Exeter youth football shines bright

Exeter defeated the Far East Titans 22-0 in the first annual youth valley championship 

By Jermaine Johnson II

EXETER – For the first time ever, the All Valley Youth Football league joined with the Golden Empire Youth Football league to compete for a youth valley championship. 

The All Valley Youth Football league is largely comprised of teams from around Tulare County while the Golden Empire Youth Football league features Kern County. The division winners from both leagues went head to head last Saturday at Exeter High School, in a day full of games beginning at 8 a.m. 

Exeter won Division II in their league, for kids 14 years old and younger, with an 11-1 record. Out of the eight games played in the valley championship, they were the only team from the All Valley Youth Football league to win. 

The Golden Empire league had dominated throughout the day as they were winning by large margins. But after marching down the field on their first drive, Exeter head coach Steven Lentz knew his team could compete with the kids from Bakersfield. 

Despite being stuffed in the red zone, the opening drive from the Monarchs set the tone for the rest of the game. The Titans attempted a fake punt on fourth down in an effort to keep their drive alive but linebacker Logan Montano made a great play on the ball to force a turnover on downs. Montano was instrumental on defense at line backer and on offense as a runner. Exeter got the ball back which led to quarterback Ruben Ruiz sneaking in for a one-yard touchdown plunge. The Monarchs then capitalized on another mistake by the Titans who muffed a punt inside their 20-yard line. That resulted in Montano’s touchdown run which pushed the score to 14-0 heading into halftime. 

At half time Lentz emphasized to his team the importance of keeping momentum in their favor. As a result, they recovered their own onside kick to begin the second half.  

“Although we didn’t score, we were able to play on their side of the field for the rest of the game,” Lentz said.

The head coach credited the play of his defense as being the difference in the match. The Titans came into the game with a 13-0 record and had outscored their opponents by over 300 points during the season. 

“To shut out a great football team like that was a great accomplishment and the icing on the cake for the eighth graders to end their youth football career,” Lentz said. 

The defense was anchored by the linebacker Luke Wright who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. In addition to tenacious tackling throughout out the night, he was able to break off some big runs on offense. 

“He had big hits throughout the game and wore them down,” Lentz said. “The other team was running away from him at times and he punished every runner he hit.”  

The final score of the game came on a pass from Ruiz to AJ Hernandez. The valley championship win ends a successful four-month season for the Monarchs. They now have a 43-7 record over the last four seasons and have earned back to back division championship wins. As the eighth graders move on to Exeter High School, Lentz believes this group could continue seeing success through high school. 

“This is a great class that should compete for a valley championship in high school,” Lentz said. “They could change the culture in Exeter to make it a football town.” 

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