The homecoming may be three weeks away, but Wasco’s fifth-year football coach Chad Martinez has received a first dose of what to expect when his team welcome Chavez on October 8.
Limited to just three games in the spring – all losses on the road – the Tigers loyalists were clearly missing the action on the local playing field and have shown a flurry of support this season.
“Our first game against Tehachapi was like a big crowd coming home,” said Martinez. “The city was really looking forward to seeing Wasco Tiger football, and once we got to get back there with the fans, because we hadn’t had a home game last year, it was packed. Literally, there was no room in the stands. There are stalls, vendors… everything you can expect from a reunion week, but it was just an opening game for us. And it continues. Everyone is super excited. It helps when you win a few matches.
Of course, winning didn’t hurt. Wasco (3-0) enters this week’s South Sequoia League opener against McFarland (1-2) after outscoring his first three opponents 138-46. It’s also the first time the school has opened the season with three wins since 2016, the year before Martinez returned to the program.
“It’s been really building,” Martinez said. “It just keeps building and I can honestly say the community support has always been there, but it almost feels like a playoff atmosphere because of all the energy in the crowd and the excitement. Not just because football is back, but we got to play on the pitch. It’s really cool to go there and represent the city.
It’s a far cry from a shortened spring season just five months ago, when the Tigers were outscored 104-37 with the majority of the team’s players and coaches splitting their time playing two sports.
“It was a mess (in the spring), but it kind of worked out,” Martinez said. “Now the program is the most important since I’ve been here. So that’s pretty cool.
Now with the start of the SSL game, Martinez is hopeful his team can continue their early season momentum.
“It’s exciting to start the league,” Martinez said. “It’s a whole new year, which means it’s a whole new league in a way. But there are some usual suspects that you know will be tough games, but from top to bottom it’s a tough league to play. There is no match you can ignore. It really is this small town central league if there is such a thing.
Martinez also hopes his team can stay healthy. Of the league’s seven football teams, Wasco is the only team whose season has not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and health and safety protocols that have forced cancellations and several players to leave. absent from matches.
“So far so good,” Martinez said of his season so far. “Everything went as we wanted. It’s still early days and there are a lot of things that change from week to week. So that makes Friday night more exciting because it’s like, ‘hey, we did it, the game is going to be.’ We haven’t had to deal with any COVID-related issues that caused us to quit a game, but it looks like it can. And if one of our opponents were to cancel, we would expect that we would play to go play somewhere in Visalia or Tulare a day or two in advance.
“So it’s like a slow build until you get to Friday night, where you can take a deep breath, where you don’t know if you’re going to get there, and then you get there. “Alright, we made it, now let’s go and put on a show for them.” “
While Wasco has managed to stay on the field this season, their league rivals have not been so lucky.
This week, Taft’s SSL opening at Kennedy was canceled due to health and safety protocols. Arvin, Chavez and McFarland have also seen games canceled because of these protocols, either because of their own positive test or that of their opponents.
The Titans were forced to miss more than two weeks after testing positive, including their season opener home game against rival Delano. Even after the team returned to training and games, not all players did. Chavez missed six in his Week 2 loss to Porterville-Monache and five starting linemen in a loss to Tulare-Mission Oak the following week.
“The first two weeks have been pretty tough because we’ve been hit with COVID, but right now we’re feeling pretty good,” said sixth-year Chavez coach Jesse Ortega, whose team fell to 0-3 with a 12-6. defeat against the East last week. “Not only because we are starting the league, but also because we feel like we have a strong team now that about 99% of our team are adjusting, as long as nothing happens. more by Friday. “
The Titans were also hurt with a few injuries and a transfer, leaving the team a bit slim in experience. Chavez’s roster includes 10 sophomores and 14 juniors.
“With everything we’ve been through, there is no other group I would rather experience it with than this group,” Ortega said. “And that’s the truth. Many children would have already checked and would have been discouraged or would not have seen the usefulness of it. But they stay positive and they still work hard.
This week’s Titans opponent Shafter (1-2) also faced his share of health issues early in this season.
While the Generals haven’t had to cancel any games, a few key players have been forced to take time off due to health and safety protocols, as the missing pieces recover from injuries. The team roster includes six sophomores and four freshmen.
The biggest void was the absence of senior quarterback Tyson Dozhier, who suffered a broken right collarbone in a Week 2 loss to Highland. Spring co-player of the year BVarsity All-Area should be able to return to training in three weeks. The Generals also had to play without two-way star Walker Maino, who injured his back while playing in the spring.
“We kind of hit a plateau, I guess, hitting wood,” Shafter coach Jerald Pierucci said of the injury virus. “We’re kind of thankful that we went almost two weeks without any serious injuries other than normal bumps and bruises and things like that, normal football stuff. So we were pretty healthy.
“Probably every coach deals with that, especially as a smaller program where you lose a guy or two and you end up displacing people. I mean you don’t have a guy from Channel 2 going into some. roles. I used to tell people that our second channel is our first channel, just in different places. ”
The combination of injuries, illnesses and what Pierucci describes as “changing academic demands for athletes” has been perhaps the most difficult for the former East High and Bakersfield Christian coach.
“Every time I’ve felt like this is when I started a new program,” Pierucci said. “My freshman year at Shafter, my time at BCHS and when I was in East. You have an idea (on the team), but you really don’t know. So for my sixth season, to be where I am now, that’s usually not what an established coach really goes through on a program. So it’s not something that I haven’t done before, but at the same time, it’s something that I haven’t done for a while.
With Dozhier on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, Pierucci relied heavily on the team’s top receiver Devon Sundgren, using him as a quarterback, a position he had never played before Week 2 of this season.
“So for us, we’re still fixing the issues,” Pierucci said. “I mean you have a kid with Devon Sundgren who’s never played quarterback before, but he’s a good athlete. We’re still figuring out what he can and can’t do and what he’s comfortable with. How much can he ingest in terms of blueprints and skills that we need him to win matches. So when it comes to coaches, we’re still learning some of our guys, in roles that they have to fill now.
“But I know every week we become more and more confident as a coaching staff about our strengths and weaknesses and how we as coaches can maybe change what we have. done in the past, or appeal to some things that we’ve done in the past that we can sort of go with to help these kids be successful.
This week’s zone program:
Santa Barbara-Laguna Blanca in Maricopa, 6
Tranquility in Mira Monte, 7
Ridgeview vs. Fresno-Central at Fresno-Koligian Stadium, 7
California City in Santa Paula, 7
Preparation of the mission of San Luis Obispo in the desert, 7
Frazier Mountain in Tollhouse-Sierra, 7
East vs Porterville-Monache at Porterville-Granite Hills, 7:15
Visalia-El Diamante at Stockdale, 7:30 a.m.
Border to independence, 7:30 a.m.
Garces at Tehachapi, 7:30 a.m.
Highland at Golden Valley, 7:30 a.m.
Taft to Kennedy, canceled
Centennial vs. Sange, canceled
* Kern Valley in Mira Monte, canceled
Mojave at Canyon Country-Santa Clarita Christian, 4:30
Liberty in Santa Barbara-Bishop Diego at Santa Barbara City College, 7
Note: * Mira Monte has added a home game against Tranquility.