El D vs. Redwood. For any athlete at El Diamante, the day you play Redwood is one of the longest days you’ll have as a student. The game is all you can think about. You can’t focus. You gaze at the clock every 5 minutes, waiting for the time to come. You want to beat Redwood so bad and wipe that smirk off the face of the Ranger logo. You hate losing to Redwood more than you love beating them. Why? Well, quite frankly, because they’re good. Redwood’s had one of the best high school athletic programs in the valley for years, and they will continue to do so. But even though they’re good, they’re nowhere near invincible. The El Diamante football squad proved that yet again last Friday night.
The classic matchup between a long time coaches Mark Rogers and Shaun Ball always adds another chapter to one of the biggest rivalries in the Central Valley. Crosstown games are always fun to watch, but El D and Redwood adds another flavor to it. Whenever these two teams meet, they look at each other with pure hatred. I hate losing to Redwood. Everyone hates losing to Redwood. But once we win (which apparently isn’t that hard to do in football), it feels a heck of a lot sweeter than if we were to beat any other school.
Before Friday Night, the Rangers hadn’t beaten El D in football in 5 years. Fittingly enough, the number rose to 6 by the time the clock hit zero. The Miners out-slugged the Rangers for the 6th straight year with a score of 17-7. The game proved to be everything people expected it to be, including me. Just like last year’s matchup, the Miners jumped on the back of their defense and rode them through the Redwood invasion. After conceding a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, the Miner defense became a stone wall. The Rangers were shut out after the opening drive, and the Miner offense was left to pick up the slack.
The Miners entered intermission down 7-3, their only points off a 23 yard Field Goal from Alex Saldana. But even though the Miners trailed, they had Redwood right where they wanted them. They came out guns-a-blazing in the 3rd quarter and jumped on top with a score from Fullback from Jake Garbani. But the excitement didn’t end with Garbani bulldozing into the end zone. Early in the 4th quarter, the Rangers were knocking on the door. The Rangers were on the Miners 1 yard line and were desperately looking to get back in the lead, but the Miner defense was having none of it. Redwood’s Logan Shafer coughed up the ball on the 1-yard line, and the Miners jumped on it in the end zone for a touchback. It was the play of the game, but with almost an entire quarter left to play, the Miners still had work to do.
This was the signature drive for El Diamante. They needed to drain some clock and try to get some insurance points on the board to put the Rangers away for good. Everyone in the stands knew what Rogers and company planned on doing. When the Miners broke the huddle on their own 20-yard line, all 22 eyes on the defense shifted to Miner Running Back: DeVontae Freeman. It was vintage Miner football. Even though it seemed like the Rangers knew what was coming, they still couldn’t find a way to stop #22 in white. The Miners used old-fashioned, smash mouth football to march down the field, also draining precious seconds off the clock. The drive finished with a 3-yard scamper from Freeman into the end zone. The Miner sideline and student section went berzerk. They grinded out 13 plays on the 80-yard drive, throwing the knockout punch in the faces of the Redwood Rangers. When it was needed most, the Miners threw their hay-maker, and it knocked the Rangers out cold.
Freeman finished with 132 yards rushing and the game-sealing touchdown. The defense held Redwood to just 228 total yards, including just 74 on the ground. The Miners have cemented their place as one of the top threats in the WYL. They still sit in first place with a league record of 4-0. Weeks ago, I wrote an article at 1 in the morning on how their slow start would be turned into a playoff run for the ages. They’re simply too talented. They’re not flashy, they won’t put up 50 points a game (except for Hanford West), they’re not any of those things. Instead, they’re blue collar. They work harder than any school in the valley. They walk off the field every Friday night bruised and battered because they fought their tails off against every opponent they’ve played, any possible question about this team has been answered.
Pag Meter Division 2 Football Rankings Week 10
1 Tulare Union
3 El Diamante
— PAG METER (@PAGMETER) October 24, 2017
For 6 years now, the Rangers have failed to beat the El Diamante Miners. Whenever the lights are at their brightest, the Miners shine brighter than anyone around. The blue-collar attitude and the tenacity they show has them charging through the WYL (sound familiar?). The amazing part about this team is that they’re probably not supposed to be that good. They’re down to their 3rd running back, although Freeman is no 3rd stringer. Their defense has become a gigantic puzzle that has finally been given it’s missing piece. And the offense still isn’t anything out of the ordinary. Sometimes, you’ll hear parents in the stands call out the play the Miners are about to run. But even when everyone and their grandma knows what the Miners are about to do, they still find a way to make it productive. But even with that, it’s hard to say for sure that the Miners will end up being in the thick of the tight race towards the Valley title. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty impossible because football is a sport where the better team loses all the time. The Miners may not even be the best team on the field when it comes to talent. But if you were ever to tell them that, they’d laugh at you and get back to work. Because that’s all they do. They work and work, and they’ll keep working until they hoist up the Division-II Section Title plaque in about a month from now. Seems like a stretch, but lord knows it’s far from impossible. Anyone who doubts that just simply isn’t paying attention, because the Miners have proved it week in and week out.