Today Monache plays home, Porterville away

With four football games left in the season, three Orange Belt teams still need to pick up their fifth overall, or third league, win to qualify for the Central Section Division playoffs.

The East Sequoia League’s Strathmore (6-0, 2-0 ESL) and Lindsay (5-2, 2-1 ESL) have already qualified while the East Yosemite League’s Porterville is a win away from qualifying for the second year in a row.

On the brink are Monache (1-5, 0-1 EYL) and Granite Hills (1-5, 0-2 ESL), both of whom will miss playoffs if they lose two more games. 

Games stretch from today until Saturday, starting with Monache at home against Mission Oak and Porterville facing Tulare Western on the road. The Grizzlies host Farmersville Friday for homecoming and the Spartans are in Hanford Saturday to play Sierra Pacific.

The final team to take their bye this week is the Cardinals.

Mission Oak (3-3, 0-1 EYL) vs. Monache (1-5, 0-1 EYL) @ GHHS, 7 p.m. Thurs

Div. I Tulare Union put a 40-3 bruising on Div. IV Monache last week but the Marauders have a chance to even up their EYL record against Div. V Mission Oak, who are back in town after losing 34-26 to Div. IV Porterville last week. The Hawks are 0-3 on the road.

Outside of a first quarter 41-yard field goal by Anthony Valencia, Union shut down Monache’s offense and held them to just 199 total yards. However the Tribe and the Hawks are two completely different teams, and where the Marauders struggled against Union they should have better luck against Mission Oak.

If Monache gets going early with running back Aidan Galvan, and quarterback Sullivan Focke can find TrayVon Bradford, along with their offensive line holding up, they should do fine since previous results have shown them to be successful that way. 

Porterville (4-2, 1-0 EYL) vs. Tulare Western (4-2, 1-0 EYL) @ TUHS, 7 p.m. Thurs

For over a decade the EYL title has ran through the Tulare schools but Porterville is on the cusp of possibly shaking things up. Coming off a 34-26 win over Mission Oak along with another solid preseason run, the Div. IV Panthers continue to be a team to be reckoned with. 

Porterville’s offense could have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with Div. II Tulare Western but their defense will need to be at the top of their game. Unlike the Panthers who have outscored opponents just 194-169, the Mustangs have outscored teams 252-90 and held four teams to 14 points or less.

Back for Western is the Div. II’s second leading rusher, Tairyn Johnson (680 yards, seven touchdowns) and quarterback Elijah Burrell, who is fourth in the Valley in passing yards with 1,525 and 18 touchdowns on 100 of 158 completions with six interceptions. Porterville’s Hector Nava Jr. missed one game but is the Valley’s second leading passer with 1,572 yards and 16 touchdowns on 77 of 127 completions with only three interceptions.

Farmersville (0-7, 0-3 ESL) @ Granite Hills (1-5, 0-2 ESL), 7:15 p.m. Fri

Two weeks ago Div. VI Granite Hills was served a 46-0 loss by Div. VI Lindsay. But in the Grizzlies defense, they were playing without several key players. Fresh off a bye week, Granite hopefully returns a couple of those players to help turn their season around.

The Grizzlies shouldn’t have much trouble against the struggling Aztecs of Farmersville, whose opponents have outscored them 298 to 84 this season. Quarterback Rudy Navarro leads the team with five rushing touchdowns but has thrown 20 interceptions while going 89-of-165 for 857 yards and seven touchdowns. Wide receiver Anthony Salinas caught six of those touchdowns and leads the team with 650 receiving yards. 

Granite has both the offense and defense to shut down Farmersville in a game that is theirs to lose. The Grizzlies defensive line can easily be a headache for the Aztecs while the offense steps up on the run. Carlos Corona, Manny Aguilar and quarterback David Ramirez have combined for 488 rushing yards and just two touchdowns this season.

Strathmore (6-0, 2-0 ESL) vs. Sierra Pacific (2-4, 1-1 ESL) @ HHS, 7:15 p.m. Sat

After beating reigning ESL champion, Div. V Woodlake (5-2, 2-1 ESL) last Friday, Strathmore solidified their position atop the ESL and made a mark in Div. V that the “1-0” Spartans will worry about later. For now their focus has to be on finishing ESL strong.

Quarterback Chad Leslie and wide receiver Gavin Gamble are both back for the Golden Bears with the two linking up for 469 yards and seven touchdowns. But considering how Strathmore handled Woodlake’s passing game and that the Golden Bears average just 4.7 yards a carry, it should be a big defensive night for the Spartans. 

Both the pass and run have been there for Strathmore this season and they’ll likely have success with both against Sierra Pacific. Lee Navarro leads the team in receiving yards with 282 after his 100-yard game against Woodlake but Andre Bravo has a team high five receiving touchdowns. Quarterback Trace Pugh has anchored the team with 719 yards and 11 touchdowns on 45 of 71 completions.

On the ground Carlos Moreno has led the team with 599 yards and eight touchdowns on 79 carries and should pick up his fourth 100-yard game of the season.

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