Plenty of things went right for the Bullpups in 2018. An 8-4 record, a perfect West Yosemite League championship and a trip to the playoffs.
But they want more in 2019.
“I expect all the same and even more,” Hanford linebacker Tyler Mello said. “We just got to be able to grind through all the hard times.”
The Bullpups grinded through plenty of games last season and came out victorious in the majority of them. They entered the playoffs on a five-game winning streak before defeating Sunnyside 40-21 in a CIF Central Section Division II first-round playoff game. Hanford’s season came to an end in the quarterfinals in a 41-14 loss to Dinuba.
But the Bullpups are returning plenty of key pieces for another run at a title. They’ll have the services of their top two running backs in Luttrell Young (905 yards) and Travone Houston (694 yards), along with quarterback Jauron Watts-brown. The signal-caller accounted for 2,226 total yards and 17 touchdowns — both team-highs. Wide receiver Daylon Davis also returns after making 35 catches for 509 yards in 2018, which led the team in both categories.
“To win every single game,” Watts-brown said about the Bullpups’ team goals. “It’s going to be hard we have some really good teams to play. WYL isn’t going to be easy again, so just take it one game at a time.”
Young said their first goal is to win their first game, then league and so on. He described a successful season as one where the team gets better every week.
“I’m expecting to have a really strong leadership group by our seniors,” Hanford coach Josh Young said. “Eight of these seniors have been on the varsity for three years and we have a lot of seniors in the program.”
With all their offensive weapons, including the return of offensive coordinator Cannon Sanchez, Hanford is going to have multiple options on what they want to do this season. The running game should remain a staple, but Sanchez’s return should open up the passing game at times.
The defense did its job last season by getting stops and allowing the ground-and-pound game to operate, which not only controlled the field, but the clock as well.
Mello led the defense with 133 tackles and got to the quarterback 14 times — more than any other Bullpup. He’ll return as the fulcrum to a defense that limited opponents to 22.1 points per game and 15.4 points in league.
“We just want to try to get WYL champs, make Valley champs and then state champs, but we also want to get that Academic Valley champion like we did last year,” Mello said.
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Trey Knight and Matthew Pulido, No. 2 and 3 in tackles last season, are also returning giving Hanford plenty of experience on the field. Young expects them and his other returners to play at a high level.
“I expect them to be experienced in game times,” Young said. “When things get down I expect them to be able to react and get the team going.”
The interior group of guys are all returning, which gives the line a wealth of experience and familiarity. Young said the team is stronger and faster than it has been in recent memory so he expects good things from the defense.
The Bullpups will continue to compete in Division II and look to make the playoffs for a sixth time in seven years.
“Do I think we can make a run in the playoffs? Absolutely,” Young said. “I think the sky’s the limit for the team.”
Hanford opens the season against Hanford West on Aug. 23 in the 18th annual Dog Bowl. Hanford is currently on a five-game winning streak, including a 63-6 victory last season.
Player to watch
Tyler Mello should be an absolute force on defense this season. The senior linebacker measures in at 6 feet 2 inches and 200 pounds and is as quick as they come.
His 133 tackles led Hanford and were tied for seventh in the Central Section, including 26.5 of those going for a loss. Mello also had a team-high 14 sacks.
And for his encore in his final season?
“Just another step up,” Mello said. “Just got to take it to the next level, get better, help the team out.”