Tulare Western defeats Porterville, sets up EYL showdown with undefeated Mission Oak
TULARE – The Tulare Western Mustangs are trotting along under head coach Derek Rosa in his first season with the team. After steamrolling Delano and Porterville over the last two weeks, they improved to 5-2 on the season including a 2-0 East Yosemite League (EYL) record ahead of a highly anticipated showdown with the undefeated Mission Oak Hawks.
The points have come in bunches this season for a Tulare Western team that continues to learn a newly implemented spread offense. The reigning EYL champions are averaging nearly 31 points a game, including a combined 91 points over their first two league matchups. Their high scoring average is in spite of a down performance three weeks ago where they scored just seven points against an undefeated Hanford team who is allowing just 15 points a game. Coming off a 35-point performance against the Porterville Panthers last week, Mustang head coach Derek Rosa believes that his team has yet to hit their peak.
“We’ve developed a passing game so if we could develop a run game to go along with that then we’re going to be pretty dangerous,” Rosa said. “I felt like [with] 35 points we didn’t do our job tonight, so it just goes to show you the potential we do have when we execute on all cylinders.”
Their running game is starting to get going over the last few weeks, particularly in their 56-21 win over Delano where they had more yards on the ground than through the air for the first time all season. In last week’s win over Porterville, they ran in all five of their touchdowns led by seniors Damion Bello and Brandon Martin who combined for three of the scores. Although the team has a three-man rotation in the backfield, Rosa considers Bello as a player who has improved his game over the last few weeks to play a vital role on the Tulare Western offense.
The strength of the Mustangs is undeniably the team’s passing game. Through their first seven games, junior Carmine Ficher has solidified himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the Central Valley. He’s accounted for multiple touchdowns in four of seven games including a total of 15 passing touchdowns on the season.
“No matter if it’s a mistake or a great play he’s so even-keeled. He’s so mature for being a junior so it helps us in bad situations because he’s the same person as when we’re up so it’s nice,” Rosa said a few weeks ago after a back-and-forth win against Redwood.
The biggest game of the season for Ficher and the Mustangs comes this Friday at 7:30 p.m. as they battle against a 6-0 Mission Oak squad that is also clicking well under their new head coach Michael Machado. The Hawks opened their EYL schedule last Friday, Oct. 8, with a narrow 27-26 win over Monache.