Realignment can’t come soon enough for the Linden High football team, which has struggled mightily in the Mother Lode League during the last cycle.
While Sonora’s arrival has made life tough on all the foothill programs, no one has had a harder time adjusting than Linden.
Despite season-ending injuries to Bee top-50 returning players Kane Rodgers (No. 1) and Mason Dambacher (No. 37), the Wildcats are speeding toward their fourth consecutive league title.
Linden has been a bump in the road.
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With Friday’s 56-12 loss, the toothless Lions are now 0-4 against Sonora, and none of the games have been close. The ledger looks this: 56-7 in 2014, 57-7 in 2015, and 49-6 in 2016, all in favor of the Wildcats. Sonora is 22-0 in the MLL.
“The week before the bye with Argonaut coming up, this could have been a trap game,” Sonora coach Bryan Craig said, “but the kids did what we were supposed to do. I want to compliment Linden. They played hard.”
While the Wildcats’ stock soars, Linden has seemingly hit rock bottom.
The Lions have lost 12 straight games, dating back to last season. Diving deeper into their futility: Linden has lost 18 of its last 19 league games, including nine straight. Its prolonged struggles forced the Sac-Joaquin Section’s hand during the realignment meetings in the spring.
In one of the strangest moves, the realignment committee moved Linden into the Sierra Delta League, citing competitive balance.
The Lions have been beaten by nine or more points in all seven games, including Friday’s one-sided affair with Sonora.
Senior Jack Camara has become the focal point in the offseason with Rodgers in street clothes. Camara had 132 yards on just five carries.
Juniors Jake Gookin and C.J. Castleman also topped 100 yards for the Wildcats, whose multi-facted ground game chewed up the Lions.
Gookin had 136 yards and a touchdown on three carries, while Castleman, one of the top sprinters in the Stanislaus District, finished with 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Carson Dambacher nearly had 100 yards, too. He had 92 yards and three touchdowns on just three carries as Sonora jumped out to a 56-0 lead.
The Wildcats take a six-game winning streak into their bye. They return to MLL play at Argonaut, which lost a shootout with Summerville Friday.