Granite Bowl is a must-win game for Monache

It’s that time of the year again, when Porterville and Monache High School football programs meet for their annual Granite Bowl rivalry game at Jacob Rankin Stadium.

The East Yosemite League game kicks off tonight at 6:30 p.m., and as usual there’s more on the line than bragging rights and the “Rock.”

“I think that in between playing in it and coaching in it, I probably officiated four or five Granite Bowls,” first-year MHS head coach Shane Focke said. “So I get what the hype is and stuff, but this game has so much more importance on it for us than the Granite Bowl. We’ve got to play a really good and explosive football team. We’ve got to try and beat them to get into the playoffs. There’s more to it for us than just a crosstown rival this year.”

At stake for the Marauders (2-7,1-3 EYL) is a spot in the CIF Central Section Division IV playoffs. Beat Div. IV Porterville (5-4, 2-2 EYL) and Monache is in. Lose and the Marauders miss the playoffs for the first time in two years.

“It’s a corner we painted ourselves into, and it’s a corner that we still have an opportunity to get out of,” Focke said. “We just have to go out and do it, and not talk about it. If we can stay off the social media, and stay focused on what we need to do, we should have a really good chance with our players against theirs.”

A must-win game is a familiar spot for both teams. In 2017, Monache ended Porterville’s playoffs chances with a 35-9 victory. Several players, including the Marauders top receiver and running back, TrayVon Bradford and Aidan Galvan, were a part of that game and know the stakes better than most.

Bradford and Galvan have been integral to the Marauders’ offense all season with Galvan rushing for 1,011 yards and 11 touchdowns through the first eight games while Bradford has caught 19 passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns through that same time frame. Neither was able to get into the end zone in Monache’s 49-0 loss to Div. II Tulare Western (7-2, 4-0 EYL) last week, and the Panthers are looking to keep them out of there this week as well.

“I think we have a pretty good game plan on both sides of the ball,” PHS head coach Michael Machado said. “We know that they’re going to get the ball to Galvan and Bradford, so we’re going to hopefully put them as a team offensively in situations where it’s difficult for those guys to give us trouble. Our guys know where they need to be, and defensively I think we have a good game plan.”

Porterville clinched their playoff spot last week with a 48-6 win over Div. IV Delano. And like the case was last year when they beat the Marauders and ended a three-year losing streak with a 51-40 win, seedings are on the line for the Panthers. Although given their first game exit in last year’s playoffs as the No. 1 seed, Porterville knows seedings dictate only so much.

“For us we approach the game week the same all the time,” Machado said. “It’s one game at a time, you’ve got to win this one before you do anything else. Last year was a seeding issue but it’s possible this year could be a seeding issue too. We’re not necessarily worried about where we end up. If anybody in the Valley knows seedings don’t make a difference on a Friday night, that’s us.”

When it comes to Porterville, Monache will have its hands full on both sides of the ball. The Panthers defense has played well in EYL and their front seven have been tough to contain.

On offense, PHS quarterback Hector Nava Jr. has multiple targets and leads the Valley in passing yards with 2,301 yards and 21 touchdowns to eight interceptions. He also has 481 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Running back Isaiah Ellis has also pulls double duty work and has 570 yards and six touchdowns on the ground as well as 731 yards and six touchdowns through the air. Along with Javier Benevidez (759 receiving yards, six TDS), Porterville is a fast, multi-skilled offense.

“Like I said, they have a great football team,” Focke said. “They have speed where you want speed and they have size where you want size. The coaches have done a wonderful job with that team, we just have a really tall task in front of us. And what better way to try and get into the playoffs than to beat a top notch football team.”

The focus for Porterville’s offense this game is protecting the ball and starting off well. Last season a Marauders’ pick-6 had the team trailing 20-7 in the first quarter.

“Offensively, really, we just want to make sure we take care of the football,” Machado said. “Weather the storm for the first quarter, which was an issue for us last year in this game in particular. And just make sure that we don’t give them any additional momentum.

“And then also we want to start the game with a lot of energy, and make some plays early. And hopefully get the momentum and energy rolling in our direction, and it should hopefully help us finish the game.”

Recommended for you