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Woodlake High School: Fall Sports 2018

Football championship highlights 2018 season
By: 
John Elliott

 

In sports, like so many things in life, often the best moves you make are making no moves at all. That’s how WUSD’s new Athletic Director Shannon Taylor describes her first season at the helm of Woodlake’s scholastic sports program. 
 
“People close to the program told me during my first season, they liked my approach to running the program,” Taylor said after her first four months on the job at Woodlake. “In all honesty, I’m still learning but I can tell you, I’m a Tiger and I know what Tiger Pride means to these players and the community.”
 
Coming from outside of the Woodlake community, Shannon remains objective, observing what works and where improvement is needed. She knows what winning is as she received her baptism to big-time school sports during her first teaching job at Washington Union High School in Easton outside of Fresno. 
 
Shannon began her teaching career (English and Drama) at the Fresno County school (1999) when DeShawn Stevenson was grabbing national headlines as a Washington Union basketball player. Stevenson, who originally committed to play at the University of Kansas during the fall of his senior year, decided to enter the NBA directly from Washington Union High School. He was picked in the first round (23rd overall) by the Utah Jazz. Kansas Jayhawk coach Roy Williams called Stevenson his “most gifted recruit ever.” 
 
Serendipitously, Shannon’s got Stevensons at Woodlake too. These Stevensons are related to former coach Leo Robinson, Woodlake’s own storied chapter in high school sports.
 
Wesley Stevenson, a former Woodlake player, is currently an assistant coach with the varsity football team and is Leo’s grandson. Misty Stevenson, Leo’s granddaughter, served this past season as the frosh volleyball coach.
 
Robbie Stevenson, also a grandson of Leo, is currently a senior at Woodlake and was one of the football team’s outstanding wide receivers.   
 
The field at Woodlake’s football stadium is named Robinson Field in memory of the iconic coach who died in 2002. 
 
On Taylor’s spring sports calendar is Woodlake’s annual Ron Robinson Varsity Baseball Tournament. That tourney is scheduled for April 13-17, 2019, and is named for Leo’s son Ron, who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers in the MLB from 1984-1992.
 
Shannon’s experience coaching youth sports (softball, mostly) and working with parents as an administrator have her well suited for the Woodlake job.
 
“First and foremost, I depend on my varsity coaches to guide their teams from top to bottom,” Taylor said. “I believe that we build success by doing what’s best for the team.”
 
Shannon is quick to point out that the fact there were two fall playoff teams (football and volleyball) was not her doing. But coaches, fans, and her fellow administrators couldn’t help notice that her knowledge of what needs to be done, willing support and positive attitude have set the right tone for moving forward.
 
Varsity Football 
Coach Jeff Johnson’s Tigers finished their storybook season at Shafter with a tough loss in the semifinals of the Valley’s Division 5 playoffs. 
 
“We finished 11-2 overall, and 6-0 ESL Champs,” Coach Johnson summarized.
 
Stat leaders were: 
 
Damian Hernandez (QB)— 3,036 yards, 32 TDs, 9 interceptions.
 
Victor Rojas (RB)— 1198 yards rushing, 21 TDs,
 
Bryan Cuevas (receiver)— 1,063 yards receiving, 16 TDs.
 
Adam Romero— 13 sacks.
 
Hector Magana— 9 interceptions (led the state in interceptions).
 
The offense finished with 5,500 yards for the season and scored 514 points; defense yielded 203 points. 
 
Coach Johnson says: “The 2018 Tigers earned everything they did on Friday night by working extremely hard, starting last January in the weight room and doing their field work too. It was not uncommon for kids to put in extra work every day after practice. 
 
“University of Redlands, Occidental, and numerous junior colleges are looking closely at some of our seniors. We hope to have two seniors earn football scholarships. We will also have five or six students attending College of the Sequoias to pursue their education while playing for Coach D’Agostino. 
 
“Our accomplishments are a direct reflection of this group’s determination and effort. We are excited about next season with a number of returning starters. The 2019 season will be determined by how hard this next team is willing to work because we believe we can be even better.”
 
 
Junior Varsity Football 
Coach Abraham Rodriguez says: “The JV football team had a good year, finishing second in league with a record of 5-4-1. A few key offensive players include KC Cruz, Josh Padilla, and Junior Cervantes. Our defense was led by Jimmy Valdez, Damien Cuevas, and Jose Montes. 
 
“Our team included 18 freshmen who played two games against Exeter’s frosh team, winning both games. 
 
“We are looking forward to have several returning players, including our five starting linemen, QB Cervantes, and defensive players Isaiah Nicolas and Jay Gamez.”
 
 
Varsity Volleyball 
Coach Yvette Garcia says: “We finished the season with an overall record of 16-14 and a league record of 10-2.  We earned a spot in playoffs, but fell short to Yosemite who was the #1 seed in the division we were placed in.  
 
“Some of our outstanding players will be graduating this year and will be greatly missed.  Senior Christina Sherwood, from Three Rivers, was our primary setter who led the team to a league championship in 2017 and into the playoffs for each of the last three years.  We say goodbye to an outstanding player who will be remembered for her positive attitude, outstanding work ethic, and her ability to deal with adversity on the court.  
 
“Another huge contributor to the team was Lauren Little, another Three Rivers senior. She started her frosh year on varsity as an all-around outside hitter, middle hitter, and played a big role in contributing to the most kills for the last four years.  
 
“Lauren’s dependability on the court displayed her toughness, but because of her dedication and hard work, she was successful. Jocelyn Sanchez, also a senior, for the last three years played on varsity and developed into an outstanding right-side player, finishing her senior year in spectacular fashion with the most kills. Her all-around play at middle hitter and her knack to ace short serves helped contribute to the team’s winning record for the season.”
 
Cross Country
Coach Blanca Lucatero says: “In League, Woodlake’s varsity girls moved up from seventh place to fourth place. 
 
“Woodlake varsity boys were consistently 3rd place throughout the season. 
 
“Woodlake JV Girls tied for first place with Corcoran. Woodlake JV Boys consistently finished 3rd (behind Corcoran, and Lindsay).
 
“JV girls won a trophy at the Golden West Invitational at Cutler Park for being Division 4 Champions.
 
“Medalists (a top 10 finish) at Golden West Invitational: T.J. Irvin (frosh boys), sophomore Andres Lemus, and sophomore Noemi Ortega.
 
“At the Mt. Whitney Invitational: Sophomore Andres Lemus and junior Ricardo Navarro were medalists.
 
“At the Roosevelt Rough Rider Invitational: Freshman Karina Martinez won a medal.
 
“At the Woodlake Invitational (Lake Kaweah): Sophomore Andres Lemus was a medalist.
 
“At the ESL Championships (Lake Kaweah): JV Girls - Dulce Ramirez (Jr), Jennifer Miranda (Sr), Carolina Lara (Sr); JV Boys - Chris Briseño (Jr) all were medalists.
 
“This season we had three seniors who were four-year runners: Yarimel Barreto, Jaime Navarro, and Elijah Moraido. We also had several new runners on both boys and girls teams, even some juniors and seniors who ran for the first time. We are graduating 12 seniors this year so next year will be a rebuilding year of new recruits. 
 
“Andres Lemus will be a junior and the fastest varsity runner so I have high hopes that he will step up to a leadership role. 
 
“Julia Gamino, a freshman, was able to drop 8 minutes, 53 seconds, from her first 5K race to her last, improving from a 34:32 to a 25:39. She shows tremendous promise to improve even more. 
 
“The most important gain for many of our new runners was a respect for the difficulty of the sport, an appreciation of the moral support throughout from all runners, even from the competition, and an understanding that it is their effort and mindset that helps them achieve their goals. These are lessons that transfer to other aspects of their lives and help them survive hardships and accomplish more.”
 
(Cross country scores and times are available on Athletic.net.) 
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