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By Nick Ellis / Special to The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
You can see the full replay of Friday night's BVarsity Live episode at the bottom of this post, and if you do, you'll find that I rail on the Central Section's playoff system. I mean, splitting 100 teams up into six too-thin divisions allowing any team to enter the playoffs is silly for many reasons, but my main argument against it is pretty selfish: It renders the first round of the playoffs mediocre at best and meaningless at worse.
I mean, did we really need to see Central and Clovis North beat Buchanan and Clovis East by a combined 76-0? Wouldn't it have been better to see El Diamante, Garces, Redwood and Sanger in Division I so that all teams, even No. 1 Bakersfield, would have to survive a first-weekend test?
Anyway, this is what we've got. And here's the weekend that was (and it wasn't much of one, honestly). Spoiler alert: The most fun — and most difficult — part of this post was trying to narrow down next week's terrific quarterfinal matchups to just five top games to watch.
No. 8 Clovis West 44, No. 9 Stockdale 12 (Division I): Many thought (including myself) that this Thursday nighter would end up being the game of the weekend; it was two teams that has struggled in the first half of the season but turned it on late, but it was also two terribly inconsistent teams. As it turned out, this was a great week for Clovis West and a terrible one for Stockdale, which compounded a disadvantage on the line of scrimmage with a blocked punt for a safety, a failed fake punt and an interception that CW returned for a touchdown — all in the first quarter. By halftime, it was 30-0, and the Golden Eagles were on their way to a quarterfinal visit with Bakersfield. Those are two blue-blood football programs that have met twice in section finals in the past six years, in 2007 and 2010. This time around it'll be a quarterfinal. As for Stockdale, Anthony Wood capped his career with 109 rushing yards, but the Mustangs bow out in ugly fashion in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. The year before that, there were no playoffs. Lots of talent at Stockdale, but a disturbing trend is emerging.
No. 7 Clovis 31, No. 10 Centennial 21 (Division I): And just like that, Kern County is down to two teams in the Division I playoffs, top seeds Bakersfield and Liberty. Just like in the first meeting between these teams, Centennial hung tough, but just like in the first meeting, the Golden Hawks could never overcome an early deficit. Centennial was without coach Kevin Sneed, who has battled throat cancer the past six weeks and didn't make the trip north. Brandon Robinson scored on a 61-yard touchdown run, and Andrew Hansen threw a TD pass to another sophomore, Malcolm Johnson, but the deficit was too much as Clovis' balanced offense continued to produce. Next for Clovis is a playoff rematch with Liberty, which knocked off the top-seeded Cougars in the quarterfinals last year. Clovis would love to flip that script. As for Centennial, the entire year was an uphill climb, but it has to be considered a success when you consider the obstacles. Even with Sneed routinely missing practices to receive treatment, Centennial improved three games from last year's 2-8 mark. A young roster returns much next year, and Centennial will be among the favorites in the Southwest Yosemite League.
No. 7 Lemoore 17, No. 10 West 10 (Division II): Josh Boyd's late 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown made things interesting, cutting the Tigers' lead to seven with two minutes left, but Lemoore recovered an onside kick and prevented West from winning on its field for the second consecutive year in the playoffs. Lemoore's defense carried the day, limiting the Vikings to just 100 total yards, all of it rushing. The Tigers' brilliant running back, Richard Doctor, had to work, but he gained 128 by himself (though he didn't score for the first time all season). Instead, Tigers quarterback Cort Groathouse ran for the 42-yard touchdown that gave Lemoore a commanding 17-3 lead with just over two minutes left. The Vikings came into 2013 with a lot of promise, but a slow start cost them a lot of seeding position, and Lemoore's late upset loss to Hanford made this seem like a tougher opponent than a typical No. 7 seed. That's why the regular season is important.
No. 6 Tehachapi 33, No. 11 North 7 (Division II): Tehachapi left no doubt in a Southeast Yosemite League rematch, scoring on its first four possessions and sending home a game North team for the final time this season. Skylar Valencia did the lion's share of the running for the Warriors, gaining 207 yards on 25 carries, with much of it coming before halftime. Tehachapi slipped up against West in this spot last year, but this was a more typically dominant November home performance for the Warriors. Now they've got to go back to Garces, and don't be surprised if Tehachapi makes a run at the Rams. It's tough to beat a good team twice in a row, and this Tehachapi team has the feel of one of Steve Denman's playoff prototypes. North running back David Reyes left the game early and didn't return because of a leg injury, which was a big blow on both sides of the ball for the Stars. Anthony Lazcano stepped in and ran for 104 yards in the losing effort.
No. 6 Ridgeview 28, No. 11 Delano 20 (Division III): The best game of the weekend actually came here, with Ridgeview stopping a potential game-winning Delano drive twice in the final five minutes. Victory wasn't secured for the defending champions until the Wolf Pack stopped Delano on downs at the Ridgeview 5-yard line with about two minutes left. Before that, with 4:47 to go, Cristion Brown made an interception for Ridgeview, but the Wolf Pack fumbled it back to Delano. The Tigers were game, as they were even in going 0-5 in the East Yosemite League, but David Ibarra's 289 yards and three TDs passing (174 yards and two of the scores went to Jose Ayon) weren't quite enough. Darius Smith ran for 148 yards to lead Ridgeview. Remember, the Wolf Pack's section-championship run a year ago started with a somewhat shaky home win over Delano. Maybe that's a good sign. But Ridgeview is going to have to play a heck of a lot better if it wants to win next week at Washington Union, which beat the Wolf Pack 26-0 in the regular season.
No. 9 Independence 35, No. 8 Golden Valley 14 (Division III): Out of Southwest Yosemite League play for the first time in five weeks, the Falcons returned to what they were doing before the SWYL: Beating up on Division III teams. The Falcons controlled the line of scrimmage, recording seven sacks and springing Jalen Summerville for a 150-yard, two-touchdown performance. Golden Valley, blessed with a home game that I wasn't sure it would get, coughed the ball up four times, including the back-breaker: A missed option pitch at the goal line that Sergio Wright recovered for an Independence touchdown and a 20-0 lead. Golden Valley fought back but could never quite get within one possession. Independence gets top seed Tulare Western next in a Thursday night game. The Falcons have certainly played tougher opponents before, but if they're ready to challenge the Mustangs they'll need to up their game even more.
Elsewhere... Chavez emphatically earned the first playoff win in the school's 10-year history out-scoring Bishop 27-0 in the fourth quarter for a 34-10 comeback victory in Division IV. Mario Garabay scored three times for the Titans, who play at No. 2 seed CVC in next week's quarterfinals. ... Shafter also broke a playoff drought, getting its first postseason win since 2006 with an easy 55-21 rout of Parlier in Division V. Kyle Millwee passed for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, building the Generals a 41-13 lead. Fireworks should fly next week when Millwee and big-play receiver Richard Nourse head to Mendota to face the two-time D-VI defending champion Aztecs and Central Section touchdown king Edgar Segura. ... Also in Division V, Kern Valley rode a balanced offensive attack to a 48-20 victory against Frazier Mountain in a High Desert League rematch that will be the Broncs' only home game of the postseason. Now they take on No. 4 seed Lindsay with a spot in the semifinals at stake. ... Desert beat Long Beach-St. Anthony 51-27, and Boron went on the road to beat Capistrano Valley Christian 60-42, as the Scorpions and Bobcats reached the quarterfinals of the Southern Section's Northeast Division. Two other Kern County teams were knocked out in the Southern Section: Burroughs, which lost to Tahquitz in the Eastern Division, and Mojave, thought to be the state's top 8-man team, which couldn't survive a boat trip to Avalon and fell, 44-27.
Now a replay of Friday night's BVarsity Live, followed by the top five games in what should be a tremendous quarterfinal Friday (maybe even enough to offset this week!):
You really can't go wrong with many games next week, but here are the five I'm looking forward to the most:
D-I: No. 7 Clovis (8-3) at No. 2 Liberty (9-1): All of the good the Patriots have done this year comes crashing down if they can't pass this tough test
D-I: No. 8 Clovis West (5-6) at No. 1 Bakersfield (8-2): Can the Golden Eagles hang in a series filled with playoff history? Or does Bakersfield begin its march towards section title No. 36?
D-II: No. 6 Tehachapi (8-3) at No. 3 Garces (8-2): We thought the grinder two weeks ago was the last meeting in this rivalry for a long time ... think again
D-IV: No. 5 Exeter (7-4) at No. 4 Wasco (8-2): This might be the most entertaining game across the section. The top five in D-IV are nails; only one of these two can join the top three seeds in the semifinals
D-V: No. 7 Shafter (7-4) at No. 2 Mendota (9-1): Should be an absolute fireworks show. Mendota is very good, but the Aztecs came from D-VI, where you won't see an opponent like this so early in the playoffs