said of Dinuba. “They’re well-coached. They have a good program there. This is a good game to see how much better we can get before we start WYL.”
Key for the Miners in their turnaround since the season opener is their outstanding defensive play. If they continue making strides defensively, the WYL picture might not be as clear as we think it is.
In order for El Diamante to challenge Hanford for the WYL championship, it needs to keep Hanford from scoring 30+ points when the two teams meet on Oct. 2. Hanford leads the Central Section with a 49 points-per-game scoring average, and has scored at least 30 points in 15 of its last 16 games.
Miner defense might not be exactly where they need to be for the Bullpups right now, but that could be a different story in two weeks.
“We’re kind of a no-name defense,” Rogers said. “We don’t have the star players that everybody knows about, but when you put them together as a unit, they do a good job.”
Here’s a look at some of the other top story lines in Tulare County high school football this week:
Key Division III Battle: Mt. Whitney (2-1) is justifiably in the lead to receive Tulare County’s top Division III seed. The Pioneers are the area’s highest-rated team in the latest Calpreps.com Central Section Division III poll — they’re No. 6, one spot ahead of Tulare Western (1-1), who teh Pioneers defeated 19-12. Mt. Whitney makes its second visit to Bob Mathias Stadium with a date Friday night against Mission Oak (1-2), who started the season as the county’s top-ranked team in Division III by Calpreps. Mt. Whitney junior quarterback Isaiah Salazar has been one of the county’s early breakout standouts. Salazar is averaging 177 yards passing per game, and has thrown for five touchdowns in 77 attempts. Top two receivers are Nate Aleman (13 catches, 196 yards) and Jose Cisneros (10 catches, 234 yards, 3 TDs). Mission Oak’s defense has been outstanding for the most part. The Hawks allowed just 19 points in a five-overtime win over Washington Union on Sept. 4, and limited Bakersfield Christian to 16 points. But the Hawk offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders. Mission Oak hasn’t score more than 21 points in any of its three games. The Hawks averaged over 35 points per ame last season.
Redskins on TV: If you’re interested in seeing the antics of Tulare Union star running back Romello Harris, you can do it from the comfort of your own home on Friday. The Tulare Union-Kingsburg game in Kingsburg is going to be televised by KFRE. The game is slated to start at 7:30 p.m. according to KFRE. Harris leads the state with 947 yards rushing, and he ranks second in the nation in average rushing yards per game (315.7). Tulare Union (3-0) is averaging 41.7 points per game. The Redskins defeating Kingsburg (1-1) 49-28 last season.
Rangers’ Rocky Road continues: Redwood (0-3) is trying to avoid falling to 0-4 for the first time since 2006. Yes, the Rangers have endured massive turnover in their starting lineup, but the primary reason behind the lack of on-field success is the quality of the their opposition — Redwood has had the toughest schedule in Tulare County through the first three weeks. Two of the Rangers’ losses — Sanger (28-7) and Tulare Union (49-41) — were to two of the top 10 teams in the Central Section according to Calpreps.com. The other Ranger loss was a 41-24 decision to an improving Clovis East team that resides in Division I. It doesn’t get any easier this week with a home game Friday night against Division I Centennial (2-1). Redwood senior running back Justin Williams is coming off a 252-yard performance against Tulare Union, and ranks among section leaders with 406 yards rushing. There’s not a Cody Kessler-type star on Centennial this season, but senior quarterback Cesar Deleon is averaging nearly 200 yards passing per game (31-of-57 for 587 yards and five touchdowns).
Thursday Night Fever: Tulare Western (1-1) takes on Hanford West (1-2) tonight at Neighbor Bowl in Hanford. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Mustangs made a switch at quarterback last week in their 24-12 win over Golden West, and it paid off handsomely. The Mustangs produced three first-half touchdowns under Damarin Patterson’s direction, one of those was an eight-yard run by the new starting sophomore quarterback. Mustangs defeated Hanford West 53-19 last season.
Cavalier Charge hits Chowchilla: It should be an interesting affair Friday night in Chowchilla between CVC (3-0) and Chowchilla (2-1). The Redskins scored 124 points over their first two games — a 51-28 win over Madera South and a 73-26 win over Le Grand. Immanuel quieted the offensive fireworks show last week, as the Eagles won 17-8. Much like CVC, Chowchilla leans heavily on its running attack to fuel its offense. Redskins are averaging 268.7 yards rushing per game. CVC’s Kolin Stock is among Central Section leaders with 525 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns. CVC senior quarterback Aaron Diggs has an impressive 99.0 efficiency rating (NFL formula) through three games. He’s thrown for six touchdowns and 379 yards on 22 completions. This is a huge game in how the Division IV playoff bracket will be formed. CVC is No. 2 in the latest Calpreps.com Central Section Division IV rankings, and Chowchilla is No. 4.
Litmus Test for Exeter: Exeter is off to a nice start, as it improved to 3-0 with a 37-34 home win over McLane last week. The Monarchs are ranked No. 8 amongst the Central Section’s 19 Division IV teams. Exeter faces the No. 7 team on that Division IV list Friday night. The Monarchs visits Madera South (1-1). Madera South won last year’s meeting, 29-28. Exeter senior quarterback Andrew Williamson is accounting for over 200 yards of total offense per game (113 passing, 89.7 rushing). The Monarchs feature three players with at least 150 yards rushing — Williamson, Anthony Torres (209 yards) and Brandon Freeman (157 yards).
Golden West’s second-Half scoring woes: Golden West (0-2) could be 2-0 if it could find a way to get on the scoreboard in the second half. The Trailblazers were down 17-16 at halftime to Kingsburg before falling 30-16. After sporting Tulare Western a 21-0 lead, the Trailblazers cut the deficit to 21-12 by halftime. But Golden West couldn’t put any points up over the final two quarters. Golden West visits Reedley (0-1) on Friday.
Hanford’s Tulare County Tour: Hanford (3-0), the defending Central Section Division III champion, makes its second straight appearance inside county lines with a visit to Jacob Rankin Stadium to take on Porterville (0-2). Panthers have been on the wrong end of a couple of surprising lopsided decisions — 30-12 loss to Centennial and 43-19 loss to West. After hosting Hanford West to begin West Yosemite League play next week, Hanford’s next four opponents are the four Visalia WYL schools. The Bullpups host El Diamante on Oct. 2, followed by trips to Redwood (Oct. 9) and Golden West (Oct. 15). Hanford hosts Mt. Whitney on Oct. 23.
All-Tulare County Division VI matchup: Strathmore (1-1) bounced back from a season-opening 49-21 loss to defending Division VI champion RFK with a 56-12 rout of Laton. Spartan sophomore running back Joseph Garcia had 117 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and junior Victor Ochoa had a team-high 138 yards rushing to go with two touchdowns. Strathmore (1-1) hosts Orosi (1-1), who is coming off a 23-7 loss to Granite Hills.