Under new head coach Jedediah Tate, the Raiders couldn’t reach back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2008-09. Burney, however, did match a three win campaign, which was more than the program had from 2013-15 combined.
The Raiders have talent with running back Gerardo Villarruel (639 yards, 4 TDs) and receiver Nate Bishop (401 yards 2 TDs), but is that where they’ll stay in Tate’s Wing-T offense? Or will they move around to maximize Burney’s offensive potential?
Those questions will be answered soon, but here’s a look at the Raiders’ 2018 schedule:
It’s not easy being a mountain school. Declining enrollment limits options for a football team, meaning one injury could devastate a program for a season. Burney is hoping to avoid that but the schedule isn’t helping them. Burney plays eight teams for a total of 10 games and there isn’t a pushover anywhere on its schedule.
A nine-team Mountain Valley League means that each team only gets a pair of non-league contests. For Burney, its Etna to start the year and rival Fall River in the annual Fair Bowl. The Raiders lost both of those contests last season. Burney’s five wins against Etna since 2004 is tied for the second-most wins against any opponent. It’s quite the opposite for Fall River, which is 27-1 since 2004 against Burney, and the streak extends for another decade beyond that. It’s a great community event, even if it is twice a year. But it’s not a favorable draw for the Raiders.
Mountain Valley League
The best part about a nine-team league is that the playoffs seeding basically works itself out. Burney opens at Biggs and hosts Etna before a three-game road trip and ending with a three-game home stretch. Three Biggs players who rushed for at least 25 times and scored multiple touchdowns return. Portola (2-8 last year) starts the road contests and Burney will have to face 1,000-yard rusher Jaylin Babers for his senior campaign. Modoc gets quarterback Wyatt Larranaga (1,437 yards, 11 TDs) back, who could challenge for the league passing title if he cuts down on the turnovers (22 INTs). Chester loses a pair of 1,400-yard rushers from its NSCIF D-V championship team so there will be a drop-off unless junior Colton Dreith can step in to be the man after rushing for nearly 500 yards in a reserve role.
Home dates against Maxwell and Quincy could determine a playoff spot before hosting Fall River in the season finale. Burney beat Maxwell 18-15 last season but the Panthers return nearly their entire skill position arsenal. Quincy racked up 350 yards on the ground in last year’s meeting and is headlined by its top rusher from a season ago in Connor Caiazzo (678 yards, 8 TDs). The always dangerous Fall River will challenge for a section title this year with the likes of quarterback Gavin Dobson, who accounted for 2,396 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.
Aug. 24 at home against Etna. Confidence could build with a season-opening victory heading into the annual Fair Bowl. Obviously league games are more important, but a win right away could help with a few jitters and shift the mindset from craving wins to knowing they’re there for the taking.