It’s official. The El Diamante Miners have clinched at least a share of the WYL title. After starting their season off with a dismal 1-3 record, the Miners have resurrected their season and have surprised everyone in the WYL, except themselves.
The boys in green knocked off Lemoore 34-17 last Friday to clinch at least a share of the WYL title. As expected, the Miners jumped on the backs of their defense and running game. DeVontae Freeman went off, yet again, for over 200 yards and 4 touchdowns, while the defense was lockdown yet again. But when I say, lockdown, I mean 5 interceptions lockdown. The Miner secondary picked off the Lemoore Tigers 5 times, including 4 of those INTs from Senior Corner Alex Mata. I’m not kidding, 4 interceptions. Mata capped off his historic outing with a pick-six, once again cementing his place as one of the top DBs in all of Division II. To complement the stellar defense the Miners have, the Miners put up at least 30 points for the 4th game this season. The two-headed monster of DeVontae Freeman and Jake Garbani has the Miners plowing through opposing defenses. But even though things can’t get much better for the Green Sea, they’re far from done. They have one game left on their schedule. This one game will probably go down as one of the most important in school history. It’s the annual Battle for the Saddle game against the Golden West Trailblazers.
I wasn’t going home without my pick 6 🏈🏈 pic.twitter.com/UtU4wuu5Zd
— Ä🥇🏈 (@Alexmata1600) October 28, 2017
On paper, you’d probably say the advantage goes to Golden West. They have an overall record of 8-1, two games ahead of the Miners. Saying the Blazers are a good team is an understatement. They’ve taken the past 3 out of 4 meetings and have looked good doing in the process. Like El Diamante, Golden West is a run-heavy offense with their Wing-T system. They hardly throw the ball, but they have a very good reason to rely on their rushing attack. Senior Fullback Gonzalo Rodriguez set the Visalia High School’s All-Time Career Rushing Yards record last week with his 181 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rodriguez may be the featured back, but he’s just one out of many legitimate threats on the Golden West offense. He’s joined by Seniors Ian Kelly and Frankie Gonzalez. So there’s no denying the Miner defense will have their hands full on Friday, but the good news is that the Miners have a solid rushing attack themselves.
The X-Factor for this game will be the same it’s been all year for the Green Sea: stop the run, and then run the ball themselves down the other team’s throat. DeVontae Freeman has had his way against every team the Miners have played since he was inserted in as the Miners featured back. If the Miners keep getting consistent play from the O-Line, and if Jake Garbani can keep producing as a lead blocker and a ball carrier, then Friday night should be no different for Freeman. Once that happens, it will open up the passing game for Parker Boswell. Although this sounds like a daunting task against the 8-1 Blazers, it wouldn’t be anything new for the Green Sea. The Golden West backfield is like the three-headed monster from Hercules. But with the way the Miner defense has been playing during their 5 game winning streak, it shouldn’t take much to chop off the heads of the three-headed monster in the Golden West backfield.
It’s been clear for years that the El Diamante football team isn’t flashy. They typically don’t play in a bunch of shootouts. They don’t have a very exotic system on offense. They’re old school. They’re blue collar. And they play smash-mouth football. This has been a rollercoaster season for the ages, but throughout the duration of league play, the Miners have done nothing but turn heads. For whatever reason, they just keep winning. And these aren’t games that are total flukes that probably won’t happen again the next week, they’re pretty comfortable wins. They man-handled Redwood, they put up 50 on a below average Hanford West team, and they bullied Lemoore with over 200 yards rushing and 5 interceptions. But even though some may argue that the Miners have already had their signature win, anyone affiliated with the program would highly disagree. This year’s Battle for the Saddle game means a lot more than in prior years. If the Miners win, they win the WYL outright. If they lose, then they’ll share the title with Golden West and will be below the Blazers in playoff seeding. So although every Saddle game is personal, this one possesses higher stakes and an intensified week of preparation. Friday night will be a battle for the ages. Record-wise, it may be advantage Golden West, but if you ask anybody on the Miners roster, you would soon learn that in their minds, they’re far from the underdog.