Damian Valencia of the East

Strathmore High School's Damain Valencia, center, tackles a West player during the second half of the 52nd annual Tulare/Kings East vs. West All-Star Football Game, Saturday, June 22, 2019 at Groppetti Community Stadium in Visalia.

East falls 34-28 to West but players enjoys final high school game

Fourteen local graduates strapped on pads and helmets for one last high school game under the lights Saturday for the 52nd annual Tulare/Kings East vs. West All-Star Football Game at Groppetti Community Stadium in Visalia.

All five area football programs were represented on the East with Porterville head coach, Michael Machado, and his coaching staff leading the East All-Star team.

The East lost 34-28 to the West despite scoring a touchdown in every quarter.

Their first touchdown came just under 9 minutes into the game thanks to a 67-yard touchdown pass from Monache quarterback, Antonio Andrade, to Redwood receiver, La’Dre Aguilar. A successful two-point conversion made it 8-0 for the first score of the game.

The East scored again in the second and third, on a 5-yard touchdown pass to PHS running back Demario Ennis and a 3-yard run by Central Valley Christian quarterback Eric Dragt, respectively.

However they were unable to score on 2-point conversion attempts and were left tied 20-all going into the fourth quarter.

Two scores in less than five minutes for the West put the East behind 34-20 and the East didn’t score again until Mt. Whitney quarterback Jaedyn Pineda had a 3-yard touchdown run followed by a pass to Porterville’s Jesse Hernandez for a 2-point conversion with 3:44 to go.

The East got the ball back in the final minutes but an interception with a minute left sealed the West win.

Andrade finished the game going 7 of 13 for 135 yards with one touchdown. He is going to play football for College of the Sequoias next season.

“It was good,” Andrade said. “I feel really blessed tonight. I just thank the Lord, that He gave me the opportunity to put in and play this game. It was really good, I enjoyed it.”

On the ground, Andrade also ran for 24 yards on seven carries. He said, “It was like it’s the all-star game, I’m going to run it as much as I can. Get as many yards as I can. It was good, I liked it.”

Porterville’s Ennis also had a good night as he rushed for 23 yards on eight carries and had 43 yards on four receptions.  

“You know the game was good,” Ennis said. “It felt good putting on pads and just coming back and being part of a team and playing football again, the sport I’ve always loved.”

The game went so well that Ennis now plans to walk-on for Fresno State next year.

“After this game I’ve still got a lot of energy and a lot of love for the sport and I just want to give it my all,” Ennis said about his decision.

For a lot of players, getting selected for the all-star game meant a lot and they were thankful to play one last high school game.

“It meant a lot honestly,” Lindsay wide receiver, Angel Perez, said. “When the coach called me I was really appreciative. Like I was thankful for it and I’m glad I made it and had another chance to ball out.”

On continuing his football career at West Hills College in Coalinga, Perez said, “I think it’ll be a whole different experience from high school, hope it goes great and I’m just going to do the best that I can.”

Another player who was happy for the opportunity to play one more game was Strathmore lineman, Jadon Guire.  

“Just an incredible experience to be out there with all these all-stars, with all these great players from throughout the Valley,” he said. “It’s an experience like you can’t get anywhere else. I mean for some of us it’s our last hurrah, and for some of us it’s our last part until the next step of our lives. College ball. It was just a good game. Good to be out here, like good energy. Fun to play with these guys.”

Guire also played his last game with teammate, linebacker Damian Valencia. The two helped lead Strathmore to three-straight Valley and CIF State Regional championships, as well as a CIF State Division 6-AA Championship in 2017.

“That was a hard one,” Guire said about the two’s last game. “It’s emotional. It’s a bittersweet moment to play my last couple snaps with Damian. We’ve been playing with each other since like 2008, 2009. Grew up together, he’s my brother. It’s hard to say goodbye to us playing with each other but I know Damian’s going to go on and do some great things with football and in life. I’m just happy for him and I’ll be there to support him through it all.”

Local players for the East were Guire and Valencia from Strathmore; Perez and Ricardo Navarro from Lindsay; Andrade from Monache; Michael Martinez from Granite Hills; Ennis, Hernandez, Aaron Cruz, Benjamin Rodriguez, Eduardo Ramos, Saul Barajas and Miguel Madrigal from Porterville.

“We had eight of them on there,” coach Machado said. “They had a good time. We enjoyed coaching those guys. Like I said, those are the guys that 18 months ago, decided to put the work in and they had a great senior season. And it was fun to coach them once last time.”

The Panthers went 8-3 on the overall season and earned the top seed in Central Section Div. IV. They had an opening round bye but were upset in the quarterfinals 20-7 by No. 8 Wasco (9-4).

“Obviously the season didn’t end the way we wanted too, so to get out and coach them and have fun and let them compete one more time on a Saturday night was pretty awesome,” Machado said.

He added, “And then the guys that came along with them were pretty amazing. To see kids — Golden West, Exeter, Strathmore — all those guys are pretty amazing kids. It was pretty fun to coach a group like that and just to see they type of talent that can be put together in the Valley is pretty fun.” 

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