Prep football: Pirates ride the wave to redemption

Reedley High knocks off Sierra Pacific for second straight victory; Sanger improves to 7-1 and rebuffs fourth quarter rally for road win at Maderal, Dinuba overpowered in loss to Lemoore

Reedley High defenders Eli Reyes (64), Jose Robledo (50) and Chris Alvarez (66) converge to sack Sierra Pacific quarterback Landon McKee in the second quarter of the Pirates’ 27-7 victory over the Golden Bears in Hanford on Oct. 14. The Pirates’ defense limited the hosts strong offense to 323 total yards, just 49 on the ground. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published October 17, 2023  • 
12:00 pm

HANFORD – Two strong performances in their unexpectedly surprising “second home” suddenly has the Reedley High football team back in the picture for the piece of the Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division championship.

The Pirates (2-6, 2-1 TCC) turned in their best showing of the season, playing mostly mistake-free football using a reliable ball control attack on offense and a spirited defensive performance to post a dominant 27-7 victory over the Sierra Pacific High Golden Bears in a Saturday night contest at Hanford High’s Neighbor Bowl on Oct. 14.

Winless in their first six games entering October, the Pirates are unbeaten for the month after two TCC wins in Hanford. On Oct. 6, Reedley defeated Hanford West in a wild 60-42 shootout, and suddenly finds itself tied for second place with Immanuel behind unbeaten Exeter (8-0, 2-0). 

Reedley collected 343 yards of total offense, didn’t throw an interception or lose a fumble and committed just four penalties for 45 yards. The defense, meanwhile, collected an interception and fumble recovery and three quarterback sacks while holding Sierra Pacific (6-2, 0-2) to 323 total yards, just 59 on the ground.

“Their defense, you could tell, was designed to not let big plays happen, and our offense doesn’t make a lot of big plays (by design),” Reedley coach Tony Gates said. “Our quarterback (Will Bacon) was efficient. I told our defensive guys, if you get some stops we’ll win. Because I think we’re going to score and we’re going to control the clock.”

Reedley did just that, and got some big plays as a result. One came on a screen pass to Richie Camacho, who broke free and found space on a 56-yard pass and run to make it 14-0 in the second quarter. It was the second TD pass for sophomore Bacon, who had hit Mason Cisneros for a 9-yard score in the opening quarter.

The Pirates then relied on the strong rushing game of senior Demetrius Vargas and Bacon, and the defense contained the Sierra Pacific rushing game while pressuring Golden Bears QB Landon McKee. Jose Robledo collected a pair of sacks while fellow defensive lineman Eli Reyes and Chris Alvarez also provided pressure up front.

Vargas finished with 170 yards on 28 carries, giving him 1,003 yards on the season. After the game, he celebrated on the shoulders of offensive linemen Johnny Greenwood and Salvador Mendoza as he posed for postgame with the pair and fellow line teammates Alan Flores, Julilus Echeveste and David Diaz.

“We decided to just come out and play our game, and we got the W (win),” Vargas said while turning to his teammates and blockers. “These are all my boys, that’s the only reason I run like that.”

A fumble recovery by Adrian Morales put a stop to a potential Sierra Pacific drive, shifting the momentum and allowing Reedley  to go up 21-7 on a short TD run by Bacon. The defense made two defensive stops to keep the lead at two scores at halftime.

The hosts had two other potential scoring threats in the third, but were turned away twice inside Reedley territory on downs. Freshman defensive back Rocky Garcia showed flashes of solid play defending on the outside.

Reedley finished off the victory in the fourth, getting another solid defensive effort to take over on downs and then a long drive climaxed with Bacon’s second touchdown run.

With the two-game TCC win streak, the Pirates find themselves with a shot at a share of the league title with one more critical victory. Regardless of the results of the Friday, Oct. 20 cross division game at Kingsburg High, Reedley can get a piece of a three-way title tie if it can defeat Exeter in a Friday, Oct. 27 matchup at Reedley High to conclude the regular season.

“We’re pushing for one more win, which we hope gets us into the playoffs,” Gates said. “I think this team could make some noise in the playoffs.”

In other Week 9 games:

Sanger 35, Madera 21 – At Madera, the Apaches (7-1, 3-0 County Metro Athletic Conference) built a 28-7 lead in the third quarter and held off a fourth quarter rally to fend off the Coyotes and post their fifth consecutive victory.

Sanger rushed for 389 of its 445 total yards, with Izzy Robles gaining 237 on 18 carries including a 65-yard scoring run in the opening quarter. The senior surpassed the 1,000 yard mark on the season, and now has 1,003 yards (8.4 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns.

Junior Bryson Baker added 141 yards on eight carries including a 65-yard run in the third quarter and 33-yard scoring run in the fourth for Sanger’s final touchdown. Conner Bohlken and Marshall Pittman also rushed for touchdowns, and quarterback Jaden Chanthalangsy threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Marquis Cropper.

Defensively, Cropper collected a pair of interceptions and deflected a pass while Pittman made a pair of sacks and recovered a fumble. Senior defensive back Tomas Barajas and Bohlken led the way with 13 and 11 tackles, respectively, with Bohlken collecting four tackles for loss.

The Apaches jumped to a 14-0 lead on TD runs by Robles and Bohlken, and led 21-7 at halftime after Croper’s TD reception. After Madera closed the deficit to 28-21 in the fourth, Pittman’s fumble recovery stemmed the tide and Baker added an insurance score on the 33-yard run.

Sanger will try to remain unbeaten in CMAC play this week with a Thursday, Oct. 19 game at McLane Stadium against Bullard High (2-6, 1-2) in a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Knights lost last week by a 26-14 score to San Joaquin Memorial.

Lemoore 49, Dinuba 12 – At Lemoore, senior quarterback Johnny Cunha passed for 148 yards and four touchdowns, all to different receivers, and the host Tigers (6-2, 3-0) built a 49-0 lead to keep pace with Kings County rival Hanford in the West Yosemite League championship chase.

The Emperors (4-4, 1-2) scored a pair of touchdowns on a running clock in the fourth quarter; getting a rushing score and a fumble return for a TD. They were outscored by a 102-6 combined score in the two games against WYL leaders Lemoore and Hanford.

Dinuba hosts Tulare Union (5-3, 1-2) on Homecoming Night on Friday, Oct. 20, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. The Tribe defeated city rival Mission Oak by a 32-25 score on Oct. 13. The Emperors close the regular season at home against Mission Oak on Friday, Oct 27.

Orange Cove 27, Lindsay 24 – At Orange Cove, the Titans (4-4, 2-3 East Sequoia League) snapped a two-game losing streak by holding off the visiting Cardinals (3-5, 1-4) on Homecoming Night. Quarterback Oscar Alvarez passed for 166 yards and two touchdowns, as OCHS finished with 293 total yards.

Matthew Covarrubias had six catches for 111 yards, including a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Titans a 10-point lead. Julian Magdaleno rushed for 40 yards and scored two touchdowns, one on a 9-yard reception from Alvarez. Alejandro Lopez added 52 rushing yards and a TD, while David Avila collected a pair of receptions and a critical interception.

Orange Cove closes out its home regular season with a Senior Night game against Farmersville High on Friday, Oct. 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 p.m..

Fresno 47, Sanger West 42 – At Sanger, the host Hornets (3-5, 2-3 North Yosemite League) were outscored by Fresno High in a wild shootout at Tom Flores Hall of Fame Stadium. The Warriors (2-6) posted their second win in their last three games after opening the season with five straight losses.

Sanger West, which fell into a three-way tie for third place in league after its third straight loss, will play the second of three straight home games to close the regular season on Friday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. against Roosevelt High.

Liberty-Madera Ranchos 55, Parlier 0 – At Parlier, the Panthers (1-7, 0-5 Northwest Yosemite League) were overpowered by a visiting Hawks team that rushed for 360 yards and had four touchdown passes from quarterback Noah Bonilla.

Caleb Cisco rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown for Liberty (6-2, 4-1) which remained a game back of NWYL co-leaders Chowchilla and Caruthers. Parlier, which has lost six straight, travels to O’Neals to take on Minarets (4-4, 1-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20.

Jon Earnest