By Paul Meadors, Sports Reporter
And just like that, before you had time to blink and towel off from the pool and Pacific Ocean water, the summer school break is officially over. For parents, students, teachers, administrators and coaches it’s back to some sense of normalcy; the grind and routine called life. For most, the return is much welcomed, a fresh start to a new season of life. And for our TRAC athletes, especially those seniors, this is the season they’ll remember for a lifetime. All those workouts, all those back and forth trips to practice, the extra wind sprints when no one is around are about to pay off – it’s officially the 2015-16 season.
Take a big breath and exhale – good – now you’re ready to cheer on your favorite TRAC teams and experience the thrill of victory and agony of defeat along with the coaches and athletes.
I’m sure everyone shares our excitement of the Friday Night Lights of football, girls volleyball, tennis and golf, cross country and boys and girls water polo and I’m happy, nay elated and overjoyed, to say that the Clovis Roundup sports section will have its own fancy pull-out section starting September 9. How cool is that? This never would have been possible without you—the involved readers and supporters who make Clovis area sports a special place. Whether you are a part of Bear Nation, C-Dub Nation, Cougar Pride, a Bronco, or a Timberwolf, this is your place for all your TRAC goodness. Now on with the show…
While the TRAC football season was competitive last season, no team made the D-1 championship game, and only Clovis made it to the quarter finals, losing a heart breaker to Edison 21-14. But there’s a different feeling in the air this season, a sense that every team is on a mission. A competitive spirit that permeates from Teague Avenue through Copper down Nees past Fowler Ave down to DeWolf. Here’s the main reason: last year there was a ton of young talent on the field and now all those guys are a year more experienced – and a year stronger. Scary thought to be sure.
The season kicks off August 28 for all TRAC schools, the first of five pre-season games. The mother-lode TRAC football preview will be available October 6, a day before league begins, but check out the one-page guide to your Clovis area TRAC teams to get you in the football mood.
Clovis West: Featuring two of the league’s brightest stars and biggest attractions in five-star recruit Caleb Kelly and UCLA commit Darian Owens, the Golden Eagles are a mixture of senior talent and young, rising stars. Kelly is the uber-athletic linebacker and Owens is the lightning fast safety, and both will line up on offensive as well. They may very well be the most athletic duo in the state, let alone the Central Valley. The defense alone will be worth the price of admission, a high-flying group ready to pounce on their prey.
Second year coach George Petrissans’ offensive scheme should prove more effective this season with their quick-hitting plays setting up their big-hitting bombs. Think Oregon’s spread offense mixed with a dash of Fresno State. What to watch for is the quarterback position, as the battle is between solid senior Trace Garabedian and the upstart sophomore Adrian Martinez. Garabedian has a solid grasp of the offense and can make the safe throws while Martinez can beat you with his legs and his arm. Tight end Johnny Rojas returns for his senior season after being injured last year, and provides a big target for the quarterback.
Clovis: The Cougars come in hungry after losing in the D-1 semi-finals to Edison and return 18 of 22 starters from last year. So yeah, they come into the season loaded and ready to rock. They’re big on the line, have a killer instinct on defense, and have skill position players to make plays.
The offense was dealt a blow when speedy running back Samir Allen broke his ankle in a practice session and is lost for the season, but they have enough weapons to compensate including wide receiver JJ Wills, who is gaining a lot of college interest, hard-nosed Coltin Velasquez, and tight end Clayton Alexander. Senior quarterback Sean Kuenzinger looked great in the annual Blue Gold scrimmage and looks ready to take the lead. The defense is anchored by LB Tanner Rice, DL AJ Nevills and Seth Nevills and S Joish Hokit – those dudes can smash – and a massive offensive line with senior Tyler Collier paving the path. This very well may be the year of the Cougar.
Clovis East: Don’t sleep on East. The skill position players are as good as any in the TRAC led by senior QB Trey Semien, sophomore Marcus Washington and speedy returning receivers Devin Hollier and Tanner Tucker. Semien has a rocket for an arm and is an exceptional athlete. Washington started as a freshman and is already well known amongst the Central Valley’s best – he rushed for an incredible 262 yards and a touchdown in a first round playoff loss to Clovis.
Expectations are high for head Coach Jim O’Brien, who saw his team work hard in the weight room and make strides in the field during the summer. The Timberwolves could very well enter league play with a nice record, with very winnable in-Valley games against D-II opponents Redwood and Sanger.
Buchanan: Playing perhaps the TRAC’s toughest preseason schedule don’t be shocked if the Bears not only stand toe-to-toe in every game, but come away with some victories as well. There’s no moral victories – it’s time get over the hump for Bear Nation football – and they have the players, lock, stock and barrel. First off, senior defensive line book ends Bryson Young and Ben Parker will not be hard to miss, and you bet opposing offensives will know where they are. Young (6’5” 230), who’s being heavily recruited by Pac-12 schools and Parker (6’4” 225) will be menaces on the field.
With the emergence of running back Chuby Danu late last season, and the future looking bright with sophomore Trevor Ervin, head coach Mike Jacot in his third year at Buchanan is excited about the Bears chances this season. They start the season against Edison, Bullard, Lemoore and Liberty and will be battle-tested and ready for the TRAC.
Clovis North: No Bolu Olorunfunmi (UCLA), no Jacob Daniel (USC), no Austin Autry (Fresno City)? No problem. Despite graduating the aforementioned stars, the Broncos will again be a force to be reckoned with, led by senior Jayson Lee, the stalwart running back and free safety. Legendary coach Tim Simons, in his second season as head coach of the Broncos will patrol the sidelines for Clovis North after going undefeated in TRAC last year at 5-0.
The Broncos preseason schedule includes four out-of-section games against Franklin, Folsom (defending D-1 state champs), Buhach Colony and Merced with D-1 Central Section champ Edison on week four.
So there’s no excuse to miss, here are the first two weeks of football for our five Clovis schools:
Friday, August 28 Golden Valley at Clovis East
Clovis West at Merced HS
Clovis at Paso Robles HS
Clovis North at Franklin HS
Buchanan at Edison
Friday, September 4 Lemoore at Clovis
Clovis West at Centennial
Clovis East at Redwood
Bullard at Buchanan
Saturday, September 5 Folsom at Clovis North
Paul Meadors can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @paulmeadors