OROSI – It’s been a historically successful start to the season for the Orosi High football team.
The Cardinals’ seven straight victories to open the 2023 campaign is the best in school history, according to Bob Barnett, Central Section historian. It’s even better than the OHS championship team of 1967, which won its first four before tying Kingsburg, 6-6. That squad went on to finish 10-0-1 and capture the section small schools title.
This year’s team, led offensively by senior running back Andrew Camarillo and an aggressive attacking defense, has outscored four East Sequoia League opponents by a 155-21 cushion heading into a Friday, Oct. 13 first place road showdown at Corcoran High (6-1, 4-0).
“I mean, we’re getting more and more confident, and [the players] are believing in the system,” said OHS head coach Ben White. “These guys have really grown a lot from last year, and some of these guys we’ve had for three years, they actually began when they were sophomores.”
One of those veterans is Camarillo, a 5-foot-6, 175-pound slasher who’s also shown breakaway talent to climb up the Central Section career rushing charts. He has 1,472 yards through seven games (8.5 yards per carry) with 23 touchdowns, and his 5,450 yards and 80 touchdowns in 35 games both rank 14th on the section’s career rushing list.
“I mean, he’s meant the world,” White said. “He’s just a model of consistency, you know what you’re gonna get from him every day. He always gets better in the fourth quarter. He’s definitely a second half player who doesn’t slow down, he gets better as the game progresses.
“It’s kind of the identity of what our program’s about, just hard-nosed football Smash mouth football. And he’s the ringleader of that whole mentality of that whole mentality we have on our offense.”
Camarillo said this season has been different, as the team has matured from last year’s 4-7 squad that rode heavily on his 2,256 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.
“We were younger, but now we’ve got everything together,” he said. “We’re working as a team, and it’s just been good to be winning these games.”
Camarillo said he’s been studying the opposition regularly and credits his line and teammates on his success.
“It’s great, but you really have to pay attention,” he said. “I watch a lot of film on other teams, just to see how they will react on some things. But my line does a lot of good things to get me going.”
Defensively, the Cardinals have relied on a strong trio of linebackers and a ballhawking secondary. Junior middle linebacker Daniel Ballesteros and senior outside ‘backers Estevan Quevedo and Valente Nieto have been solid, helping limit the run and providing defensive pressure, while sophomore defensive back Jason De La Cruz is near the top of state rankings with seven interceptions.
“Since summer, seven-on-seven has been successful, and we’re just being consistent and committed to our roles,” Ballesteros said. The trio all said the season has been a highlight for them, including an impressive performance in a 17-0 shutout of Lindsay and a landmark victory over Strathmore High.
Camarillo has been complimented on offense by senior quarterback Lance Lopez, who has passed for about 500 yards and five touchdowns, two for Ballesteros. The Cardinals average nearly 280 yards on the ground per game behind a solid offensive line.
White expects the Corcoran game to be a battle and a challenge for the team, which is looking to avenge a 33-8 home loss to the Panthers in 2022.
“It’s a huge game, but it’s not the end of the world either. It’s just another game,” White said about the matchup against the Panthers. “And that’s the way you’ve got to approach it, and not get all your eggs in one basket. We will play better, because we’re just a better team this year.”
White said the team’s achievements in 2023 boils down to the philosophy of a veteran coaching staff working with a core of 19 to 20 senior players.
“We just pride ourselves on how we play, to just try to play solid, tough defense and just run the ball and throw our occasional pass,” he said. “I mean, that hasn’t changed in the 30 years I’ve coached and has changed the years I’ve been here and all these kids have been in the same program. I think that’s a recipe for success.”