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By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a week that will in many ways shape the rest of the season, and for some Kern County teams that's not such a good thing. But there's always another week and another big game down the road, at least during the regular season, and everybody moves on from here. But let's take a look at what happened Friday night and what it means.
Long Beach Poly 27, Bakersfield 7: In the end, Poly was overpowering the Drillers, and the vaunted Bakersfield triple-option attack had mostly lost its teeth. But the Drillers had their chances in this one, most notably when they drove for a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead on the first drive of the second half. In fact, if it weren't for a couple of red-zone failures and missed field goals, Bakersfield could have been up a couple of possessions at that point. Then the Jackrabbits might feel forced to pass, Bakersfield can take a lot of time of the clock ... but that's getting too far off track. Point is, Jeremy Calhoun went 80 yards on the next play as Poly re-took a 13-7 lead, and Bakersfield didn't cross midfield again until the final minutes of the game. Poly was the better team, plain and simple. Still, BHS can take solace in the fact that that was a top-10, maybe top-5 team in the state that just came to Griffith Field and left with a win. Nobody else on the Drillers' schedule is that good, and there's a chance this team could still work its way into the regional bowl picture if it wins out.
Clovis North 40, Frontier 19: Same song, different verse. Frontier gave up the lead thanks to a couple of big plays — in this case, a 76-yard Clovis North touchdown drive in the final minute before halftime — and then couldn't get things turned around. The Titans missed an early field goal in the second half and then never had another chance to take a lead. Instead, the Broncos scored the game's final 26 points and put a serious dent (along with Clovis below) in the notion that the TRAC might be behind the SWYL in terms of league pecking order this season. Buchanan, Clovis East and Clovis West are struggling, and the SWYL is almost certainly a deeper league, but in the top three, the TRAC probably has the power again. Evan Moore hooked up with Jaz Thind twice for touchdowns, but Frontier managed just 68 total yards in the second half and might have lost running back Nick Santoro to injury. A (relatively) cushy date with West and a bye week are just what the reeling Titans need right now.
Clovis 37, Stockdale 14: For the third consecutive year, Stockdale came into this matchup thinking it had a shot at some major improvement in the section pecking order, and for the third straight year, Clovis knocked them into next week. R.J. Hartmann (304 yards and a TD after 300-plus and three scores last week at Centennial) is turning into one of the section's most prolific quarterbacks, and the Cougars held Stockdale to 201 yards rushing, well below the Mustangs' season average. It appears that Stockdale is an all-or-nothing team, kind of like last year. If the Mustangs run the ball on you effectively early, look out. If they can't, you can render them one-dimensional pretty quickly, and Stockdale isn't good enough defensively to win that way. Interesting game next week against Garces, which has been prone to giving up big plays on the ground this year but also has its own explosive running game.
Garces 20, Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial 14 (Saturday): After a lopsided game last year, it felt right for the Holy Bowl rivalry to get back to its close, hard-fought roots, and this one did just that. Sheldon Croney scored the winning touchdown on a possession sandwiched between two big Rams defensive stops. Croney finished with 173 yards and all three touchdowns rushing, but it was the Garces D that made the most strides this week. This was a huge win for Garces; the earlier two losses, though both raised red flags, were against a Southern Section team and a Division I power in Bakersfield. Both can be excused, and neither will matter in the D-II playoff picture. The defensive improvement will be needed next week in a road test at Stockdale. If Garces can get by that, an 8-2 season is back on the table.
Liberty 38, Clovis-Buchanan 6: This was the SWYL's one good result on Friday, though anything less than a big Liberty win probably would have been disappointing. No stats are available from this one, but it's safe to say the Patriots squeezed the fight out of Buchanan, quarter by quarter. It's the first of three straight games against the SWYL for Buchanan, which must come to visit an ornery Bakersfield team next week before playing Stockdale in Week 5. For Liberty, a game at Ridgeview next week is all that stands between it and an undefeated record going into a home showdown with Bakersfield in Week 6.
Bakersfield Christian 48, Exeter 22: No team in Kern County had a more valuable victory Friday than the Eagles, which made an abrupt turnaround from an 0-2 start by routing 3-0 Exeter. Five of the 11 completions made by BCHS quarterback Brandon Jones went for touchdowns, and the junior transfer finished with 227 passing yards. Matt Smith ran for another 152 yards. We expected the Eagles to be explosive and balanced, and here we go. After six bad quarters to open the season, BCHS nearly came back on Central Valley Christian in the Milk Bowl and then put together what is easily its best performance of the season this week. Now comes the SSL, which has seven teams and so starts league play a couple of weeks sooner than other leagues. It's still safe to say BCHS is a clear second favorite behind Wasco.
Newhall-Hart 56, Ridgeview 7: This is the type of thing you might expect when a young Division III team faces a state top-25 team. Hart came in at No. 21 in Cal Hi Sports' rankings, but that ranking is probably on the rise after this performance and Chaminade's win over Oaks Christian, considering Hart also beat Chaminade. Yeah, this is a good team, so don't read too much into this for the Wolf Pack. They'll be back in business in South Yosemite League and into the Division III playoffs.
Independence 34, Highland 25: The Falcons improved to 2-1 despite six turnovers, getting 141 yards rushing from Jalen Summerville before he left the game in an ambulance with an apparent head injury. A long Jordan Wiley-to-D.J. Reed touchdown pass gave the Falcons a two-score cushion with 3:17 left in a game that stayed closer than it perhaps should have been all night. Then again, the Scots (0-4) might have won had they capitalized better on the turnovers; instead, they settled for four Joey Cooper field goals and found themselves on the short end of another score. Independence can't get away with many more performances like this, obviously, though remaining non-league games against Mira Monte and East provide a fair shot at a 4-1 non-league mark.
Tehachapi 51, Arvin 7: Uh, oh, Southeast Yosemite League. The Tehachapi monster might have just awoken. The Warriors were perfectly serviceable on defense during a 1-2 start, but they had scored just 32 points in three games. No longer. Skylar Valencia led the way with 139 rushing yards and Tehachapi cruised after allowing an opening kickoff return for a touchdown by Arvin's Derek Adams. The Warriors have a bye week and then a tricky game with West, but the path suddenly looks very clear for Tehachapi to be 7-2 when it heads to Garces in Week 10.
Elsewhere... Wasco, with two weeks to stew after its 14-game winning streak was snapped at Bakersfield, took it out on Golden Valley's rushing defense. The Tigers gained 482 yards in the first half and 608 for the game, almost all on the ground, in a 48-6 rout. ... Jason Oliver got his first win as Foothill's coach, and the Trojans gave him his first shutout, too. It was an 18-0 blanking of Mira Monte behind 80 rushing yards from Daniel Graham and a 26-yard pick-six from Alwayne Mustin. ... For the third straight week, South got more impressive, this time routing East 47-0. South rushed for 327 yards and allowed only 86 total yards. I'd be surprised if the Rebels aren't undefeated heading into a Week 7 showdown with Ridgeview. ... Delano scored the only touchdown of the second half to beat North, 21-14. It was a 51-yard scamper from Robert Rivera, who finished with 105 rushing yards on just eight carries. ... Elsewhere in the final week of non-league play for the SSL, Shafter lost again, on the road at Lindsay. Chavez won again — the Titans are 3-1, but that's against less-than-impressive competition. Kennedy dropped an ugly game to Sierra Pacific. And Taft picked up a quality home win against Corcoran. Things get serious next week, with everyone apparently chasing Wasco and Bakersfield Christian.
Here's a replay, in two parts, of Friday night's BVarsity Live. Tune in every Friday at 11 p.m. to get up-to-the-minute score updates and call (661) 395-7386 to be part of the show:
Finally, here's an early look at next week's five big games:
Garces (2-2) at Stockdale (1-2): Still debating whether either of these teams is for real in its respective division. This result will help determine that.
Liberty (4-0) at Ridgeview (2-2): Another tough test for the Wolf Pack — but before you assume anything, remember that Ridgeview won this matchup a year ago.
Santa Barbara (2-2) at Centennial (1-2): If the Golden Hawks are improving as rapidly as I think they are, they'll have no trouble here.
Arvin (2-2) at Taft (2-2): Winner here has a legitimate claim as the top challenger to Wasco and/or BCHS in the SSL
Clovis-Buchanan (0-3) at Bakersfield (2-2): If Week 3 was full of missed chances for the SWYL, Week 4 is all about avoiding big upsets. The Drillers need to do that here, and Frontier needs to right the ship at West.