FRESNO – The Sanger High Apaches are now one win away from an outright County Metro Athletic Conference football championship, despite a few road hiccups on the way during their second Thursday road contest of the season.
Locked in a tie game in the third quarter, the Apaches (8-1, 4-0 CMAC) erupted for 28 points in the game’s final 22 minutes to cruise past the Bullard High Knights, 42-14, at McLane Stadium on Oct. 19. Junior Bryson Baker scored three touchdowns – one on a 48-yard reception for the go-ahead score in the third – and the Apaches rushed for five scores to overcome a rare off-night from the defense.
“The last three weeks have kind of been the same story. On paper, we’re a better football team with a better record,” said SHS head coach Matt Logue. “But it’s tough when you’re dealing with 15, 16, 17 and 18-year-old kids, and we’re trying to keep them humble, keep them prepared the right way.”
It appeared to be an easy night for Sanger, as running back Israel Robles ripped through the Bullard defense for a 67-yard scoring jaunt on the first play from scrimmage. The senior finished with 183 yards on 13 carries and two scores, and the visitors had the lead just 30 seconds into the game.
But underdog Bullard (2-7, 1-3) – still trying to regroup after school replaced veteran head coach Donnie Arax earlier in the season (no reason given for his departure) – stayed close with a combination of rushing-receiving from running back Dominick Gonzalez (7-yard touchdown run) and receiving from Nick Stubblefield (33-yard TD catch) to forge a 14-all tie early in the third.
The Apaches then responded with a vengeance. On the third play of the drive from the Knights 39, quarterback Jaden Chanthalangsty laid a perfect pass over the middle to the streaking Baker, who raced into the end zone with 7:38 left in the third.
On Bullard’s ensuing possession, senior Marquis Cropper jumped the route and intercepted a third down pass and returned it to the Knights 15. After three runs moved the ball to the BHS 3, Baker somersaulted in for the score on a run off right guard to make it 21-7 at the 4:26 mark.
The Sanger defense forced a three-and-out, and after a Bullard punt the offense built the lead to three scores with an 80-yard drive that carried over into the final quarter. Baker had a 19-yard run, Robles stormed for 38 yards into the BHS red zone and on the first play of the fourth quarter Baker scored standing on a 5-yard run.
Sanger closed out its offensive burst when sophomore Carlos Young III sprinted 51 yards for a touchdown on a jet sweep around right end with 8:58 left in the game. The Apaches’ other touchdown came on an 8-yard run by Robles in the second quarter.
Baker finished with 73 yards rushing on 13 attempts, and the Apaches’ ground attack racked up another 300 yards-plus performance. By late in the fourth quarter, Sanger was able to give some reserve players minutes at the skill positions and interior lines.
With the win, Sanger reduced Bullard’s lead in the 44-game series dating back to 1967 to 24-20. It was the Apaches’ 584th career football victory.
“We’ve struggled in the first half the last three weeks, but we came out very fast in the second half. But we’re gonna have to tighten it up,” Logue said. “I just told the guys that obviously our goal is to be 9-1, league champs, and the seeds will land where they land and hopefully we get a home game.
“But we’ve got to beat (San Joaquin) Memorial first, and if we keep starting the way we’re starting we’re gonna be in trouble again next week. And then come playoff time, we’re going to be one and done. So we better figure it out quick.”
Kickoff for the Senior Night game with SJM will be at 7:30 p.m. at Chuck Shidan Field in Tom Flores Hall of Fame Stadium. The Apaches have outscored their opponents 134-28 in four previous home games this season.