Bullard/Fresno girls rugby team seeks players; youth event set for Saturday

The Central California Youth Rugby Foundation is seeking high school-age girls in the Fresno/Clovis/Sanger area for its Bullard/Fresno team.

Bullard/Fresno recently played its first Varsity Gold Division game, a 75-5 loss to Amazons of Sacramento.

Details: coach Patrick Quan, (559) 360-0182.

Also, the Bullard Rugby Club is hosting the area’s first youth matches Saturday, with competition in the under-10, under-12 and under-14 age divisions.

Matches start at 11 a.m. at Holman Park, 6522 N. West Ave. in Fresno.

Bullard Youth Rugby Match flyer

 

Clovis North vs. Bullard hoop notes and more

First, here’s a few running floaters on tonight’s Central Section boys Division I basketball semifinal, matching fifth-seeded Clovis North (18-10) at No. 1 Bullard (25-2) at 7 o’clock:

** Bullard is 60-3 vs. section competition with a whopping 26.5-point scoring differential in the past three seasons.

** The Knights, ranked sixth in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, fit all the criteria to be invited to this year’s new Open Division in the state playoffs. Among those ranked above them, they’ve beaten No. 3 Salesian-Richmond (60-54) and lost to No. 4 Sheldon-Sacramento (85-74).

** Bullard and Clovis North haven’t played each other this season. The Knights defeated Liberty-Bakersfield 76-46 in the quarterfinals. And that came six weeks after Liberty beat Clovis North 69-44 in Super Saturday at Edison.

Clovis North 5-9 freshman guard Colin Slater can expect four quarters of long-armed defensive pressure at Bullard tonight.

** Key for Clovis North tonight is how Colin Slater — at 5-9 and its leading scorer — holds up against all that long-armed Bullard backcourt presssure with the likes of 6-5 Corey Silvestrom and 6-4 Adam Armstead. Knights 5-9 point guard Chris Russell will surely be chasing Slater around, also.

** Bullard is the two-year reigning D-I champion. The Knights-Broncos winner will play tonight’s Clovis West at Central winner Saturday at 8 p.m. at Selland Arena for the championship. Bullard has defeated Clovis West for the past two titles.

Other notes:

** Despite Hanford’s head-snapping 57-39 loss at Clovis West last night in a D-I girls semi, the community is still guaranteed to be represented at Selland Friday at 8 p.m. That’s because No. 8 Hanford will play tonight at No. 5 Hanford West in a D-II boys semi. Upsets set this up with Hanford knocking off No. 1 Sunnyside and Hanford West winning at No. 4 East Bakersfield.

** When Ridgeview’s 6-3 and Stanford-bound center Erica McCall (right) makes her fourth consecutive appearance in Selland Friday to play Garces for the D-II title, she’ll arrive with 955 career blocks (state record), 1,915 rebounds (No. 3 in state history) and 2,517 points (No. 3 in section history), according to section historian Bob Barnett.

Ball Ranch reopens for public fishing, boating

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE
Jon Reed of Fresno casts his fly line from a float tube in the San Joaquin River near Friant.

Ball Ranch, which until the mid 1980s was a popular fishing spot on the San Joaquin River north of Fresno, is once again welcoming anglers and boaters.

The 358-acre property was purchased by the San Joaquin Conservancy in 1999 for $6.8 million but has never been open to the public. Until now.

Ball Ranch will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entry fees are $6 per vehicle. Trailers cost an extra $5.

The property features a large quarry pond suitable for bank fishing or from a small boat. There is no ramp, so only hand-carried boats are suitable. Visitors should bring their own water and snacks.

There is no public river access from Ball Ranch.

Until the mid 1980s, the property was owned by the Ball Family, which allowed public fishing. Access was cut off when a housing development and golf course were proposed for the land. The development was rejected, which helped spur the creation of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust.

The non-profit Parkway Trust now manages the property. Details: riverparkway.org or (559) 248-8480, ext. 101.

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Bulldogs’ spring practice report: corrections on the fly are a good sign for improving defense

Fresno State had a pretty good season a year ago, defensively. The scheme got put in, absorbed. The Bulldogs played it well enough to make a huge jump in turnovers gained, as well as total and scoring defense. And all of that has shown through in their first two practices of the spring, particularly in a secondary that is without strong safety Phillip Thomas, but does return three starters.

The Bulldogs are making plays, and the difference from this time a year ago with the scheme and playing techniques is rather large.

‘’It’s funny, a year ago we were worried so little about scheme and just trying to establish a whole bunch of other stuff,’’ defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. ‘’I feel real good. Our kids are showing up and they’re playing pretty hard right now – the intensity is real good, they’re running to the ball.

‘’So we’re getting to worry about more technique and scheme stuff and the DBs, they’re the ones we’re seeing a whole bunch of results with that. Three of the four are back and they’re light years ahead.

‘’They’re all self-correcting, which is a sign of the scheme sinking in. I saw (linebacker) Kyrie Wilson today self-correct. As he was making a mistake, he felt it, and that’s because he had all those reps from before. I feel good about that stuff. Everything looks good, but we don’t have pads on. We’ll find out more on Friday, but I’m happy with where we are.’’

 

Practice report

Defensive lineman Andy Jennings was back in practice – he missed the first spring practice due to a death in his family. Wideout Dillon Root was at practice, but not in practice – he was involved in an auto accident on Sunday and is moving a bit stiffly. Tight end Marcel Jensen was excused from practice, so the Bulldogs had to move third-string tackle Andrew Gustafson to tight end for a day. …

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Coach Tim DeRuyter on the practice: ‘’It was much cleaner than it was on Monday, which is to be expected. I thought our intensity, we had a good bounce in our step. Things were good today. We took care of the ball much better on offense. We put two fumbles on the ground – we can’t do that. The defense did a good job of stripping the ball. They were contact fumbles. But overall, I like what we’re getting done on both sides of the ball.’’

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The Bulldogs will put on the pads for the first time on Friday and will scrimmage for the first time next Monday, which is practice No. 9 of their 15. …

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A decision regarding the status of receiver A.J. Johnson is expected on Friday. Johnson, who missed last season for violating team and NCAA policy, is under suspension for a violation of team rules. …

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Backup long snapper Chad Preacher, who is graduating this spring, has decided not to return to the team, leaving the Bulldogs short at a key position behind starter Dylan Detwiler. Coach Tim DeRuyter said there are some in-house candidates to provide some depth there, including junior college transfer Josh Tremblay, who is running at the No. 2 left tackle. …

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The Bulldogs’ offense went through some individual drills that hinted at some more interesting stuff from coordinator Dave Schramm in the fall …

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The backup quarterbacks were all sharper than they were on Monday, in the first of the Bulldogs’ spring practices. There was only one interception thrown – that on an errant throw by Marcus McDade.

On that pass, McDade was a little high and a little late on a throw to Anthony Riggins, the play broken up and the football popping into the air, where it was picked by safety Dalen Jones. …

JOHN WALKER / THE FRESNO BEE
Among the top goals for Fresno State in 2013 is keeping Derek Carr upright and giving him the time to find his receivers. The Bulldogs ranked 78th in the nation last year, allowing an average of 2.23 sacks per game.

Derek Carr threw in the two 7 on 7 periods, but again sat out both team periods. The line play should be improved with some competition in the position group and the receiving corps should be healthier, meaning they won’t be shuffling players between positions as much. But it wouldn’t be like Carr to sit back and expect that to cure the ‘Dogs problems with sacks and interceptions a year ago.

‘’For me, it’s continuing to grow however I can grow,’’ he said. ‘’If there’s something I see, then I’ll work on that. Right now, I’m working on my eyes, making sure my eyes are right 100 percent of the time, make sure I make the decision right 100 percent of the time here at practice.

‘’My whole goal throughout spring ball is to not turn the ball over once. Keeping that as a goal, keeping my eyes right, that will help me get better and that will help the offense.’’ …

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That no-turnover streak came close to ending after one practice. In 7 on 7, Carr made a late throw to Isaiah Burse and safety Rodney Mathews came over and was able to make a play on the ball, batting it away. Aside from that throw, he was spot-on, completing the other four he had in the period.

For what it’s worth, scribbled in the notebook were three ‘’NTC’s’’ … nice throw and catch.

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Of the backup quarterbacks, McDade had 10 reps between the two 7 on 7 periods and completed six and three of them were to backs. Myles Carr hit seven of his 10 reps including a perfectly placed pass to Burse running up a hash and bracketed by defenders. Brian Burrell hit six of his eight reps …

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In team, running back Marteze Waller was stripped of the ball on the very first play of the period and, like the quarterbacks on Monday, lost reps for the turnover.

The best pass-catch in the team periods was Myles Carr and Anthony Riggins up the right sideline. Carr threw a bit late and the ball hung up in the air, but Riggins went over cornerback Shannon Edwards to haul in the pass.

Riggins had trouble catching the ball last season, getting his eyes, hands and the football to intersect at the same time. But he did a lot of work after practices last year, and over the winter, and is catching it much cleaner than he had been.

‘’It’s coming along,’’ Riggins said. ‘’I’ve been working on it. I started OK, but started struggling later in the season. I just have to keep working on it to get it perfect.

‘’I’m a lot more confident and comfortable playing the game at this speed. I just have to get my eyes on the ball – they told me to take a picture of it when I’m catching the ball and that’s what I’m working on. I have to make that second nature. A lot of times, I was trying to catch the ball and I wasn’t even looking at it. I have to look at it every single time all the way in.’’

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Riggins did some work after practice again, catching balls fired out of the Juggs gun. Aaron Peck also took some extra work after practice, something he did not do a lot of last season. …

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Wide

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA / THE FRESNO BEE
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter chats with wide receiver Victor Dean during a November 2012 game. Dean is working to return from a broken leg suffered last season.

out Victor Dean, coming back from the broken leg, did not participate in team, but he stayed after practice as well, running some routes and catching passes from receivers coach Ron Antoine.

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Redshirt freshman Travis Harvey, who did his work at guard on Monday, got some reps at center. He had one bad snap in team, when Burrell was in the shotgun. He stayed after to work on that – snapping the ball to quarterback turned slot receiver Greg Watson. …

 

 

Sunbirds’ Taylor eclipses single-season scoring mark

Fresno Pacific’s John Taylor puts up a three-point attempt over Hawaii Hilo’s Paul Batausa in their game at Fresno Pacific Monday, January 14, 2013.
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE

John Taylor is making things look easy in the Pacific West Conference.

In his first season with the Sunbirds, the ex-national JC Player of the Year’s scored 41 points Tuesday, pushing him to the top of the school’s single-season scoring chart as the Sunbirds routed Notre Dame de Namur 103-86 in Belmont.

Taylor has 641 points, surpassing the 637 that James Lewis had in the 2008-09 season. Taylor became just the third player in school history to reach 600 points in a season on Saturday.

The Sunbirds improved to 18-7 and 13-4, but the night belong to Taylor.

“He’s a special player that only comes along so often,” Sunbirds coach Chris Wright said. “I’m extremely proud of him and what he has accomplished this season.”

Taylor, who guided Mott Community College in Flint Mich. to a 35-1 record and NJCAA National Championship, will look to add to his point total when Fresno Pacific wraps up the regular season Saturday, hosting Cal Baptist at 4:30 p.m.

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Clovis West coach Campbell’s confession: “I would have seeded Hanford No. 1″

I caught up with Clovis West girls basketball coach Craig Campbell and asked him how he had the Division I seedings projected before they were announced by the Central Section office Feb. 16.

But, first, to review the top five: They came out — 1, Stockdale; 2, Clovis West; 3, Hanford; 4, Clovis; 5, Edison.

That was essentially a consensus shock in the section because two-year reigning D-I champion Hanford was expected to land the top seed.

Bottom line, Clovis West girls basketball coach Craig Campbell says, “I would have seeded Hanford No. 1.”

Back to Campbell, whose Golden Eagles (21-5) will host Hanford (23-4) tonight at 7 in a semifinal game that has created as much section interest in the girls’ division as there has been in years — and in large part because of the seeding issue.

He gave a three-fold answer to the original question:

“As a basketball mind, I had Hanford 1, Clovis West 2, Clovis 3 and I was waffling with Edison and Stockdale at 4 and 5.

“Based on the section’s criteria, we (CW) actually had the 1 over Hanford and Stockdale.

“But (bottom line), if someone had asked me to bracket D-I, I would have done Hanford 1 and us 2. They beat the heck out of us (56-15 last year) and are the defending section champion.”

Unfortunately, among a section seven-point seeding criteria that includes record vs. common opponents and place in common tournaments, there’s one blatant omission — COMMON SENSE.

This is actually the second straight seeding slap to Hanford, which responded to a No. 2 seed last year by crushing No. 1 Stockdale 65-49 in the D-I final at Selland Arena.

The Bullpups have won five consecutive section titles — 2012 (D-I), 2011 (D-I), 2010 (D-II), 2009 (D-II) and 2008 (D-III).

Clovis West captured D-I crowns under Campbell in 2007, ’08 and 2010.

“So that means five of the last six Valley (D-I) championships have gone through Hanford or Clovis West,” says Campbell while anticipating an “electric” stage tonight.

“It’s a game everyone’s looking forward to, regardless of seeds,” he says. “I told my kids how fortunate they are, that there are a lot of high school kids playing on a high level who don’t experience this atmosphere. Win or lose, it should be a memorable experience.”

WR Dean returns from injury, back for spring camp

Derek Carr wasn’t fully paying attention to who he was throwing to during one drill, simply knowing he was supposed to hit his receivers who were striding downfield with a deepball pass.

But upon launching one 30-yard pass into the endzone and seeing a set of long arms reach up to make the catch, Carr realized one of his throws had gone to Victor Dean.

Victor Dean, one of Fresno State’s favorite redzone targets, is back from a broken femur.

“I couldn’t believe that,” Carr said. “I saw him running a route. It blows my mind the things they can do now. He breaks his femur and he’s back in spring football. To be able to see that gives me a lot of comfort. I know he’s excited.”

Dean, who suffered the broken femur bone on Nov. 3, is expected to be fully healed and maybe even in top form by the start fall camp starts in August. For now, Dean will sit out contact drills as a precaution during spring practices.

But the fact that Dean already was running near full speed and participating in noncontact drills Monday was a strong sign that he should be able to build on his performance last season.

The 6-foot-6 Dean was just finally getting more involved in the gameplan, even featured on some plays and considered the primary target, around the midpoint of last season.

He caught 30 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns.

But then Dean went down during Fresno State’s 45-10 win against Hawaii during the Bulldogs’ third-to-last regular season game, going up to catch a pass in the endzone but instead breaking his femur after an awkward landing.

The injury caused Dean to lose much of the weight he initially gained last season. He lost 20 pounds and returned close to the weight he had as a true freshman at 205 pounds.

He’s currently at 208 pounds but would like to play at 225 pounds to provide more protection on is long body and help absorb hits.

“For the most part, I don’t think I surprised myself at all,” Dean said. “Obviously, you never really know when you’re going to come back from that type of thing. Once you start running, it gives you a lot of confidence to get back to where you were.

“There’s been a lot of support from a lot of people. That’s the main thing that pushed me this offseason to get back quickly. I’m just happy to be back. I feel pretty good.”

Dean had to have two incisions, one at his hip and the other on his knee, to help repair his femur. He said he still feels a little pain from time to time on his hip, but other than that, feels fully recovered.

“For the most part, athletically, everything is falling into place pretty good,” Dean said. “Condition wise, I feel good. There were a couple of times I had to accelerate to the ball and it just happened normally. That gives me more confidence to keep running hard.”

Dead added that though he’ll sit out the contact drills, he plans to test and push his body as much as he can during noncontact drills and stay focused in the classroom when the team is learning plays and concepts.

“For the most part, the spring is a lot of learning and strengthening myself again,” Dean said. “But I think this spring is going to be more of a mental thing for me. We have some new things coming into the system.

“The biggest thing for me is to get back to where we had our offense before, get back to where I was before, and kind of try to add that to whatever new things we have coming.”

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Fresno State senior Nat Harrison makes an impression on first day of spring practices

On the first day of spring practices at Fresno State, senior Nat Harrison made a quick impression playing at the SAM linebacker spot the Bulldogs are looking fill.

Jamaal Rose, perhaps the frontrunner for the position, did mostly conditioning work on the side as he continues his comeback from a knee injury in the ‘Dogs victory over Colorado. But Harrison, noticeably bigger in his upper body, ran with the No. 1 defense and made some very nice plays, including an interception in 7 on 7 on a pass thrown by redshirt freshman Myles Carr.

Carr was trying to fit the ball inside to Josh Harper, but the Edison High grad beat him to the ball and made a nice catch snaring it out of the air.

The physical improvement – and work in practice – didn’t go unnoticed.

‘’He’s really done some good things in the offseason and it was really good to see him move around out there today,’’ Coach Tim DeRuyter said. ‘’He’s working with the one-huddle and our challenge to him is to see if he can stay in that one-huddle, because he has the raw material, he has the physical ability to do it, it’s just a matter of being consistent and hopefully he’ll get there being that this is his last year.

‘’He looks good, and with that (added) weight, he’s still moving around pretty well. If he can continue to do that and learn our defense to where he’s playing fast I think we’ll have something with he and (Donavon Lewis) being our edge guys.’’

Bulldogs spring practice report: interceptions will hurt QBs more than usual

Marcus McDade stepped in to take his first rep in a team period during the Fresno State Bulldogs’ first spring practice on Monday, and threw a pick. His throw was high and behind tight end Marcus Jensen, the intended receiver, and linebacker Kyrie Wilson made a nice play on the ball, picked it off and took it back for a defensive score.

McDade was yanked.

Brian Burrell, the JC transfer from Bakersfield City College, dropped back to throw on his first rep, looking for Taylor Stewart on the sideline and that pass also was picked off. Safety Dalen Jones undercut the route on the sideline and made a great diving play on the ball to come up with the turnover.

That was it for Burrell – he, too, went to the back of the line.

The Bulldogs’ competition to be the backup to quarterback Derek Carr took an interesting turn there. The three candidates – McDade, Burrell and Myles Carr – all need to reps to make an impression and win the job and they are going to lose them for game-changing errors. They can’t count on taking five or six consecutive reps, then rotating.

‘’I like it here,’’ offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. ‘’If you turn the ball over a lot and you’re the offensive coordinator, then you have to go find another job somewhere.”

That is one way to crank up the competition within that position group – and perhaps fix an issue from a year ago.

‘’We have to do a better job,” Schramm said. ”We turned the ball over 18 times and gave up five touchdowns on offense last year. We can’t allow that to happen.

‘’If you want to play, then don’t give the football to the other team. We’re a better football team if we punt than we are turning the ball over and offensively, we’d like to end every drive with some sort of kick. We don’t want to punt, but that’s a lot better than throwing an interception or fumbling.’’

The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks all got back into the rotation after the interceptions. But the message there was perfectly clear – those types of mistakes will hurt.

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Americans on Everest

Jim Whittaker waves the American flag while standing atop the summit of Mount Everest on May 1, 1963.

Fifty years ago, on May 1, 1963, Jim Whittaker became the first American to stand atop Mount Everest. Three weeks later, Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, members of the same expedition, reached the world’s highest summit via a new, more dangerous route on the peak’s west side.

This seems like a monumental feat now, but at the time it wasn’t really celebrated.

“In the United States there was absolutely no interest in mountain climbing among the general public,” said Nick Clinch, who led two American expeditions to the Himalayas in the early 1960s. “Even worse, a lot of people viewed it negatively.”

My, how times change. Last weekend, four surviving members of the 1963 Everest expedition reunited for an American Alpine Club fundraiser in Richmond. In attendance were Whittaker, 84; Hornbein, 82; expedition leader Norm Dyhrenfurth, 94; and Dave Dingman, 76.

“When they were talking about a reunion three years ago, I thought, ‘Who the hell cares about that?’ I figured we’d just get together for some beers,” said Dingman, the expedition doctor. “It’s turned into this big event, and I’m glad it has.”

I was fortunate to attend Saturday’s banquet at the Craneway Pavilion and speak with Whittaker and Hornbein about their memories of the climb. Look for my story in Thursday’s paper — and thanks to the AAC for hosting such a cool event.