Living on the Edge – El Diamante
3-3 never looked so good. Go ahead and laugh. Laugh at the fact that some bummy, Joe Shmoe writer from a cowtown called Visalia, is excited about his high school football team eclipsing a 3-3 record. There are multiple reasons why a .500 record right now is a great thing for the El Diamante football program.
Super awesome reason number 1: The Miners are continuing to plug away at the hole they dug themselves into throughout the first few weeks of the season, and their uphill trek towards the postseason is gradually getting easier. The offense looks really strong, and the defense is continuing to stick their foot in the ground and fight off the attack from the other team’s offense.
Super awesome reason number 2: To piggyback off of reason #1, El D is currently beginning a much-needed BYE week to try and help aid some of their key injuries. But once this week concludes, their next three games will be against Hanford West, Redwood, and Lemoore. In recent years, that would be a pretty daunting task. But 2017 hasn’t shaped out to be the type of season that we’ve seen in the past. All teams stand at 3-3; all of them. In recent years, the Miners have faired pretty well against Hanford West and Redwood. Last year, they upset Redwood 19-9 and spoiled their perfect season. But it wasn’t just last year that the Green Sea put a beat down on the Blue Crew. Although the Rangers have always been title contenders, the Miners have hung up a 5 game winning streak against one of the valley’s toughest opponents. Lemoore has been an issue in prior campaigns, but not last years. The Miners defeated the Tigers 21-11 last year, behind 3 sacks from the D-Line and 2 interceptions from the secondary. So, even though this next month or so of opponents would normally be a tough hill to climb, these are now very winnable games, giving them more opportunities to do some damage and hit the ground running once playoffs come.
Last week, El Diamante handed the Hanford Bullpups another L by a final score of 28-12. Hanford came in with a struggling offense and little to no passing attack. Fortunately, no surprises came on Friday. The Bullpups barely scratched out 136 yards through the air. However, they did bring a two-headed monster rushing attack in Quarterback Juaron Wattes-Brown and Running Back Travone Houston. The two combined for a, not eye-popping, but respectable, 153 total yards rushing. But the story of the night was the continued dominance of El D workhorse/Tailback DeVontae Freeman, and the much-awaited break out performance from Curtis Robert.
Freeman capped off yet another valiant effort with 111 yards on 23 carries. And Curtis Robert finished with two total scores, including returning the opening kickoff for 6 points. The other came on a 20-yard reception. After taking a 14-12 lead into the intermission, the Miners ran away with the second half. They put up touchdowns in the 3rd and 4th quarter while the defense pitched a shutout. Last week’s win puts the Miners in the driver’s seat at 2-0 in WYL play. At the moment, they are tied for the WYL lead with Lemoore. If the season were to end today, the Miners would be given the tiebreaker due to fewer points allowed. But the season is far from over, and the Miners are now starting to kick it into gear. October is going to be a huge month for the Green Sea. A bad month will derail their season, and a solid month will propel them into a top seed for the postseason. A clean sweep of these next 3 weeks is a lot to ask for, but the good news is that’s what this team expects. They expect nothing less than to go out and do the same thing that they’ve done in recent weeks. Some may present the argument that the competition these past few weeks haven’t been the greatest, but if the Miners can keep chugging through their schedule they’ll easily find themselves in the postseason. And if there’s one thing that’s for sure, lack of competition is not an issue in the playoffs.
The El Diamante volleyball team has hit a little bit of a rough patch lately. After opening league plays with dominant wins against Whitney and Hanford, they’ve fallen their previous 4 games. Their past 2 games have gone to a decisive 5th set against Hanford West and arch-rival Golden West, losing them both.
Like our football boys, the Lady Miners have evened up their record at 9-9. At the moment, they sit at 2-4 in league play and are at the bottom of the food chain in the WYL standings. 2 out of these 4 losses have been a total toss-up. Their place in the WYL standings can be awfully deceiving due to the fact that the Miners took Hanford West to a 5th set. Hanford West currently has lost 4 games all year complemented by 23 wins. Taking a team like Hanford West to a 5th set is no joke, but the same question remains as before: how will the Miners stand up to high leverage situations? They’re now 0-4 in games that have gone to a 5th and decisive set. 9-9 is a very middle of the pack record. But the faceplants the Miners have had in recent weeks have hurt their chances to make the postseason. However, with this rough stretch also comes good news.
The girls will enter a weekend tournament this week in Hoover, and – depending on the competition there – this could be a good opportunity for the Lady Miners to take a step in the right direction. After the tournament, their next two games will be against Hanford and Mt. Whitney. The Miners have swept both of these games three games to none. This next week or so will be huge. The backend of their schedule is rough. But with some momentum and the same fiery attitude they’ve had, they have the ability to pull some upsets. If that happens, the small step in the right direction will turn into a gigantic leap.
I’ve praised these girls all season. I have great reason to do so. They have championship qualities, now the only thing they need to do is believe that they’re a force to be reckoned with. I don’t know for sure if their recent faceplants stem from confidence issues. For all I know, it could be just a few small hiccups that have derailed their current momentum. But the exciting thing about the postseason is once you’re there, records go out the door. If the Miners make the playoffs, which they still very much can, no one will think about how at one point they were 9-9. No one will think about prior games. No one will think about how at one point they were 2-4 in league. Once the playoffs come, it’s about who is playing the best volleyball. The Miners are going to be given a tremendous opportunity to get back on track. They’ve shown time and time again that they can hang with the best. Now all they need to do is finish. Once the playoffs come, Valley rings are up for grabs. Records, stats, and prior matchups will no longer matter. Once this time comes, don’t be surprised if you see El Diamante’s name in contention. And when that happens: watch out.