Quick start fuels Sanger football to rout of Dinuba

Safety sets the stage for Apaches’ 22-point first quarter eruption during season-opening 41-7 rout of Emperors

Sanger High quarterback Jalen Chanthalangsy sprints toward the sideline after making a second quarter interception while playing safety during the Apaches’ season-opening 41-7 rout of DInuba High on Aug. 18 at Tom Flores Hall of Fame Stadium. Senior Chanthalangsy also threw a touchdown pass and guided the team’s strong rushing game. (Jon Earnest)
Sanger High quarterback Jalen Chanthalangsy sprints toward the sideline after making a second quarter interception while playing safety during the Apaches’ season-opening 41-7 rout of DInuba High on Aug. 18 at Tom Flores Hall of Fame Stadium. Senior Chanthalangsy also threw a touchdown pass and guided the team’s strong rushing game. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published August 21, 2023  • 
9:30 am

SANGER – A special teams mishap opened the door, and it was off to the races for the Sanger High Apaches in their football season opener against Dinuba High on Aug. 18.

A snap over the Dinuba punter’s head sailed out of the end zone to give the hosts a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. A near sack turned into a long touchdown pass play moments later, igniting a 22-point quarter that resulted in a 35-0 halftime lead and 41-7 rout of the Emperors before a loud “Red Out Night” crowd at Tom Flores Hall of Fame Stadium.

Senior running back Conner Bohlken scored four TDs, three rushing, Marquis Cropper and Marshall Pittman also rushed for scores while the Sanger defense collected three interceptions and limited the Dinuba offense to less than 100 total yards.

“There were a lot of good things for us, but also a lot of things we can improve on,” Apaches head coach Matt Logue said. “We had some chances to make some big plays, but it’s week one and hopefully we’ll get better at our timing and connecting on some of those plays. Hopefully next week we’ll get (top returning receiver) Bryson Baker back (recovering from a minor leg injury), which makes us even a little more dynamic.”

The safety got the scoring started for Sanger, which then got the ball on a free kick. Dinuba nearly got a sack on quarterback Jaden Chanthalangsy, but the senior just managed to get off a pass to the right side to Bohlken. The 6-foot, 200-pound senior back wriggled through a tackle attempt, then sprinted  down the west sidelines while getting a cleanout block from Cody Coles to complete a 48-yard TD play.

The Sanger defense forced a pair of three-and-outs, and made it 16-0 when senior running back Pittman broke through a hole from big junior tackle Johnathan Ybarra to race 68 yards to paydirt. On the ensuing possession, Emperor quarterback Jayce Prendez’s long pass was intercepted by Cropper, who sprinted across the field on a 39-yard return to the DHS 1.

Bolhken punched it in the next play, and after a missed point the Apaches led 22-0 with 34 seconds left in the quarter. Another quick defensive stop gave Sanger the ball back in Dinuba territory, and Cropper capped off the series with a 10-yard touchdown run where he tweaked his left ankle on a late tackle that resulted in a penalty. Cropper was able to return to action. Another missed PAT because of a bad snap kept the score at 28-0.

Chanthalangsy had an interception while playing safety to end another short Dinuba possession, and late in the half a completion to Cropper and run by Carlos Young III moved the ball inside the 5. Bohlken hurdled backwards over the pile to score his third TD just 30 seconds before halftime.

Ironically, a bad snap on a punt ultimately set up Dinuba’s lone score of the night. The Emperors had first and goal from the 6 after the play, but the offense could only move it 2 yards. A false start penalty pushed them back, and on fourth and goal from the 9, a pass into the end zone was broken up.

Undaunted, Dinuba forced another punt and this kick sailed nearly straight up and bounced dead at the 10-yard-line. On the first play, running back Diego Tuttle swept right end for the score, making it 35-7 with 42 seconds left in the quarter.

Sanger had one more big offensive play in hand, and it came after yet another defensive play when Young intercepted a pass on the Apaches 38. On the first play, Bohlken burst through a big hole and sprinted 62 yards for his final touchdown. The five-TD lead reinstated a running clock, and neither team scored the rest of the way.

“It’s just one of those games where that team was just a lot better than us,” Dinuba head coach CJ Lester said of Sanger. “Shoot, they’re a really good team, coached by a really good coach and they’ve got some really good players. Things didn’t go our way, and they kind of owned every aspect of the game.”

Lester hopes that the Emperors can get the offense – and their confidence – on track in a Friday, Aug. 25, non-league game in Visalia against Golden West.

“We have to regroup, and find a way to get a big win next week to get these kids’ morale and confidence back up, because that’s exactly what we need,” he said. “(With these) first three on the road, we’ve got to figure out something in these next few games and hopefully come back to (our) house 2 and 1.”

Logue said he’s looking for the Apaches to sharpen their execution for the second game of a rugged season opening stretch – a road game Friday, Aug. 18, against Clovis High in Lamonica Stadium. The Cougars won their season opener by a 41-27 score against Garces. That will be followed by a Friday, Sept. 1 road battle at spirited regional rival Clovis East.

“It really doesn’t get any easier, that’s for sure,” he said.

Jon Earnest
Reporter