It’s not that often when the entire season of a football team will be determined in Week 5. Normally, we see games on TV such as the Wild Card games, or any playoff matchups, where it’s a must win. However, the status quo didn’t apply to the El Diamante football program on Friday. Their clash against the Mt. Whitney Pioneers featured a ton of penalties, some chippiness, some injuries, and the awakening of a sleeping giant… also known as: Devontae Freeman.
— Alexx🥇🏈 (@Alexmata1600) September 23, 2017
The Miners entered league play with a 1-3 record. After losing a gut-wrencher in the previous week to Dinuba, the Miners needed to find some kind of momentum to start their uphill climb towards the postseason. Standing on the other side of the field were the Mt. Whitney Pioneers. They also stood at 1-3, and it was their homecoming game. And like I said last week, homecoming is one of the few games on the schedule that carry a little more importance, for both squads. One team tries to play spoilers, while the other tries to scratch out a win in honor of the newly crowned queen. El Diamante had their homecoming game spoiled the previous week, so why not return the favor against one of their arch rivals?
Immediately, it looked like El D had taken control for good, as they entered the half with a 24-2 lead. El Diamante’s bread and butter is to establish the run, it’s been that way for years. Establish the run, execute the play-action pass, and maintain a strong defense. Senior Running Back Devontae Freeman took care of step 1. Freeman exploded for 231 yards and 3 TDs, he started the season as a backup, splitting carries with Drake Beno and Andrew Valdez. But with Beno on the shelf with a torn MCL, and Valdez no longer on the roster, the Miners needed an identity. They needed someone to step in and earn the role as their featured back. Parker Boswell is not a mobile quarterback, and the Miners almost never call QB designed runs, so having an identity in the backfield is essential to their offense. And for the first time this year, the Miners have looked like they found their guy.
The shifty and workhorse Freeman finished with 28 carries and averaged over 8 yards a touch. Time and time again, Freeman’s number was called. And time and time again, the Pioneers had no answer for him. He tallied for 231 out of the Miners’ 314 total yards, and iced the game with a 60-yard run and his 3rd touchdown in the 4th quarter, deflating the Pioneers’ late comeback. When asked about that game-sealing run, Freeman gave all the credit to his Offensive line. The defense once again stood their ground. Despite a late Pioneer rally led by backup QB/starting RB, Jaedyn Pineda, the Miners hung on for a 38-16 victory.
Coach Rogers and company still have an uphill climb in front of them in order to gain some ground towards the postseason. They enter Week 6 facing off against the Hanford Bullpups (1-4). This Hanford team is nowhere near as good as the teams they’ve had in previous years. Their entire offense is only averaging, a very poor, 277 yards per game. Last week was a big step in the right direction for the Green Sea. They now stand at 2-3, which still isn’t great, but they’ve been given another good opportunity this week to show that they’ve arrived. It’s not going to be a question what they’re gonna do. They’re going to ride with Devontae Freeman in the run game, and quickly respond with a play-action attack from the right arm of Parker Boswell. We saw glimpses of greatness from the El D defense as well. In particular, guys by the name of Alex Mata, Garrett O’Brien, and Enrique Valdez. After Hanford, the rest of El Diamante’s schedule will not be easy. So, it looks like to me, that Friday night just became a lot more important. Seeding in the playoffs may be an issue, but the one important thing that everyone should know is that this is a team still very capable of doing a lot of damage in the postseason. It will be a tough ride from here on out, but boy will it be a fun one.
The boys balled out tonight and brought home the W! 🏈 #ItsAGreatDayToBeAMiner
— El Diamante (@All4TheMiners) September 23, 2017
It’s hard to find a volleyball team with the amount of tenacity that the El Diamante program holds. Head Coach Ken Clyburne spent many years under the mentorship of the legendary coach, Leslie Sorenson. Sorenson was honored last week in the Miners’ home matchup against Redwood, in her many years as the Head Coach of the program, Sorenson finished with a total record of 110-53-1. Any sports team in the history of mankind cannot succeed without strong leadership at the helm and within the roster. Ken Clyburne fills the first slot as the guy in charge, but one player sticks out the most when it comes to leadership on the court. Senior Setter Makayla Dwelle is not only one of the brightest girls you’ll ever meet, but one of the most natural leaders I’ve ever spoken to. But it’s not just Dwelle that takes charge, she’s joined by almost everyone else on the court.
Female athletes seem to always have that supportive gene that just floats around from sport to sport. There may be a few differences and hiccups along the way, especially at the high school level. But I’ve seen very few teams of football or baseball players that laugh and enjoy each other’s company in the middle of a game as much as volleyball players. That’s why I’m blessed to have an awesome little sister that plays volleyball because I get a front row seat to some pretty unshakable friendships. It’s hard to explain, but I’m infatuated with the bond that volleyball players seem to have on the court. Last Thursday, I, along with the rest of the El D student section, watched our girls get their tails handed to them against Redwood. But even though they were down 2 games to none, you never saw a glimpse of frustration in the eyes of the players, especially towards each other. I’m not talking about running in after every point and patting each other on the backside and preaching some cliche motivations. I’m talking about how every point they earned (and I truly mean earned, Redwood made very few mistakes), they’d all erupt towards each other as if the game was 0-0. Dwelle may be the most vocal, and she may lead the team out of the locker room and into battle, but to say she’s the only true leader out there couldn’t be much farther from the truth. If someone were to fall, there would be 5 other girls on the court immediately over to pick her up. They take the meaning of team effort to a whole new level. Maybe I’m crazy, and maybe that’s just how volleyball works. But as a total spectator of the game, and someone who’s obviously never played volleyball competitively, it’s a lot of fun to admire.
The cool part is that this isn’t a compassionate team that sucks, the Miners are good. They’ve shown the capability to completely dominate, and they’ve shown some cracks that have led to them getting destroyed. So out of all the great traits this team possesses, a few question marks still remain. One of them would be how they stack up against some of the better schools. For example, out of the 8 teams ahead of El Diamante in the Division II standings, the Miners have played 4 of them. In those 4 games, they’ve been blanked by a total score of 11-0. The ability to battle and hang with these schools is definitely there, but one thing we haven’t seen is their ability to scratch and claw their way through those tough games. Another question would be how they handle high leverage situations. Throughout the duration of the season, the Miners have gone to a decisive set just twice, losing them both. So although this is a team that shows tons of guts on the court, they haven’t really been tested when it comes to photo-finish type of games. But, who am I kidding? These girls are good. Their talented, they possess an unusual amount of resilience, and like I’ve said a million times: they’re supportive. Who knows how far they will go this season. Valley rings are in the back of everyone’s mind, but not even a somewhat fancy ring will shine brighter than the bond they possess on the court. I know I probably sound like a total mom when I say that, but if you’ve witnessed it yourself, then you can back me up and say it’s pretty fun to watch.