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By John Harte / Special to The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATED, 10:01 p.m.: What a weird night. Frontier and Bakersfield go down by a combined 35 points, and it's Liberty, the No. 8 seed, that's still playing after a shocking 25-23 comeback victory at Clovis. The Patriots scored twice on fumble-return TDs in the final seven minutes of the game and then held on, sacking Clovis QB R.J. Hartmann twice on the Cougars' final drive to preserve victory. Now Liberty gets Central — a rematch of an early-season game the Patriots lost 10-9 in part because of a missed PAT and blocked field goal. They'll feel like they can win that game, no doubt. Whether they do or not is a story for next week.
It was a good night for Kern County in lower divisions, with Garces, West, Independence, Ridgeview, Wasco and Bakersfield Christian all advancing. No word yet on Shafter-Corcoran, but stay tuned.
BVarsity Live begins at 11 p.m. at bakersfieldcalifornian.com/sports. Tune in to get all of our reaction and highlights, and call in to give your take at 395-7306. See you then.
UPDATED, 9:37 p.m.: Get this, and I'm not joking: Liberty has returned ANOTHER fumble for a touchdown and now leads 25-17 at No. 1 seed Clovis with just over three minutes remaining. Not over yet, but a huge upset brewing up at Lamonica Stadium.
Caleb Thompson has hit a couple of passes to Jasmit Thind here and has Frontier driving at the Edison 23, but it's third-and-10. Now an offside penalty puts the Titans in the red zone. Only 2:21 on the clock, though, and it's a three-score Tigers lead. A litlte trickery with a pitch to Matt Bushnell on a reverse, but he doesn't get much. Maybe a yard.
Clovis has scored but didn't get the two-pointer. Now 25-23 Liberty with 2:48 to go. The Patriots will have to run out the clock up there to hang on. Final score in another D-I quarter: Central 42, Bakersfield 28.
In Division III, Independence has defeated South, 26-12. Ridgeview leads Delano 49-21 after three quarters.
Frontier turns it over on downs and Edison will run out the clock. Final score: No. 6 Edison 42, No. 3 Frontier 21. Too much speed for the Tigers. But did Liberty save the night for the SWYL? Stay tuned.
UPDATED, 9:23 p.m.: Liberty has scored again, on a fumble return TD, and now leads top seed Clovis, 18-17. Wowzers. The Patriots have missed three PATs so are still vulnerable to a Clovis field goal, obviously, but it's Liberty in the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Here, Caleb Thompson is sacked on first down for a big loss, and Frontier was unable to recover. Thompson was sacked again on fourth-and-10, and Edison takes over for with 4:44 left in the game. That's game, set and match barring a couple more turnovers, I think.
Instead, Kevin Nutt is going to work. He picks up 5, now 12, and Edison is in the red zone. Nutt again, big hole over the right tackle. Touchdown from 18 yards, and it's 42-21 Edison with 3:22 left. That's the ballgame, folks, and the SWYL champs have gone down tonight.
UPDATED, 9:17 p.m.: Touchback on the kickoff — and Khari McGee is back out there for Edison. He left last week's game with an injury, so it looked like Tigers coach Ricky Manning was trying to save him for next week. Now he's got to make sure Edison gets to next week.
A delay of game penalty and a couple of nice defensive plays for Frontier make it third-and-16. This is getting interesting. McGee has all day to throw, and he'll go deep. Incomplete, but a flag down for pass interference. The right call. Defender never turned around to look, and you can't face-guard in high school football.
Elsewhere, West High up 14-3 on Lemoore in the fourth quarter. The Vikings' run looks like it'll continue to Sanger for the semifinals. Central just scored to put Bakersfield to bed, 35-14 the lead there. And Liberty scored but missed on the two-pointer. 17-12 Clovis there.
Frontier's defense holds, and Edison punts. Titans set up at their 42 with 6:08 to play, down two scores.
UPDATED, 9:08 p.m.: A penalty on the PAT will amke Frontier kick off from its own 25, so forget any idea of an onside kick, and Edison is set up with good field position on its 49. The Titans force their first three-and-out of the night, but Edison is going to line up to go for it. New quarterback in the game, by the way, Preston Scott. He keeps it and the ball is loose — and bounces right to him. Now it bounces out again! And Jasmit Thind has it for Frontier and is headed the other way. Holy cow. Thind is gonna score. What a crazy turnaround that was, and suddenly the Titans have life. It's 35-21 with 8:49 still left in the game.
BHS had the ball back at Central but just turned it over downs, down 28-14 with about 4:30 left. Probably game over there.
UPDATED, 9:00 p.m.: I've got to say: I certainly thought it was possible Frontier and Bakersfield could lose tonight, but I had both games as toss-ups, as I think most people did. The fact that they're both lopsided games in the fourth quarter is stunning to me.
Anyway, Justin Cash has a nice kickoff return here for Frontier. He picked up 51 yards and got to the Edison 47 but couldn't quite break away from a speedy team. Two plays later, however, Matt Bushnell makes a catch as an Edison defender runs right by. He tried to jump the route, and it's going to result in a big play. Race for the end zone. Bushnell wins it with men closing fast. Touchdown, Frontier, and the lead is cut to 35-14.
Bakersfield has also scored to cut the Central lead to 28-14, and Clovis now leads Liberty 17-6.
UPDATED, 8:53 p.m.: Edison driving again, with the highlight a third-and-3 conversion from Deondre Howard, who took a swing pass to the right, cut all the way back to the left and then juked Justin Cash out of his shoes on the way inside the 15-yard line. That was a 23-yard gain and set up Edison with another scoring chance. Kevin Nutt takes it down to the Frontier 2 on the final play of the third quarter. 28-7 Edison and about to get some more.
I'll keep it here for the first play of the fourth quarter, which is a 2-yard touchdown run from Kevin Nutt, his second of the night. Make it 35-7 Edison. This has officially turned into a rout.
UPDATED, 8:46 p.m.: Another first down via penalty for Frontier, which gets a personal foul call after the whistle against Edison. Would have been fourth down. Instead, Caleb Thompson now keeping on an option with a huge hole to the right side. Thompson has deceptive speed, and he's inside the Edison 30. Gain of 34 there, and Frontier threatening for the first time since the first quarter.
But the drive stalls there, with a third-down jump ball for Cash in the end zone broken up, and Tyler Kempka will try a 45-yard field goal. It's on line but short. No good. Frontier gets no points again and Edison will take over with a 28-7 lead.
UPDATED, 8:39 p.m.: Caleb Thompson is in at quarterback for Evan Moore, who was limping off the field at halftime. Not sure on the injury, but for now it's the wildcat with Thompson, a transfer from Bakersfield.
Titans run the option, and a pitch to Cash picks up good yardage across midfield. About 9 yards there. Now Thompson will keep and he has the first down inside the Edison 40. Interesting start to this drive, but if Frontier has any hope at a comeback, it might rest with the passing game. Instead, Thompson fumbles the snap — and Edison recovers. Going from bad to worse for Frontier.
Edison has a third-and-2 after a couple of short pass plays. And Kevin Nutt will pick it up on the end around, across the 50 to the Frontier 48. The Titans D stiffens there, though, as Edison will punt for the first time tonight. Fair catch made by Jasmit Thind at the 18. Titans trail 28-7, as does Bakersfield against Central. Third quarter, 7:57 left.
UPDATED, 8:31 p.m.: Nightmare start to the second half for Frontier, which gives up an 80-yard TD run to Blake Wright on the second play from scrimmage. Wright blazed up the sideline, then shucked a defender by him and turned on the afterburners. Nobody was going to catch him. That's a 28-7 lead for Edison, which can smell a semifinal matchup with Clovis North now.
First update of the night from Wasco: Tigers 34, Arvin 7, with Wasco now just two games away from a possible regional bowl berth, assuming they hold that lead.
Big kickoff return from Frontier's Matt Bushnell out to the 46 gives the Titans a little life. We'll see if they can do anything with it.
UPDATED, 8:21 p.m.: Clovis scores on a fourth-down pass to go up 10-0 on Liberty, and now all three SWYL teams are behind double digits, with two at half and the game at Clovis almost there. But now an update that the Patriots score with just 10 seconds left in the half to pull within 10-6. Missed PAT, though, which has cost Liberty before.
Here, the stats tell the story as well as the score: 21-7. Edison has a 247-142 edge in total yardage. Frontier seems powerless to stop the Tigers' athletes in space. Individual stats follow:
PASSING: E, Khari McGee, 10-13, 160 yds, TD. F, Evan Moore, 5-8, 79 yds, TD, INT.
RUSHING: E, Blake Wright, 3-46; Kevin Nutt 5-16, TD; Khari McGee 2-25. F: Justin Cash 15-49, Evan Moore 4-7, Nick Santoro 1-4, Taylor Holmes 1-3.
RECEIVING: E, Isaiah Runderson 7-121, Deondre Howard 2-27, TD; Tyrone Viney 1-12. F, Adam Huyck, 2-53, TD; Jasmit Thind 2-22, Taylor Holmes 1-4.
UPDATED, 8:06 p.m.: Central up on Bakersfield 21-0. Right now, Kern County's best chance at a semifinalist in Division I might be ... eighth-seeded Liberty, which trailed Clovis just 3-0 midway through the second quarter at last update.
Here, Frontier gets a first down via penalty but the first half expires with Edison leading 21-7. The Tigers' speed and Khari McGee's play at quarterback is causing the Titans huge problems.
UPDATED, 8:00 p.m.: Frontier will start its third drive on its own 30. Offside penalty on Edison will move it to the 35, and the Titans use a couple of runs to push it out to the 43 for a first down. Two more runs from Cash and Taylor Holmes make it third-and-5 from the 48. Big play here late in the first half. Edison's offense can move it in a hurry if you give it another chance. Cash spins through a hole and has the first down to the Edison 42. Big first down as the clock runs under two minutes. Both teams have all three timeouts left. Moore will throw, into coverage, and it's picked off. Diving interception by Justin Holmes. Moore shouldn't have forced that ball, and Edison takes over at its 16 with 1:25 left, and again, all three timeouts.
Khari McGee looking deep again. Again it's just off, past the outstretched hands of Tyrone Smith. Second down. Now a false start on Edison makes it second-and-15. McGee under pressure but still completes to Tyrone Viney. Nice throw as he was hit, and a gain of 12 sets up third and 3 with 1:06 left. Tigers will call their first timeout.
Swing pass to Runderson, who moseys out of bounds for 5 yards and an easy first down. Now McGee will loft a pass over the middle to Runderson — who makes a one-handed highlight reel grab. That seemed to stun the secondary, which kind of watched as Runderson sprinted past. They finally force him out at the 14, and Edison is in business for a big score before halftime. Another pass to Runderson in the flat goes for about 3. He almost caught that thing one-handed. Got stick-em on the gloves or something. Second down. McGee to Deondre Howard on the other side. Again, great blocking from the Edison receivers (bordering on holding, but it's not called) and Howard is inside the pylon for a touchdown. Bigtime score for Edison, which leads 21-7 with 32 seconds left in the half.
UPDATED, 7:45 p.m.: Justin Cash picks up seven on third-and-4 on the first play of the second quarter to give Frontier a first down. Two plays later, it's third-and-3 after a short keeper and short pass from Evan Moore. Screen set up, thrown right over the top of the defense to Huyck. Perfect play call, perfect execution, and Huyck rumbles down to the Tigers 40. That's a gain of 21 and a first down for the Titans.
Two stuffed runs and an incompletion later, though, and it's fourth-and-7. Kempka out to punt. Thought maybe Frontier would elect to go for it from this spot on the field, but they're going to try to pin Edison deep, and they do — nope. The Titan who touched that couldn't corral it, and the ball bounces into the end zone for a touchback. So that's just 17 yards of field position gained with the punt. Edison takes over for its second drive in a 7-7 game.
McGee going deep. Very deep. Overthrew Howard by about five yards. Would have been a touchdown. That ball traveled about 60 yards in the air from McGee, who's got a cannon. He'll swing it out to Isaiah Runderson now, and Edison's receivers can really block. Runderson can really run, and he's up to the Edison 45 for a gain of 25. First down. Blake Wright slips a tackle in the backfield and gets about 4 instead of a loss. Now Wright again, for a first down — and more, after he breaks a tackle. Weaving his way all the way inside the 20 and finally down at the Frontier 10. Another big play for Edison gives it first and goal. Frontier jumps offside and it's first and goal at the 5. Nutt stumbles down to the 1. Second down. Wright gets in for the TD. Edison leads 14-7.
Up north, it's Central now up 21-0 on Bakersfield. The Drillers have got to be shell-shocked up there. Very possible at this point that Kern County could get shut out of the D-I semifinals.
UPDATED, 7:33 p.m.: First quarter has ended here with Frontier facing a third-and-4 from its 25 when we get back to action in a 7-7 game.
Elsewhere, Central has upped its edge on Bakersfield to 14-0. Drillers have turned it over in Central territory and missed a field goal already. Can't do that against good teams. Meanwhile, Clovis leads Liberty 3-0 after a quarter. In other divisions, Garces leads Kingsburg 14-0 after one and Independence up 14-0 on South.
UPDATED, 7:27 p.m.: Edison moving quickly, with a 9-yard keeper from quarterback Khari McGee and a pass from McGee to Deondre Howard for 16 for a first down up at the Edison 47. Now McGee throws for Isaiah Runderson, who makes a nice fingertip catch headed toward the far sideline for 19 more yards. Tigers really rolling on their first drive.
This time, though, Kevin Nutt takes the handoff and goes nowhere. Second and 10. Handoff on a sweep to Tyrone Viney. Not much room there, and a flag down. Personal foul on Edison. Backs the Tigers all the way back to their 48. Second-and-28. McGee will throw deep for Howard, and he makes an incredible diving catch — but did it out of bounds. That was something — and there's a flag down, too. Roughing the passer on Frontier, and the Titans are going to let Edison out of a third-and-28. Both defenses hurting themselves with penalties on the opening drives. Automatic first down. Throw to Runderson in the flat, but he slips and loses yardage. They'll get it all back on another little wheel pass to Runderson, who's down to the 26. Now McGee on an option keeper. Lots of room and he's out of bounds all the way down at the 10. First and goal. Nutt with a burst up the middle inside the 5. He'll get it again. Touchdown. Carlos Tapetillo's kick good, and it's 7-7. Penalties and good offense telling the story thus far.
UPDATED, 7:15 p.m.: Frontier wins the opening coin toss and elects to receive. A bit strange, but this is a tough team to beat when it has a lead, so maybe that's what coach Rich Cornford is thinking. Edison is coached by Ricky Manning, a name you might know from following the NFL over the past 10-15 years. Manning is in his first year with Edison, which comes in riding a five-game winning streak, just like SWYL champion Frontier.
Carlos Tapetillo will kick off for Edison to get us going. Justin Cash deep for Frontier, but it'll be Troy Banks to take it on about the 15 after a squib kick. He muscles forward to about the 24, where Frontier will get us started.
Cash running left on first down, and Edison swarms him after a gain of about a yard. Now quarterback Evan Moore in the shotgun. Fakes a handoff to Cash and keeps, but Anthony Shepard, the defensive end, didn't buy the fake and takes Moore down behind the line of scrimmage. Third and 10. Frontier plays it conservative and runs over tackle with Cash. He got about four, but the Titans go three-and-out.
Tyler Kempka punts for Frontier, but flags first. Illegal substitution on Edison, which is going to make it fourth-and-1. Interesting, but Titans still in punt formation. Now Edison jumps offside. Wow. Ten free yards for Frontier, and that's an absolutely gratis first down at the 38. Now if the Titans can actually move the ball, we might remember that.
Cash gets just a yard on first down. Now Moore will roll out. Looking up the sideline for Jasmit Thind, and he has him before the DB gets there. First down across midfield, gain of 14. Cash now with his biggest hole of the night, goes for about 6. Moore will keep and go nowhere. I think he slipped there. So third and 3. Might be four-down territory here, but we'll see. Nick Santoro gets this carry for Frontier and goes for about 5 and the first down. Nice run.
Up at Central, Bakersfield got a stop and was driving when the Grizzlies turned a deflected pass into a pick-six and a 7-0 lead. Wow. We've said it before: BHS is pretty darn good when it doesn't turn the ball over. When it does, which has been often, is another story.
Here, it's second-and-6 from the 32. Moore looks over the middle for Adam Huyck. Got him. Touchdown. A little play-action and Frontier scores after Edison's back-to-back penalties keep the drive alive. 7-0 Frontier.
UPDATED, 6:58 p.m.: I'm entrenched here at Frontier, where the host Titans are about to play a big-time Division I quarterfinal against Edison. This one seems like a complete toss-up to me, and it should be a lot of fun to watch. That makes it all the more strange because ... this might be the worst-attended crowd I've seen all year long. Huh. I know rain is in the forecast, but come on, folks. Gotta be in playoff form.
Anyway, Frontier has just run onto the field wearing its blind-man's special uniforms — dark blue numbers on black uniforms with black helmets. Edison is wearing all-white uniforms with black numbers and helmets, but the Tigers haven't gotten out on the field just yet. We're about six minutes from game time. Many more updates coming.
ORIGINAL POST: It's been a long, busy week, with tennis, volleyball and cross country action all over the place, but Quarterfinal Friday is finally here.
First, congratulations to all of the section champions crowned yesterday, from Clovis West's volleyball team, which came back from a 2-0 deficit to stun Liberty (watch full replay with my play-by-play here) to the cross country teams at little McFarland and Shafter, which won section titles in Division III (McFarland girls) and Division II (McFarland boys, Shafter girls) against schools 2-3 times their size.
The section titles in all fall sports have now been handed out, with the very notable exception of the football championships. We take a big step towards whittling that field in a few hours. Winners tonight will be in the final four of their respective divisions and will be practicing on Thanksgiving, which is a pretty awesome way to celebrate that holiday if you're a high school football player.
And boy, are there great matchups. The live blog tonight visits Edison at Frontier, but I wouldn't mind seeing any of the D-I games, from Liberty taking its shot at top seed Clovis to Bullard-Clovis North or, especially, the tremendous matchup between Bakersfield and Central. Can't wait.
If you can't either, kill some time by checking out this week's section rankings and predictions and watching that great volleyball match. Then tune back in around 6:30 for live coverage of Edison-Frontier and all of the Central Section quarterfinal action.
(All games 7 p.m.; playoff seed in parentheses)
CENTRAL SECTION PLAYOFFS
Division I quarterfinals
(8) Liberty 25, (1) Clovis 23
(4) Fresno-Central 42, (5) Bakersfield 28
(6) Fresno-Edison 42, (3) Frontier 21
(2) Clovis North 35, (10) Fresno-Bullard 7
Division II quarterfinals
(1) Garces 73, (8) Kingsburg 14
(5) Fresno-Sunnyside 37, (4) Visalia-El Diamante 29
(11) West 17, (3) Lemoore 3
(2) Sanger 17, (7) Visalia-Redwood 14
Division III quarterfinals
(1) Ridgeview 56, (8) Delano 35
(4) Independence 26, (5) South 12
(6) Porterville 21, (3) Visalia-Mt. Whitney 20
(2) Dinuba 55, (7) Madera 28
Division IV quarterfinals
(1) Wasco 54, (8) Arvin 14
(5) Chowchilla 34, (4) Coalinga 19
(3) Bakersfield Christian 34, (6) Fowler 25
(2) Tulare-Mission Oak 35, (10) Hanford West 7
Division V quarterfinals
(1) Liberty-Madera Ranchos 67, (9) Reedley-Immanuel 14
(4) Lindsay 41, (5) Firebaugh 10
(6) Corcoran 21, (3) Shafter 18
(7) Woodlake 21, (2) Tollhouse-Sierra 14
Division VI semifinals
(1) Mendota 21, (4) Avenal 0
(2) Farmersville 27, (3) Strathmore 22
Eastern Division (VIII) quarterfinal
Rialto-Carter 20, Burroughs 3
Northeast Division (XIII) quarterfinals
Arcadia-Rio Hondo Prep 47, Desert 0
Santa Monica-St. Monica 19, Boron 16
8-man Division I semifinal
Victorville-Excelsior 78, Mojave 43