Tulare Western’s leading rusher David Alcántar will wear the names of several loved ones on his sleeves when the Mustangs play in the Central Section Division III championship football game.
Alcántar and his teammates are on what they call “redemption” play in the quest for the Mustangs’ first section crown. In a Nov. 24 semifinal at Tulare Union’s Bob Mathias Stadium, the No. 1-seeded Mustangs didn’t allow No. 5-seeded Tehachapi to score until the fourth quarter in a 38-7 victory.
Tulare Western, whose only blemish is to crosstown rival Tulare Union, faces second-seeded San Joaquín Memorial of Fresno at 7 p.m. Friday (Dec. 1) on the same field. Memorial, 10-2, eliminated No. 3 Bakersfield Christian 49-7 last Friday.
The Mustangs lost last season in the semifinal game, which is the reason players are calling this season’s playoffs, the redemption. It was San Joaquín Memorial who eliminated Tulare Western last year.
Head coach Ryan Rocha told his players, “You are modern day gladiators.”
Alcántar, at 5-foot-8, 155-pounds, is the Mustangs’ leading rusher with 1,555 yards on 177 carries with 26 touchdowns, printed the names of friends fighting cancer and those lost to tragedy.
“This is for my girlfriend’s dad we lost, Joey. It’s a towel with a cross with wings. This one is ‘Play for Vasco,’ my cousin’s grandpa, he’s got cancer. This is ‘Blessed to be here’ because it’s a blessing to be here,” said Alcántar.
Before the team’s post-game meeting on the field with Rocha, Alcántar hugged and told fans there is one more game, but then quickly changed.
“I said, ‘One more game,’ but three more games. Why not, a state championship?” he said.
Alcántar will play for Tulare Western’s baseball team after the football is over. He’s undecided on college, but hopes to obtain a scholarship to play baseball.
“It’s the coaches, it’s the players, it’s the family bonding. We go bowling on team Saturdays, we care about being a family, making sure we got each others’ back,” said Alcántar.
He played on the junior varsity team for a single season before a move to the varsity squad in Alcántar’s sophomore season.
“That was my very first year playing ball, my freshman year. I built off that a lot from my freshman year,” said Alcántar.
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) will release the regional invitees and a schedule on Dec. 2.
Other section news Division VI
The Strathmore High Spartans earned a second-consecutive Division VI title last Friday night (Nov. 24) with a 42-32 victory over visiting Rosamond and a berth to a CIF regional bowl game.
Wildcats’ leading rusher Joseph García finished the evening with three touchdowns on 35 carries for 183 yards. Overall he has acumulated 2,117 yards on 227 carries and 36 touchdowns.
The top-seeded Spartans stopped No. 2 Rosamond to earn the school’s fifth Central Section title. Strathmore ends the section season with a perfect record of 13-0.
The Spartans have a 27-1 record over the last two seasons. The Spartans lost to visiting St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo in the CIF State Championship game played on Dec. 17, 2016 in Strathmore. The regional bowl game will be announced by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) in early December.
Top-seeded Central (Fresno) defeated No. 5 Bakersfield 35-27 in the Division I semifinal game, while No. 3 Buchanan (Clovis) upset No. 2 Clovis West last Friday night.
Central hosts Buchanan on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.
No. 1 Tulare Union High School defeated No. 2 Dinuba 49-21 for the section Division II crown last Friday.
Tulare Union has celebrated four section titles over the past 23 seasons. Tulare Union remains undefeated at 13-0 and awaits the CIF decision for a regional game.
Dinuba ends the season at 11-2.
The top-two seeded teams, Golden West High School faces Central Valley Christian (Visalia) on Friday for the section Division IV crown.
Golden West (10-2, 4-2) defeated No. 4 Kerman High 31-19, while Central Valley Christian (10-2, 3-2) eliminated No. 6 North (Bakersfield) 57-16.
Top-seeded Caruthers faces No. 3 Firebaugh on Friday (Dec. 1) at 7 p.m. Caruthers improved to 11-0 after eliminating Yosemite 39-24. Firebaught (10-2) upset No. 2 Shafter 35-23.
Fresno Christian shut out Trona 28-0 for the Central Section 8-man title. Fresno Christian improved to 9-4, 5-0 in league, while Trona picked up its first loss and ending the season at 10-1.