Wednesday, November 5, 2014

McDaniel brings punishing style to surprising Hanford

Joseph McDaniel has blown through defenses this year for undefeated Hanford. Now, the rising junior and the surprising Bullpups will face their most anticipated challenge yet: 9-0 Lemoore with both the Milk Can and the West Yosemite League title on the line (photo credit:
Whenever Hanford High's Joseph McDaniel carries the football, comparisons to past running back greats Avery Horn and Shawn Wills get blurted out among the Bullpup fans who've watched their varsity team's sudden rise in 2014.

Just like the aforementioned Hanford High legends, the 5-foot-9, 211-pound McDaniel  has imposed his will against defenses for the surprising 9-0 Bullpups. McDaniel has worn down opponents with 1,278 rushing yards, an average of 7.4 yards per carry and 18 touchdowns in nine games this season.

The Class of 2016 prospect said he's acknowledged that he's now carrying the torch for the Hanford running back fraternity, which sent Horn to the University of Michigan in 2007 and Wills to UCLA in 1988.

"It means a lot and I know that I have to put it all on the table now, because I'm being compared to some of the top running backs at Hanford High," McDaniel said.

He also has to accomplish the most important task every season in Hanford: beat Lemoore.

McDaniel and the unbeaten Bullpups get that opportunity on Friday, Nov. 7, as they'll take the 11 minute trek down Highway 198 to face the Tigers, who share identical records with the Bullpups this season.

It's the first time in the history of the Hanford-Lemoore rivalry that both teams will enter their annual Milk Can game undefeated. The Tigers have relied on two keys: a dual-threat quarterback in Cort Groathouse and, what McDaniel calls, an athletic defensive line spearheaded by defensive end Zack Frazier, who's entering Tiger Stadium with 13 sacks this season.

"Their defensive line is probably one of the fastest lines we'll see this year. They're the best team on our schedule," McDaniel said.

The junior, though, has said that the Bullpups have kept things calm during this week's practices; while the school, town and several Central Valley high school football fans have hyped up the game.

"Everyone is focused," McDaniel said. "We know how big this is for our town and for us."

McDaniel has been a big mismatch for opponents under the Friday night lights. With his size and lower body leverage, he's moved the chains and has gotten defenders to bounce off of his Bullpup uniform. 

Wills said he likes watching the physical aspect of McDaniel's game.

"First thing is, he's strong," Wills said. "You're not going to take him down with just arm tackles. You have to physically get him down and gang tackle him. He's not only quick, but he tries to punish people. Those are the running backs who make linebackers think twice about coming after them."

Unlike McDaniel, Wills - who was 180-pounds at HHS - remembered himself as an elusive, slasher type of running back. He calls McDaniel "more of a punisher."

Wills said that he's honored to be compared to the rising running back star at his high school alma mater.

"Hanford has been known for having quality athletes, including running backs. Joseph McDaniel is definitely one of them," Wills said.

Before McDaniel lined up in the backfield, Hanford was known for spreading the ball out and slinging the rock to four or five wide receivers through the spread offense. McDaniel changed the complexion of the system the moment he stepped onto the practice field.

"Our offense changed just a little bit because we have a sophomore quarterback. So we don't need to put so much pressure on him," McDaniel said. "We put the ball on the ground way more now than in the past."

He's not only included a new dimension to Hanford, he's been one of the primary reasons behind the Bullpups' turnaround. Before this season, HHS was a combined 5-16, which included a 1-9 campaign in 2012.

McDaniel said an August scrimmage against a Tri River Athletic Conference (TRAC) powerhouse gave him the indication that things would turn around quick for his team.

"We noticed that we had a really good team when we scrimmaged Central," McDaniel said. "I knew we would be great, but I had probably predicted one or two losses for us at the beginning of our schedule." 

Now, with the chance to go 10-0, Hanford and McDaniel have captured the attention of the Central Valley. McDaniel - who runs a 40-yard dash time of 4.8 - is also hoping he can grab someone's interest in the college football recruiting realm.

He said he hasn't received any scholarship offers or letters yet. He did take an unofficial visit to the University of Arizona two weeks ago. McDaniel said he has a trio of dream universities.

"There's three schools I like: Oregon State, Arizona and San Diego State. I like them because they use the fullback well," McDaniel said.

In the mean time, his focus is getting the Bullpups to complete their undefeated season, plus bring home the Milk Can trophy and carve his own legacy into Bullpups' lore.

McDaniel's 2014 film can be viewed here.

GAME INFORMATION: The 71st edition of the Milk Can game kicks off at 7 p.m., but gates at Tiger Stadium are expected to open two hours prior to the contest. The winner not only wins the Milk Can, but will be crowned the 2014 West Yosemite League champion.

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