The last time the El Diamante Miners football program won a Division-II section championship, I was 14 years old, and an 8th grader at La Joya Middle School. I sat there frigidly as the clock hit zero and the Miners stormed the field. Memorable alumni names such as JC Robles, Mitchell Boswell, Tymerick Martin, Darius Liles, and DeAngelo Torres all braced each other with an infinite amount of emotion and celebration. It was a night none of those guys will forget. A night that ended with the perfect touch when the championship plaque was hoisted in the air. The Miners defeated Garces Memorial 28 to 14, and that was the last time the program had experienced that kind of joy. 3 years have now passed and people close to the program have not lost the championship mindset. Every spring, longtime Head Coach Mark Rogers gathers his new team around and preaches the same goal, to not only get back to the Valley game, but to win it, and to once again hoist up that plaque.
Overview of last season:
The Miners took a big step last season in making it to the section semifinals. They shocked the Central Valley when they knocked off the second seeded Garces Memorial Rams in the final seconds of the Quarterfinals. They entered the semifinals with confidence and momentum but were blown out by the Ridgeview Wolf Pack 46 to 14. All this came after the Miners posted a regular season record of 5-5, going 3-3 in league. The season was highlighted with signature wins like beating the then undefeated and cross town rival Redwood Rangers 19-9. The Miners held Redwood to just 225 total yards and shut out the Rangers’ fast and explosive offense. The only touchdown of the game for Redwood was the opening kickoff returned by Michael Harris. From that point on, the game was dominated and controlled by the Green and Black. 2016 also had some disappointing losses, which included a Week 2 route, losing 42-7 to Tulare Union, along with losing to cross town rivals Mt. Whitney and Golden West. Injuries plagued their season last year along with inexperience at key positions. But with many starters returning from last years team, the stars may align and the Green Sea could explode for a dominant season.
Key Players to Watch:
Parker Boswell – Junior Quarterback:
Boswell was thrown into the fire his sophomore year. Once the team moved Andrew Valdez to Running Back, Boswell was pulled up from the Junior Varsity team and immediately inserted in as QB1 that week against Monache. In his first game, Boswell attempted just 5 passes. Completing 2 of them for 38 yards. Even though the Miners were a run-heavy team with Boswell under center, they still let him air it out from time to time. Boswell’s got good arm talent, and these next two years will be a good opportunity for him to showcase it.
Andrew Valdez – Senior Utility:
Among all the players on the El Diamante roster, Andrew Valdez is without a doubt among the most important. Valdez started last year at Quarterback, and then was moved to Running Back when Boswell was brought up, receiving a large chunk of the team’s carries. He rushed for 268 yards in his first game at Running Back against Monache, solidifying his role as the Miner’s featured back. He can also help out on defense, as he checked in as a Defensive Back a few times last season. Among those games was when Valdez shadowed Redwood’s Kobe Garner as a Cornerback, limiting Garner to just 50 yards receiving. Valdez will share some of the carries with seniors Devontae Freeman and Drake Beno, but as long as #4 can stay healthy, the Miners will be able to get him the ball, putting them in great shape.
Isaiah Loring – Junior Defensive Lineman
It’s really hard to miss Isaiah Loring. Loring wore the number 99 on his jersey in 2016, and boy did he live up to it. At 6’2 and 275 pounds, Loring is not an easy assignment for an opposing O-Lineman. He anchored the defensive line as a sophomore and was a great compliment for Jared Torres and Gerry Hernandez, El D’s two edge pass rushers last season. This year, with Torres moving to offense, Loring will be the top dog on this years D-Line. He registered 37 tackles and 5 sacks last year while forcing a fumble and recovering two. 3 of those sacks came against Redwood. So if Isaiah Loring can continue to use his strength and size to his advantage, he can overpower many offensive lineman. Don’t be surprised if you see him in the backfield a lot this season.
JayVon Hightower – Sophomore Wide Receiver
Just like Isaiah Loring, it’s really hard to miss JayVon Hightower. Hightower is a tall and lengthy Wide Receiver with good speed and athletic ability. At 6’2, Hightower gives the Miners a deep ball threat that they haven’t had in a long time. El Diamante had a guy last year by the name of Curtis Robert, who stood even taller and also had great speed at the wideout position as their big play guy. But complications during the season resulted in Robert leaving the team, so having a guy like JayVon Hightower for the duration of the season will do wonders for Parker Boswell and the Miner offense.
Jake Garbani – Junior Linebacker
Jake Garbani lasted 3 plays his sophomore season before tearing his ACL. Garbani’s injury kicked off what was an injury plagued season for El D, and even though the team made a run in the playoffs, having guys like Garbani sidelined ended up being a big issue. Garbani was pulled up to varsity his freshman year. From the very time he stepped on campus, Garbani was a guy people knew could wreak havoc on the football field. He’s not a big guy, but he’s very strong and plays like an untamed lion. Jake Garbani is one of those guys who doesn’t have a limit on his potential. If he can avoid the injury bug and keep getting stronger, this is a guy you’ll hear a lot about this upcoming season.
Preview of this season:
Ever since their Valley title season in 2013, the Miners have had the talent to be contenders. On paper, they match up with most of the teams in Division II pretty well. However, they haven’t been able to get back to that top pedestal. Mediocre records in the regular season have resulted in them being placed at low seeds in the playoffs, and from there they’ve been outmatched and overwhelmed against some of the top teams in all of Division II. But every year is different and every year is a new year. The Miners are a young team. Some argue the inexperience can be a side effect, but not me. Yes, they are young. Yes, they have some inexperience. But this isn’t the NFL. This is high school football. The Miners have some ballers on both sides of the ball. Like previously stated, they have a lot of guys that are due for breakout seasons. There are some new faces, and there are some familiar faces. But the one thing those faces have in common is that they’re all focused on the same goal. There’s no limit on the amount of potential this team possesses. It’s been awhile since the Green Sea has felt any kind of seriousness about winning a Valley title. But the good news is, this is a team that’s very capable of bringing the excitement back.