People in the Central Valley take a big sigh of relief once the calendar turns to October. Not only does the weather become way nicer, October means the climax in the seasons of many sports at all levels. Major League Baseball kicks off it’s postseason, and High School football reaches a whole new level of excitement. The season hits the midway point, conference games become a huge factor, and the men get separated from the boys.
Last week, the Miners football program had a much needed BYE week to rest up and heal. They’re entering the back end of their schedule with momentum and a 3-3 (2-0 WYL) record. Not only have they had success in recent weeks, the dice seem to be falling the Miners’ direction when it comes to competition. They currently stand atop of the WYL standings at 2-0, and they’re entering this week facing off against a Hanford West team that has yet to win a conference game.
The Huskies of Hanford West kicked their season off on the right note but have lost their mojo since. They leaped out to a 3-1 start, scoring 50 or more points in two of those wins. But their downfall has been how they stack up against middle-to-top tier schools. At times, their offense has looked unbeatable, but whenever they play schools that aren’t that bad, they lay an egg. Inconsistency is something that the Miners need to jump on and take advantage of in order to stay in the mix for a league title. They’re going to be facing an offense that has the ability to explode, so overlooking a currently struggling Hanford West team wouldn’t be a very good idea.
The Huskies have a sophomore starting quarterback by the name of Ethan Natera. Normally, sophomore quarterbacks don’t rack up yards and completions as much as proven veterans, but Hanford West may have found a gem in Natera. Natera has a game under his belt where he completed 30 out of 40 passes for 481 yards and 5 touchdowns. Statistically speaking, you can’t have a much better outing as a QB, but that game was against a 1-5 Sierra Pacific team. El Diamante is not Sierra Pacific. Natera and the Huskies lost to Whitney in a shootout, and were blown out by Hanford 31-7. Why is that relevant? Because the Miners have played both those teams and handled them pretty well. Not to jinx anything for this week, but recent history has given the Green Sea an advantage.
Even with all that, it doesn’t take away the fact that the Miners will have their hands full this week. The El D secondary has had some changes made to it, and since then the defense has been red hot. The offense also has gradually become better and better. Notable names such as Parker Boswell, DeVontae Freeman, Curtis Robert and Jayvon Hightower have been huge in resurrecting the Miner offense. This week should be no different.
Vintage El Diamante football has led to loads of success throughout the years. Valley rings, many league titles, and a lopsided record in the Battle for the Saddle game against Golden West have all come from the same formula they use every year. It’s a formula that can be predictable at times, but the Miners don’t have a bunch of nobody’s on the roster. They’re talented, they’re smart, and they grind harder than most schools in the Valley. It’s a formula that has worked for years, and it’s produced glimpses of greatness from the Miners this season. But in order to make a deep run in the postseason, those glimpses will have to become much more consistent. They’re on the right track. Their starting to pick up steam as the playoffs loom closer and closer. If they can keep the momentum, then they’ll have the capability to steamroll through some good teams. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?
What I predicted last week ended up proving to be true. The Lady Miners have picked up the slack and have been taking some steps in the right direction. They went 2-1 in their weekend tournament at Hoover, and beat Mt. Whitney on Tuesday to put them at 13-10. Their last game this week will be against a Hanford Bullpups team that ranks dead last in the WYL standings. With a win against Hanford, the Miners will be lifted to an even WYL record of 4-4. Now, 4-4 isn’t great. Just like our football guys, a .500 record doesn’t mean that they’ve arrived. Their biggest challenges have yet to come, but they still possess a great chance to gain some ground and surprise a lot of people in the postseason.
The biggest test of all will be going to Redwood to play the Rangers in their own building. You always hear the words “playoff atmosphere” thrown around from time to time at the professional and college level, but never in high school. Going to a Redwood sporting event is probably one of the most intense atmospheres a high school student will ever play in, mostly led by their student section. They’re loud, they’re routey, their intense, and the student section can be pretty ruthless. On paper, the Rangers and Miners matchup looks like a “David vs. Goliath” kind of game. The Miners were blanked by the Rangers 3-0 on their home court a couple of weeks ago. But the one thing that you won’t see on paper is that the Rangers looked very uncomfortable for the first part of the game against El D. In the first set, the Miners had the Rangers on their heels but were unable to finish. Once Redwood escaped the first set, that’s when the Rangers settled in. If the Miners had run away with that opening set, like it looked like they would have, it would have changed the entire outcome of the game.
No matter the sport, El D vs. Redwood games are always fun to watch. One team could be 0-9 and the other could be 9-0, and it would still an absolute war until the final second/pitch/whistle. But these games have a little more flavor to them when playoff hopes are at stake. Redwood’s currently sitting in the driver seat and has nothing to prove. But for El Diamante, vengeance will be in the building. If the Miners can take care of business in the games beforehand, they’ll enter Redwood’s building with a nothing to lose kind of attitude.
No one likes getting swept by one of their arch enemies. No matter the sport, skill level, or any prior meetings, getting swept by a hated foe leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of the losers. For some, they can make up for it in their next sport. But for others, the frustration and sometimes pain sits in your stomach until the next season. For some of these girls, there isn’t the next season. The El Diamante roster is jammed with young talent, but for the few seniors on the court, this is it. Everywhere you look, the Miners are being overshadowed and overlooked. Like I’ve said time and time again – this is a team that has the ability to earn a Valley ring. They have the skills and they have the leadership. With a little more toughness and that same fiery attitude we saw in the beginning of the season, the Miners can become a tier 1 team again. All it takes is a little of momentum. A little momentum is all this team needs to get hot and stay hot. The Miners are a walking flame of fire that only needs an ounce of gasoline to rage and roar. Some teams have witnessed the heat, some teams escaped.
But once this fire catches its spark, it’s pretty hard to put out.