Region football teams kick off preseason practice

Dinuba, Reedley, Sanger and others all battle the heat this week as preparations begin for 2023 openers the week of Aug. 18

Reedley High lineman Salvador Mendoza (62) smiles during a victory over Selma High in September 2022. The 285-pound senior will a mainstay on the offensive line for the Pirates this fall. (Danny Jimenez)
Reedley High lineman Salvador Mendoza (62) smiles during a victory over Selma High in September 2022. The 285-pound senior will a mainstay on the offensive line for the Pirates this fall. (Danny Jimenez)
Jon Earnest
Published July 25, 2023  • 
9:30 am

REEDLEY – A blazing hot July day this week began visions of chilly nights and postseason dreams for high school football teams in the Mid-Valley Times region.

Fall practices opened on Monday, July 24, for the eight regional prep teams in Fresno and Tulare counties. Many of these early practices have been moved to the evening or during morning hours before the start of school in order to beat the triple digit heat.

Teams from Dinuba, Reedley, Sanger, Parlier, Orange Cove and Orosi will get in two-plus weeks of practices before the start of the 2023-24 school year, with three weeks of preparation readying the squads for their first scrimmages. The season officially kicks the two-day period of Aug. 17-18.

Here is a brief capsule for each region football team, in alphabetical order with their 2022 final records:

Dinuba (5-6, 3-2 West Yosemite)

The Emperors finished in third place in their first year as a West Yosemite League member, and were knocked out of the Division II section playoffs in a two-point road loss at Washington Union.

The team will replace graduated Hector Gonzalez, their leading rusher, with a committee of three players with varsity experience: junior Kristian Bobenrieth, senior Diego Tuttle and senior Dominique Nunez. Defensively, junior lineman Julian Ramirez and linebacker Bobenrieth along with senior DB Johnny Pena anchor the defense.

Dinuba opens its third season under head coach CJ Lester on Friday, Aug. 18, at Sanger High.

Immanuel (3-8, 2-2 Tri County-Sequoia)

The Eagles will rely on returning senior quarterback Jake Horn and senior running backs Nic Coleman and Trey Romo to help fill the gap from the 1,200-plus rushing yards of the graduated running back, Will Henderson. Horn passed for 685 yards and two touchdowns while Coleman and Romo combined for three rushing touchdowns.

Sophomore receiver Jackson Leibee collected a pair of touchdowns rushing and receiving. He, with sophomore Tyler Romo (team-high three sacks), are the leading returning tacklers. The Eagles and second-year head coach Josh Henderson open the season on Aug. 18 at home against Justin Garza High.

Orange Cove (2-8, 1-6 East Sequoia) 

The Titans posted their lone wins over Parlier and Granite Hills, but have a handful returning offensive weapons led by senior quarterback Julian Magdaleno (921 pass yards, 9 TDs and 499 rush yards). Junior linebacker Isaac Angulo is the top returning tackler.

Coach Horacio Bravo’s squad travels to Hanford on Thursday, Aug. 17, to open the season against Sierra Pacific.

Orosi (4-7, 4-3 East Sequoia)

Orosi High’s Andrew Camarillo (27) heads to the end zone to score against Granite Hills in October 2022. The senior running back collected 2,256 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. (Jon Earnest)

The Cardinals are led by one of the top statistical running backs in the state in senior Andrew Camarillo. The 5-foot-6, 175-pounder erupted for 2,256 yards (205 ypg) and 24 touchdowns, and compiled 3,978 rush yards in three varsity seasons.

Senior quarterback Lance Lopez (655 pass yards, nine total touchdowns) and senior receiver Justin Villatoro (27 receptions, 3 TDs) also return, giving Orosi skill position experience in its ESL title bid. The Cardinals under Coach Ben White open the season on the road at Madera South on Aug. 18.

Parlier (0-10, 0-7 Northwest Sequoias) 

The Panthers took their lumps in their first season under coach Andrew Halstead, but have home games this year against Granite Hills and Yosemite which were their two closest defeats last season. The team also travels to Orange Cove this season on Friday. Sept. 1.

Parlier’s season opener is a rugged challenge; on the road at Farmersville on Aug. 18.

Reedley (6-5, 2-2 Tri County-Sequoia) 

It will be a bit of a return to normalcy for the Pirates, who will return to their home stadium of Sal Gonzalez Field after spending most of the 2022 season playing home games at Orange Cove. One of this year’s marquee home games will be Friday, Sept. 29 against city rival Immanuel.

Reedley needs to replace a high number of graduated senior leaders on both sides of the ball, including at quarterback, running back and receiver. But Coach Tony Gates has continued to build a solid foundation at RHS, which has two home games to open the season.

The first will be Friday, Aug. 18 against Firebaugh High, followed by North Yosemite League member Roosevelt High on Aug. 25.

Sanger (6-6, 4-1 County Metro) 

The Apaches came on strong down the stretch in Coach Matt Logue’s first season, winning five of its last seven games after a 1-4 start including a home playoff shutout of Paso Robles.

Sanger High’s Bryson Baker (8) looks for running room during last season’s County Metro Athletic Conference game at San Joaquin Memorial in October 2022. The junior and senior Marquis Cropper will be receiving threats for the Apaches in 2023. (Jon Earnest)

Sanger has to replace graduated quarterback Devin Salcedo and top rusher Jamir Galloway, but has returning offensive weapons in senior receiver Marquis Cropper and junior receiver Bryson Baker along with senior running back Conner Bohlken and senior RB-linebacker Marshall Pittman.

The Apaches have a rugged non-league schedule with a road game at Clovis (Aug. 25) and home contest against recent rival Clovis East (Aug. 31).

Sanger West (0-10, 0-7 North Yosemite) 

The young Hornets play this season with their first senior class of players, and will try to break through for the program’s first varsity football victory. Last year had eight blowout losses – including 58-0 against city rival Sanger – but also two league losses by a combined 16 points against McLane and Fresno.

Sanger West kicks off the season in Bakersfield on Aug. 18 against new school Del Oro High. The Hornets closed the campaign with three straight home games against Fresno, Roosevelt and Sunnyside.

Jon Earnest