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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
I have a lot of crazy weeks when high school sports hit their postseasons simultaneously in November, February and May, but this week ranks right up there with any of them. I'll be traveling all day Wednesday, checking out girls tennis section finals in Selma and Clovis, and then I'll be running around town and collecting results all day Thursday with league cross country finals at Hart Park and the Park at Riverwalk, the girls golf regional championships down in Murrieta and then volleyball quarterfinals that evening.
Thursday night also brings us perhaps the best game of a ho-hum slate of football first-rounders. That would be Stockdale at Clovis West, and I'll lead the picks off there.
First, a quick look back at Week 10's picks (18-3 overall):
The good: After a bad Thursday, I went 16-1 on Friday night, and I came close on the final score for a few games: Taft-Kennedy, Wasco-Shafter, Highland-Foothill, Bakersfield Christian-Arvin
The bad: The margins were also off on a few games: Bakersfield won bigger over Stockdale than I thought, as did Liberty over Centennial. Also, I didn't see Rosamond beating Bishop, though I'm not sure very many people did.
The ugly: Picking Kern Valley to handle Desert easily ... yeesh. Same for thinking North and East was a toss-up — and then picking the Blades. Mea culpa, Stars.
Thursday, Nov. 14
CENTRAL SECTION DIVISION I, FIRST ROUND
NO. 9 STOCKDALE (5-5) AT NO. 8 CLOVIS WEST (4-6) — This is an intriguing battle between two teams that played better than their seeds would indicate over the last half of the season. Clovis West owns a victory against Bullard (and nearly one against Edison). Stockdale nearly owns wins against Liberty and Garces. The Mustangs have been more consistent; the Golden Eagles have flashed a higher upside and are playing at home (or, at least, in Clovis; their normal home stadium at Buchanan is being used for a band review on Thursday). But I really think the difference here could come down to the move to Thursday. Preparing for Stockdale's hyperactive wing-T is tough enough in a one-week stretch, particularly when you didn't know you had the Mustangs coming. Now Clovis West has one fewer day to do it. Mike Snow and his boys seem to be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder after a 1-3 start. I like the Mustangs to spring a road upset here, though with Clovis West's ups and downs, I could see either team winning by a couple of touchdowns.
Prediction: Stockdale 33, Clovis West 28
Friday, Nov. 15
DIVISION I, FIRST ROUND
NO. 10 CENTENNIAL (5-5) AT NO. 7 CLOVIS (7-3) — These teams played early in the season, and Centennial, rapidly improving at that point, spotted the Cougars 21 first-quarter points before rallying and falling just short, 28-21. Had the Golden Hawks had a bit more time, they very well might have won the game and gotten this playoff matchup at home. So, you say, might Centennial finish the job this time? I don't think so. Clovis seems to have its stride over the last half of Tri-River Athletic Conference play — the Cougars weren't in the title picture after losses to Central and Clovis North, but they handled the other three league teams with ease, including Clovis West last week. Centennial, meanwhile, still flashes a brilliant running game at times, but the Golden Hawks seem to have hit a wall. I don't know whether that's a young team running on fumes after a long season or a team coached by a staff that's in flux because of Kevin Sneed's battle with cancer; whatever the case is, the Hawks have scuffled ever since beating Frontier to start SWYL play. Centennial will play hard, of that I have no doubt. But I'm not sure there's enough left in the tank to play with the section's masters of grinding it out, especially not on the road.
Prediction: Clovis 35, Centennial 20
DIVISION II, FIRST ROUND
NO. 11 NORTH (4-6) AT NO. 6 TEHACHAPI (7-3) — The first meeting between these teams came just three weeks ago, and it was over fairly quickly, with Skylar Valencia running for two long touchdowns in the first quarter and four total in the first half as the Warriors built a 28-7 lead at the break. Since then, the Stars have been great in wins against Highland and East, and Tehachapi slipped up against Garces. But can that much have changed in three weeks? I do think North will play a better game, but Tehachapi ran for 322 yards on nearly eight yards per carry, and this game is at home. Somehow the Stars will have to get their defense off the field to have a chance. I love what North has done this year, particularly in league play, but the games against Garces and Tehachapi proved to be another level entirely. I think the Stars will try to play ball control, and I think they'll succeed for a quarter, maybe two, but sooner or later Tehachapi is going to get the ground game going, exorcise the demons of last year's first-round exit and set up a second meeting with rival Garces in three weeks, all with a big second half. Honestly, with Tehachapi and Garces in the same quarter of the draw, in the final year of the teams' annual series, how could I not predict it'll happen?
Prediction: Tehachapi 42, North 14
NO. 10 WEST (5-5) AT NO. 7 LEMOORE (6-4) — It's rare that you see a team win its league title, as West did, and not be rewarded with at least one home playoff game, but that's the case with the Vikings. Part of that is because West didn't have a great non-league campaign (just 2-4, with the wins coming against North and East) and part is because Division II was deep with quality teams. Still, it's hard to see the Vikings being uncomfortable in this spot. This was the locale of West's biggest win last year, a quarterfinal victory in Lemoore that send it to the D-II semifinals. West won that game with defense, but it appears to be peaking on the offensive side this year. Lemoore has had a really nice season that was soured by a couple of late losses, including a painful upset loss to Hanford in the Neighbor Bowl. If anything, however, that could serve as a wake-up call for the Tigers. West will score some points, but it'll be tough to stop Lemoore at home if running back Richard Doctor and his eye-popping stats (2,339 yards, 32 touchdowns) gets going. That controls the clock, the line of scrimmage and the game.
Prediction: Lemoore 34, West 24
DIVISION III, FIRST ROUND
NO. 9 INDEPENDENCE (4-6) AT NO. 8 GOLDEN VALLEY (5-5) — It's been a strange season for Golden Valley, which seemed like it was built on a running game and defense for part of the year, then seemed like it was back to a pass-happy team at one point. The Bulldogs seemed like they were figuring it all out a couple of times — most recently after nearly knocking of South to put themselves in position to win a league title — and then gave it back, as they did in a 55-14 loss to Ridgeview last week. Independence might be even harder to figure out, given the Falcons played a weak non-league slate (besides a loss to Ridgeview), then lost four lopsided games in Southwest Yosemite League play. The result is that this could be the weekend's most unpredictable game, both in guessing the result and in the twists and turns on the field. The live blog will be here (as of today, BVarsity doesn't have any rights to show playoff games live, so it'll be a live blog and then highlights later), and even though neither team has been great this year, I'm looking forward to an exciting game. The question of who'll survive to play top-seeded Tulare Western comes down to this: How will Independence respond from five weeks of getting hammered in a Division I league? Do the Falcons emerge forged by that fire or burnt to a crisp and too beat up to play to their potential? In the past three years, Sean McKeown and his staff have done a good job getting Independence ready for a playoff run. Plus, I like Indy quarterback Jordan Wiley as the most dangerous player on the field. I'll take the battle-tested Falcons in what could be a shootout.
Prediction: Independence 37, Golden Valley 27
NO. 11 DELANO (3-7) AT NO. 6 RIDGEVIEW (5-5) — Things clearly went awry for Delano in East Yosemite League play, but (a) that league was nails this year, with Mission Oak and Porterville, two possible section champions leading the charge; and (b), Delano was better than its 0-5 record would indicate. The Tigers seemed to play up or down to their competition level, competing well with Tulare Union and Porterville but also playing poorly against Monache. The result was three close losses; win those, and Delano is looking at a very different season and a very different seed. As it is, the Tigers have to come to Ridgeview for a playoff game for the second straight year. The Wolf Pack isn't nearly as explosive as last year's section championship team, obviously, but it's getting there. Pulling up freshman Jamar Moya — younger brother of last year's Californian Player of the Year, Kamari Cotton-Moya — from the junior varsity was an important step. In four games' worth of action, Moya has touched the ball 22 times, rushing or receiving, gained 370 yards and scored five touchdowns. That's an average of almost 17 yards per touch and a touchdown every 4.4 touches. He's proved to be the big-play threat sophomore QB Lawrence White needed to complement himself and productive every-down back Jaccob Lopez. I don't see Delano coming up with the firepower to keep up.
Prediction: Ridgeview 45, Delano 24
DIVISION IV, FIRST ROUND
NO. 10 BISHOP (4-6) AT NO. 7 CHAVEZ (5-5), 6 p.m. — Last year's 19-14 loss at Arvin was the closest Chavez has ever come to a playoff victory; Bishop, on the other hand, has won numerous Southern Section titles in its history, including one just three seasons ago. So this is a historical mismatch. The Titans, however, are a better and more battle-tested team this season. Plus, at home, you figure Chavez will have the place rocking as the school looks for that first playoff victory. This is the perfect opportunity, especially after Bishop seemed disinterested in a stunning loss at Rosamond last Thursday in Week 10. Can the Broncos take a long road trip into the Valley and play four quarters with a team champing at the bit for an opportunity to get what would be the biggest win in school history? Seems unlikely, so I'm going with the Titans to march on to a date with No. 2 seed Central Valley Christian next week — in the new biggest game in school history.
Prediction: Chavez 31, Bishop 23
NO. 12 ROSAMOND (2-8) AT NO. 5 EXETER (6-4) — Big ups to Rosamond and new coach Kris Krempien, who richocheted back from a horrific 0-6 start to pull out a 2-2 finish (actually tied for second in the High Desert League, as things turned out) that actually could have been 3-1 if not for a one-point loss at Frazier Mountain. The key has been Aldrick Oliver, who joined the Roadrunners for league play and has run for more than 90 yards in three of the four games he's been with Rosamond, plus caught an 81-yard touchdown pass against Cal City. After a huge 17-14 win against Bishop — the program's best result in eight years or so, anyway — Rosamond decided to enter the playoffs. They might have a few second thoughts when they get off the bus after a long ride to find speedy scatback Austin Cardoza running circles around them and a hard-nosed Exeter defense playing hardball. Division IV has a clear-cut top five and then everybody else. Exeter is the one of those five that must play this weekend, so expect the Monarchs to be ornery and dominate en route to a big quarterfinal matchup in Wasco next week.
Prediction: Exeter 52, Rosamond 13
DIVISION V, FIRST ROUND
NO. 12 FRAZIER MOUNTAIN (6-4) AT NO. 5 KERN VALLEY (8-2) — The Division V bracket had three different versions because of teams that needed to be added or subtracted at the last minute. The result was that these two High Desert League teams ended up together. That's nice, because it's the only way Kern Valley's 8-2 season would have been rewarded with a home playoff game (as a condition of the HDL moving into the Central Section, those teams agreed not to host any playoff games against non-HDL teams for three years in all sports). But this might end up kind of tricky. Frazier Mountain is a very good No. 12 seed by Division V standards, and the Falcons gave Kern Valley all it could handle a few weeks ago in a 16-8 KV victory that we thought was for the HDL title (as it turned out, KV won the league by two games over Frazier Mountain, Bishop and Rosamond). The Broncs won that game with a defensive touchdown in the second half, but it was also in Lebec, where Frazier Mountain has been much better this year, and it was in the middle of the Falcons' best stretch of the season. Kern Valley will still be smarting from a lopsided loss to Desert, but blessed with one more unexpected home game and another chance, expect the Broncs to come out gunning. On the other side of the ball, even against Desert, Kern Valley was pretty solid against the run, and that's what Frazier Mountain relies on. I don't see the Falcons keeping pace.
Prediction: Kern Valley 31, Frazier Mountain 16
NO. 10 PARLIER (5-5) AT NO. 7 SHAFTER (6-4) — For the second straight year, the Generals get a home game after a 6-4 season, after missing the playoffs for the previous four seasons. A year ago, however, Shafter was riding a surprising four-game losing streak. The Generals have kept momentum better this time around, even if the season ended with Wasco pulling away for a 56-28 victory in a memorable iteration of that rivalry. Does that mean the Generals are primed for their first playoff victory since 2005? I think it does. The previous two tries, in 2006 and 2012, ended in losses by a combined four points (22-21 to Chowchilla in 06 and 21-18 to Corcoran last year). But the opponent isn't so tough this time around. In fact, the Panthers are in a similar boat to Shafter last year in that they might just be happy to be here. Parlier managed to win its final two games in the top-heavy West Sequoia League to snap a five-game losing streak, but the argument can be made that it hasn't played a single team as good as Shafter. The one opponent who might be as good as the high-flying Generals would be Firebaugh, and that was a 33-6 loss. I'll take Shafter and its prolific passing attack to get a big monkey of its back and to move on to what would be a fireworks-filled quarterfinal at Mendota.
Prediction: Shafter 45, Parlier 18
DIVISION VI QUARTERFINALS
NO. 6 KENNEDY (2-8) AT NO. 3 AVENAL (4-6) — Nothing against either school here, but if a quarterfinal in a given division is going to be between teams that are a combined 6-14 and 0-11 in league play, does that division really need to exist? The Central Section would be just fine with five divisions, I think, and I know there are people out there who agree with me. OK, off the soapbox. This actually figures to be a pretty competitive game, which will be a welcome sight for both teams after neither came all that close to winning a league game. The Buccaneers are led by a multi-faceted rushing attack, with four players going over the 400-yard mark this season (and that's when MaxPreps was last updated a couple of weeks ago). Kennedy was shut out four times in six SSL games, and the Thunderbirds gave up 50 in five of them. This won't get ugly, but I don't see Kennedy keeping its season alive. When the 2013 season ends, athletic director Les Lucas can shed his interim coach tag and go about the business of naming a new football coach to set the program in the right direction again.
Prediction: Avenal 35, Kennedy 13
EASTERN DIVISION, FIRST ROUND
BURROUGHS (5-5) AT HEMET-TAHQUITZ (8-2) — At first glance, this is a really tough assignment for the Burros, because Tahquitz finished second to a very good Perris-Citrus Hill team in its league, while Burroughs was second in the much weaker Desert Sky League. Burroughs really hurt itself with a one-point loss to Victor Valley, which as the DSL champion received an easier playoff draw. There is some glimmer of hope, though: Tahquitz struggled in its final three games, scuffling past Hemet-West Valley and Beaumont teams that were a combined 3-17 and losing 31-28 to Citrus Hill in between. But that also could be chalked up to the letdown before and after a big game, and the Titans (you'd expect a school with a unique name to have a more exotic nickname, but we get the ubiquitous Titans) got the job done in both of the games against lesser teams. Now the focus should be sharpened. Both of these teams appear to be very balanced offensively, but Tahquitz might be deeper, and it's playing at home. I don't see an upset here.
Prediction: Tahquitz 30, Burroughs 13
NORTHEAST DIVISION, FIRST ROUND
LONG BEACH-ST. ANTHONY (7-3) AT DESERT (8-2) — This is a toss-up, maybe the toughest game of the week to call. Desert has certainly lost to teams worse than St. Anthony, and the Saints have played a tougher schedule. But St. Anthony has the long road trip, and the Scorpions team I saw last week clearly was much better than the team producing some ho-hum early-season results. Matt Moore is a big, athletic quarterback who can make plays with his arms and feet, he has a couple of great receivers, and Logan Lukenbill is a workhorse who will produce at running back. This is also a very well-coached team. St. Anthony is one of the best teams Desert will have played all year, but then so was Kern Valley, and the Scorpions rose to the occasion. It's a toss-up, but I can't see picking against Desert after seeing the way it played last week. Plus, I love to take the home teams in the 50/50 games.
Prediction: Desert 32, St. Anthony 28
BORON (7-3) AT SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO-CAPISTRANO VALLEY CHRISTIAN (9-1) — This is another hard game to pick. What do you make of Boron, which has seemingly alternated really good performances with sub-par ones all season long? The Bobcats are the kind of historical program you can usually count on to come up big in big games, but the jury is still out a bit on Boron under new coach Tim Seaman. Jadrian Wiser and D.J. Payne are a big-time running back combo, but Capistrano Valley Christian was absolutely terrific defensively before a 26-0 loss to Saddleback Valley Christian to end the regular season. Was that due to an injury or suspension? Saddleback isn't really any better than Boron, so that result has to give the Bobcats some hope. But on the road, I can't bring myself to take Boron. This is one of those where I wouldn't be surprised either way, so let's take the home team and see what happens.
Prediction: Capistrano Valley Christian 27, Boron 21
8-MAN DIVISION I QUARTERFINALS
MOJAVE (9-0) AT AVALON (6-3), 5 p.m. — For those unitiated with tiny Southern Section schools, here's a map of the town of Avalon. Yep, it's on Santa Catalina Island. So ... for a game scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., not only will Mojave have to take a bus ride all day, but it'll then have to load onto a ferry and boat over to its quarterfinal playoff game. That's a unique way of travel, but again — welcome to small-school football in California. And, oh by the way, Avalon happens to be very good, especially offensively. The Lancers have won six in a row after an 0-3 start, and they've scored at least 40 points in four of those six victories. But Mojave has done nothing to dispute that it's the best 8-man team in the state against a brutally tough schedule. When the situation has called for defense, the Mustangs have played it, and they have their own set of offensive weapons, too. If the Southern Section gave its top seeds home-field advantage throughout the playoffs like the Central Section does, this would be an easy call. But even with the road trip, I think Mojave is too good to slip up here.
Prediction: Mojave 41, Avalon 31
Last week: 18-3 (.857)
Year to date: 211-39 (.844)
All-time: 1,291-352 (.786)