Quarterback battle, revamped defense keys to Reedley College football

Tigers hope to answer a variety of questions before the season opener in Reedley on Saturday, Sept. 2 against Sierra College

Reedley College football players are put through stretching drills prior to the Tigers’ intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 12 at the RC practice field. (Danny Jimenez)
Will Goldbeck
Published August 21, 2023  • 
11:30 am

REEDLEY – There were high hopes for the Reedley College Tigers football team entering the 2022 season. Head Coach Rob Hartenfels’ squad got off to a good start but faded at the end of the season to finish 5-5 overall; and tied for fourth in the six-team league with a 4-6 conference record.

Reedley was ranked 20th in the state by the JC Athletic Bureau before the late-season slump.

There are several question marks for this season’s Tigers, as coaches hoped that two scrimmages would answer those questions before the Saturday, Sept. 2 season opener at Reedley High’s Sal Gonzalez Field against Sierra College from Rocklin.

The biggest questions are: Who will replace Dinuba’s Josh Magana (now battling for playing time at a crowded quarterback room at Texas A&M-Commerce), who will carry the ball for the Black and Orange, and will the defense be as steady as last year?

There are plenty of possibilities for the starting quarterback spot. Leading the list is DJ Stevenson, last year’s backup. Others in the quarterback room include Ty Chambers of Lemoore, Carson Dean of San Joaquin Memorial, Jake Hamilton from Del Oro and redshirt Brandon Keene of Sunnyside.

“They are all competing their butts off,” Hartenfels said. “Ty is outstanding, (and) DJ had a lot of playing time early in the season and did things the right way.”

One area of concern is the running back spot. Tristan Ridley and David Osho are the only Tigers with any experience, but the roster features a bunch of talented freshmen. That list includes Andrew Moench of Lemoore, Ty Morgan of Golden West, Angelo Moreno of Madera South, and Carson Contae.

John Calderon (Dinuba) returns at tight end after sitting out the 2022 season because of COVID and family reasons. Landon Almeida (Caruthers), whose father played for the Tigers, is raising some eyebrows at tight end.

This will be the second season for offensive coordinator Rich Hammond.

Jesus Lara of Dinuba leads the list of offensive linemen. Ruben Garcia (San Diego) got a lot of playing time in 2022 while Quentin Mastoprieto (Mountain View, San Francisco) got game experience. Several freshmen are expected to be in action. This is the biggest line that the coach can remember at RC.

Jacob Bray (Kingsburg), the younger brother of Tigers’ quarterback coach Austin Bray (and former NFL quarterback Tyler Bray) is a 315-pounder on the offensive line.

Defensively, Ayden Merrihew (Clovis) returns on the front line along with Jayden Munoz (Sanger) and Amarian Hunter (Central). Hunter is one of seven former Grizzlies on the roster.

Langston Latham is a returning starter at linebacker. Freshman Chase Dias (Kingsburg) has impressed the coach and should see plenty of action.

All-conference defensive back Damon Fagan leads the secondary. Aaron Boesch (Exeter) also returns as a defensive back.

Sanger’s Hunter Pittman returns as the Tiger punter while the kicker will probably be Jordan Evangelo (Lemoore) or Latrell Tellis (Arizona).

Reedley High graduates on the preliminary roster include wide receiver Khalil Young, linebacker Roman Marquez and defensive back Joshua Gonzalez.

Will Goldbeck
Mid Valley Times | Contributor