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Chowchilla: The Valley's best?

CHOWCHILLA -- The wait has been tough on Kyle Espinola.

The Chowchilla senior has had a hard time focusing on anything but football the past week.

It's not every day you get a shot at a Valley Championship.

"It's been crazy," Espinola said. "You always find a way to think about the game. Finally, the wait is over and we can play football."

Chowchilla (11-1) will host Kingsburg (11-1) in the Central Section Division IV championship game tonight.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Chowchilla has been flirting with a Valley Championship since winning it all in 2004.

Chowchilla lost the title game to Dos Palos in 2006 and reached the semifinals in 2005 and 2007.

"It might seem like we can't win the big game," Espinola said. "We've got another shot and I know our fans want to see us win it."

There's no question the town is jazzed up for another shot at the title.

Robertson Boulevard will be deserted come game time.

"There's a lot of excitement around town right now," Chowchilla coach John Henson said. "Our fans expect a lot and that's a good weight to have on our shoulders.

"If you go into restaurants, coffee shops or gas stations, everyone is talking about getting to the stadium early to get a good seat.

"It's amazing how much they know about our boys and our opponents."

Chowchilla fans and players know all about Kingsburg quarterback Tyler Bray.

The 6-foot-6 junior has passed for 2,411 yards and 26 touchdowns out of Kingsburg's spread offense.

Chowchilla counters with its power double-wing attack led by wingbacks Fred Gaines and Espinola.

Chowchilla has rushed for 2,995 yards and 44 touchdowns.

"It's two completely different philosophies," Henson said. "We like to eat up the clock and pound people.

"Kingsburg wants to air it out and pick you apart."

Chowchilla has fared well against passing teams this season with wins over Yosemite, Modesto Christian and two wins over Washington Union.

Chowchilla's defense has given up only 16 points per game this year.

It's a big reason Chowchilla is knocking on the door to a Valley Championship again.

"It's becoming expected from our program," Henson said. "In 2002, we lost in the first round. We won it all in 2004. We've developed a taste for it.

"Now, when we start in the weight room in January, our No. 1 goal is the Valley Championship.

"It's not just talk anymore."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

Kingsburg (11-1)

at Chowchilla (11-1)

KICKOFF: Tonight at Chowchilla's Henry Massaro Stadium, 7 p.m.

AT STAKE: A Central Section Division IV championship. It's Chowchilla third appearance in the title game in five seasons. Chowchilla won the

Valley Championship in 2004 and lost to Dos Palos in 2006.

PASSING ON: Kingsburg likes

to throw the ball with quarterback Tyler Bray (2,411 yards, 26 TDs).

VIDEO/ONLINE: Exclusive interviews with Chowchilla players will be available mid-morning at: www.mercedsunstar.com.

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