We’re doing a combo column this week on our trip to see two of the state’s top three small school football teams face off, an early look at CIF state/regional bowl possibilities for Clovis North and why a win by Southwest High of San Diego caused us to go through our book of all-time win-loss records that we have for every school in the state.
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In two weeks time, a visit to Southern California to check out the absolute biggest of the big time in high school football will take place — national No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana) at national powerhouse St. John Bosco (Bellflower).
So for this week, why not head 37 miles from our Stockton home base to check out state small schools No. 1 Escalon playing at No. 3 Hughson? The Friday game was small town, small school football at its best. Plus, in thinking about making the trip, Hughson is a town and a school we’d never been to before. We’ve of course seen the Huskies a bunch of times, but either they’ve been the road team or it was in a neutral site playoff game.
Both teams won CIF state titles last season — Escalon in D4-AA and Hughson in D5-AA. The schools are in the same Trans Valley League but were in different CIF Sac-Joaquin Section divisions last season and will be in different divisions once again. Hughson won in last year’s league matchup as the Cougars were dealing with some injured players out of the lineup at the time. It wasn’t so much revenge that fueled Escalon to a 21-14 win, but just the desire to win games in the TVL and generally get better for another playoff run.
“This is why small town football is so great,” said Escalon head coach Andrew Beam, who took over for retiring head coach Mark Loureiro (281 all-time wins) in 2018. “Both teams were out here laying it on the line. It was just tough, hard-nosed football.”
Escalon has had an effective passing game this season to go with its usual Wing-T style rushing. Three-year starting QB Donovan Rozevink had five touchdown passes in the previous game, but Beam went with a more old-school ground and pound approach.
Hughson featured an offensive line that was opening holes for its backs almost as effectively as Escalon’s. Hughson’s Navi Arretche (6-3, 315) is considered one of the top small school linemen in the state. Escalon also has a college sized lineman up front in junior Ryan Murphy (6-6, 285).
The outcome of the game hinged on two fourth-down passes. In the first half, with the teams tied at 7-7, Hughson’s Robert McDonald hit on a pass in the end zone to Max Mankins on a fourth down and goal from the 3-yard line, but Mankins caught the ball out of bounds. Early in the fourth quarter, as Escalon was holding on to a 14-7 lead, Beam went for it on fourth down and four from his own 36-yard line. That was a pass by Rozevink and it was completed to junior Ryan Lewis for an 18-yard gain.
Escalon went on to score after that fourth down conversion on a 5-yard TD pass from Rozevink to Lewis. Hughson was able to trim the lead to 21-14 with 2:17 left on a 7-yard scoring run by Alexander Villareal, but the Huskies did not recover the ensuing onside kick. The Cougars then ran out the clock with a first down.
Hughson took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 1-yard run by David Burns, who also was one of the team’s hardest hitting players on defense. Rozevink had Escalon’s first TD on the third play of the second quarter on a one-yard sneak and handed off to teammate Joshua Graham for a one-yard run on the team’s first series of the second half (which followed a three-and-out by the Hughson offense on its first series of the half).
“That team we just faced has been nothing but great so I’m very happy with how we played,” said Hughson head coach Shaun King. “Battling in games like this is just going to make us better later on.”
Both coaches were asked whether both teams could win CIF state titles once again this season.
“That’s hard to say and we play way too tough of a schedule to look ahead more than just another week,” said Beam, who’s team improved to 5-1 that includes a win over Buchanan of Clovis with the loss to California of San Ramon (both big schools). “Hughson is an awfully tough team.”
“Absolutely we can,” said King, who’s team fell to 4-2 with its other loss by just 19-13 to large school league favorite Downey of Modesto. “You see that other team and what they’ve done and then you see the score that we just played them to. We’re both real good football teams.”
There are differences in the section playoff divisions, however, that may make it harder for repeats. Escalon will be in D4 up from D5 and while Hughson is still going to be in D6 the team that Escalon just got past last season in the D5 section championship, Sonora, will now be in D6 and no longer in D5.
Still, the top teams in the TVL playing each other each week is like a trip to a different state. The even weirder part of that is that it’s only a matter of miles to go to some of these small towns from the more bigger cities in the Central Valley like Stockton, Turlock and Modesto. We know we’re not going to agree with too many people there on politics, but we do love to see their kids intensely competing against each other on the football field.
CLOVIS NORTH RESURGENCE HAS THE BRAIN SPINNING
Football coaches and players at Clovis North of Fresno can’t even begin to think about any kind of projections about where their team could be seeded in the upcoming CIF Central Section D1 playoffs or about whether the team could be headed to the north or the south for a possible CIF regional playoff game. They’ve got the next Tri-River Athletic Conference contest to focus on and two-time defending CIF Central Section D1 champion Liberty of Bakersfield has shown a tendency to be at its best in the playoffs.
With that said, however, it is never too early to ponder the possibilities.
This year’s team at Clovis North was thought to be perhaps near the top of the section, but it’s a place the Broncos haven’t been before. They won again this week in a 31-21 victory over league rival Clovis East (which also was 5-0 entering the game) and they had to move to the top of the section rankings due to their recent 23-7 victory over JSerra of San Juan Capistrano.
If you don’t know, JSerra is from the unquestioned toughest league in America (the Trinity League where Mater Dei and St. John Bosco reside) and the Lions had entered that game in Clovis looking to prove that again. A different Trinity League team, Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita, already had shown the league’s strength with a 34-14 win over Liberty in Bakersfield one week earlier. Clovis North’s win over JSerra also has gained strength this week already as well. The Lions won on Friday, 24-14, over an Orange Lutheran team that beat De La Salle of Concord in its first game.
Clovis North’s run game with RBs Jackson Cinfel and McKay Madsen plus the occasional touchdown pass from QB Mario Cosma has been a staple of the team’s attack. The defense also has been locked in where one of the leading tacklers has been Madsen.
The issue as far as the CIF regional/state games is concerned is the flexibility that the CIF has in putting teams from the Central Section in either the north or the south. It is the only section in which that situation exists. Liberty, for example, was placed in D1-A North two seasons ago where it beat Pittsburg in the regional final and then lost to Serra (Gardena) in the state game. Last season, though, the Patriots were D1-A South where they knocked off unbeaten Yorba Linda in the regional final and then beat Pittsburg in the state game.
Teams generally from Clovis Unified and the Fresno area have been in the north for regional playoffs in most sports in which these situations exist. There is a potential problem for that this season since the likely slate of teams that will be going to the regional playoffs in the north will be bolstered by the presence of a new eligible team from the CIF Central Coast Section (it will be the second-best team overall similar to Pittsburg being able to have advanced the last two years). Plus, looking at the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section divisions the likelihood is that the three title teams from its top three divisions will all be state top 35 level teams (especially with 2022 CIF D3-AA champion Grant of Sacramento still in D3 in its section). When the CIF has to place a team for example like St. Francis of Mountain View from the CCS along with for example Pittsburg, it filters down through the North lineup of teams via competitive equity seeding and pushes other teams down.
If Clovis North were to keep winning all the way through its section final and JSerra for example were to finish third in the Trinity League, the Broncos would also be a contender for the NorCal Open Division slot that Serra of San Mateo has occupied for the last two seasons and is favored to make it three in a row this season. For the purposes of this column, we’ll assume Serra doesn’t lose.
So what would happen next? Going by all of the rankings, the Broncos would then either be the No. 2 team in the north (behind Serra) or No. 2 to No. 3 in the south (behind the CIFSS D1 winner and probably behind the San Diego Section Open Division champ which is looking like either Lincoln or Carlsbad but also probably ahead of the CIFSS D2 winner). From a rankings standpoint and from the standpoint of having the most higher ranked teams on each side of the NorCal/SoCal board, Clovis North in the south is best. There’s an even bigger issue than that, however, than competitive equity and that’s travel. The CIF should not and we don’t believe would not ask a team like Clovis North to travel all the way to the San Diego Section for a regional playoff game. The same would be true of either Lincoln or Carlsbad, for example, going all the way up to Fresno.
Looking at other teams that will win section titles also will influence what the CIF does with the top Central Section team. Everyone in Fresno and Clovis knows about De La Salle, for example, and a CIF NorCal D1-AA matchup in Clovis between one of its schools and the Spartans with a spot in a state final on the line would generate much media attention and likely a great crowd.
There’s still many paths the road to the CIF regional playoffs is going to take. We talked with CIF executive director Ron Nocetti about it in general terms at the recent De La Salle-Folsom game and we laughed about how many times in the last 10 years that either the north board or the south board has had to be basically ripped up and started over again on the night before the selections have to be made due to upsets in section finals. It will happen again this year. It’s just a matter of where and which team.
STATE RECORD RESEARCH: MOST CONSECUTIVE
LOSING SEASONS FOR A TEAM
A 26-19 win on Friday by Southwest of San Diego over San Ysidro raised the Raiders’ win-loss record for this season to 5-2. So what’s the big deal about that?
Well, according to our friend Nick Pellegrino of EastCountySports.com, head coach Domonic Cruz’s team only needs one more win to clinch a winning season for the first time since 1992 even if the Raiders were to lose in a first-round CIF San Diego Section playoff game.
It is a streak of 29 straight losing seasons, not including two seasons that were cancelled due to COVID. Nick didn’t ask if that was some kind of state record, but it of course inspired us to try to look it up.
It’s one category we can do since we can refer to our own files of win-loss records of every school in state history that we have from the late Bruce McIntosh. Combining those files with the MaxPreps’ grid logs came up with the following answers.
*The first school checked out is one that has several long recent losing streaks and that’s Mark Keppel of Alhambra. Keppel is a school that goes back to the 1940s and in 1944 it had an 8-0 season. It is confirmed that the Aztecs have not had a winning season since they went 8-3 in 1984. The Aztecs, who fell to 0-6 Friday with a 46-0 loss to Montebello, will extend their state record to 39 consecutive losing seasons in 2023. This counts an 0-1 record in the 2020 COVID season.
*Elsie Allen of Santa Rosa, which has been playing football since 1995, has a current streak of losing seasons that will extend to 25 years this season. The Lobos are no longer playing other Santa Rosa Unified opponents, but this season have lost 60-8, 59-0, 62-0 and this week 60-6 to small schools. The school has never had a winning season, but in 1997 and 1998 did manage to go 5-5.
*Others checked included Richmond of the CIF North Coast Section, San Jose High of the CCS, Franklin of Stockton from the Sac-Joaquin Section and Riverbank from the Sac-Joaquin. Richmond had a streak of 21 straight losing seasons from 1976 to 1998. Other than a 9-2 season in 2012, San Jose has had all losing seasons since 1999. Franklin has not had a winning season since that recruiting fiasco in 2007, but its wins on the field from 2006 were not forfeited and would count as a winning season. Riverbank has not had a winning season since 2004. Any more to check out? Send an email to email@example.com.
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