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By Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATED, 12:29 a.m.: All playoff scores are in and updated below. It was kind of a ho-hum night in the Central Section, honestly, with a big upset for West at Tehachapi and a couple of 10-over-7 upsets for Bullard and Hanford West. Other than that, the chalk ruled. I have a feeling that next week, chaos might make an extended appearance. Here are some juicy quarterfinal matchups:
(8) Liberty at (1) Clovis; (5) Bakersfield at (4) Fresno-Central; (6) Fresno-Edison at (3) Frontier; (10) Fresno-Bullard at (2) Clovis North
(8) Kingsburg at (1) Garces; (5) Fresno-Sunnyside at (4) Visalia-El Diamante; (11) West at (3) Lemoore; (7) Visalia-Redwood at (2) Sanger
(8) Delano at (1) Ridgeview; (5) South at (4) Independence; (6) Porterville at (3) Visalia-Mt. Whitney; (7) Madera at (2) Dinuba
(8) Arvin at (1) Wasco; (5) Chowchilla at (4) Coalinga; (6) Fowler at (3) Bakersfield Christian; (10) Hanford West at (2) Tulare-Mission Oak
(9) Reedley-Immanuel at (1) Liberty-Madera Ranchos; (5) Firebaugh at (4) Lindsay; (6) Corcoran at (3) Shafter; (7) Woodlake at (2) Tollhouse-Sierra
Division VI (semifinals)
(4) Avenal at (1) Mendota; (3) Strathmore at (2) Kennedy
UPDATED, 9:21 p.m.: Liberty able to run out the clock here on a 28-3 playoff victory over Clovis-Buchanan, and the Patriots advance to play No. 1 Clovis next week.
All lopsided finals in Division I tonight, with the higher seeds advancing in every matchup with the exception of Stockdale, which is being hammered, 35-7 by Bullard. Not a good ending for the Mustangs.
In Division II, the big upset is West over Tehachapi 31-13 in the fourth quarter. NIce win for first-year coach Mark Camps.
Back with much more later, including the BVarsity Live broadcast at 11 p.m. on the Californian's website.
UPDATED, 9:14 p.m.: Buchanan tries an onside kick — and it's almost like Liberty didn't see it coming. Only Bears went for that ball, and guess what? Buchanan got it and has another possession at the Liberty 49. Still, only 7:26 left in this game and at 28-3, it's still a four-score affair.
A penalty and an incomplete pass make it second-and-15. Fry is 6-of-24 tonight, which is a pretty good indicator that Liberty is winning the game. Robinson gets a yard on second down. Third and long now. Pass over the middle for Bik — who makes a terrific juggling catch on the move and motors down to the 22. That's 31 yards on the most impressive play of the night for Buchanan by far.
Two plays later, it's third-and-8, though, and the Bears have to do it again. Fry is sacked by Darren Adjei, who was aided by good coverage. Fourth-and-20. Screen pass to Dashay Hicks, who gets down to about the 21 but no further. Turnover on downs, and Liberty takes over up 28-3 with 4:21 left in the game.
UPDATED, 9:05 p.m.: Liberty faces third-and-1 on the second play of the fourth quarter, and Jountti is stuffed. Buchanan will get it back. Delay of game on Liberty to boot, and Sullivan will have to punt out of his own end zone. It's a wobbly kick taken at the Liberty 42 and then the returner goes backwards on the return. Bears will have it at the 43.
A couple of nice runs from Roger Bik move the Bears quickly to the Liberty 22, and now he picks up 6 more. Now Buchanan will throw. Strange, considering how well the run game was working, and Fry throws incomplete. Third and 6 from the 16. Timeout Buchanan.
Bears will throw out of the timeout, quick hitter to Bik out of the backfield. He makes the catch and has first and goal at the 6. Now a false start pushes it back to the 11. A short run and a couple of incomplete passes later set up a 28-yard field-goal attempt from Brett Arkelian. It's good, and that cuts the lead to 28-3. Buchanan is on the board, but it's more of a face-saving score at this point.
Elsewhere, Bullard up 35-7 on Stockdale and Bakersfield up 49-7 on Clovis East. Some pretty non-competitive efforts for playoff teams tonight.
UPDATED, 8:54 p.m.: That last touchdown was actually a backwards pass, we've decided, and so that was a 38-yard running TD for Kenny Davis. A penalty on the kickoff will give Buchanan 15 extra yards and the ball at the 35. I believe that's the Bears' best field position of the entire night, which tells you a lot about how this game has gone.
Complete pass to Dashay Hicks for a first down to the 46, and now a 5-yard facemask on the next play gives Buchanan first-and-6 at midfield. Two plays later, it's Yusuf Robinson with a nice gain down the right sideline. First down at the Liberty 43. Robinson took a shot to the knee at the end of that play, courtesy of a Liberty helmet, and he's shaken up but off under his own power. First down Bears at the 43, trying to get on the scoreboard. Fry looking deep. Underthrew his man inside the 5. Second down. New tailback is Roger Bik, and he gets about 4, loses the ball, but Buchanan recovers. Bears at the Liberty 39, the deepest they've penetrated all night. Third and 6. Incomplete, flag. Personal foul on Liberty, and a free first down for Buchanan down to the Patriots 24.
Two plays later, it's third-and-10, and Fry makes a nice throw to Korby Batesole, who makes a nice sliding catch at the 11. First down Buchanan. Now Robinson back in the game, and he bursts inside the 5. Second down. Robinson again, stuffed this time. Third and 3 at the 4. Robinson again, and he's short. It'll be fourth-and-2. Buchanan will go for it. Need to get to the 1. Robinson will get it, and I think he's short. It's close, though. They'll measure. Looks like he's just outside the 1. They won't even measure. Didn't get it. Liberty will take over at the 2. Mariscal burrows out to the 6, and that's the end of the third quarter. Dominant effort from Liberty tonight.
UPDATED, 8:39 p.m.: Buchanan three-and-out, and Kole Harl's punt return gives Liberty great field position at its 48. If the Patriots can extend the lead again here, that's probably all she wrote. Third-and-8 from midfield: Medina hits Christian Sinnott for the first time tonight, a gain of 10 and a first down to the Buchanan 40.
Jountti for 2, now a short pass to Davis. Makes a man miss and he's off to the races, tip-toeing along the sideline. Did he step out? Nope, never did. Touchdown Liberty, and that's easily the highlight of the night so far. 38 yards on the play, and it's 28-0 Liberty.
UPDATED, 8:30 p.m.: Some other scores before we begin the second half: This is actually the closest game in Division I at half: Bullard up on Stockdale, 28-7 and Bakersfield up 35-7 on Clovis East and Edison up 34-7 Clovis West, all at halftime. Actually, the closest game is in the 4/13 game, where Central leads Tulare Union just 13-8 at last update.
Back to action here in the second half. Kenny Davis returns a pooch kickoff up to the Liberty 36, and two plays later, Corbin Jountti breaks free for the first time tonight, up the right sideline and down to the Buchanan 30 before he's taken down. That's a 26-yard gain. Two runs later, Anthony Mariscal gets 9 and another first down at the Buchanan 14. If Liberty goes up three scores, that might be that. But two short Jountti runs make it third-and-9. Medina to pass. He rolls right and now he'll tuck and run. Nice cut, and he has the first down. First and goal at the 3. That's got to be disheartening for the Buchanan defense. Next snap, Anthony Mariscal, easily into the end zone. Zack Sullivan's PAT is good, and it's 21-0 Liberty with 8:30 left in the third quarter. Liberty moving closer to a trip to No. 1 Clovis next week.
UPDATED, 8:21 p.m.: I'll try to put this kindly: I've seen more entertaining first halves of football. It's 14-0 Liberty here, with the Patriots out-gaining Buchanan 121-81. Ninety of those yards belong to Corbin Jountti, who has 19 carries. Liberty got a quick lead and just suffocated Buchanan defensively for the rest of the half. Here are individual stats:
PASSING: B, Tyler Fry 2-10, 18 yds; L, Josh Medina 4-9, 27 yds, TD
RUSHING: B, Yusuf Robinson, 14-48, Zack Levatino 3-9. L, Corbin Jountti 19-90, TD
RECEIVING: B, Scott Sakamoto, 1-12. L, Kenny Davis, 4-27, TD.
UPDATED, 8:02 p.m.: Jountti goes for 4 and then 10 for the Patriots, who are now marching across midfield. Three more Jountti runs come up just short of the sticks. Fourth and a yard from the Buchanan 37. Liberty will call timeout. Think they'll go for this at this part of the field, but they want to talk about it. 5:17 left in the half.
Update from Stockdale: The Mustangs have scored to cut the Bullard lead to 21-7 and are threatening again as the quarter ends. But more important: Xavier Chisolm, the Mustangs' junior running back, is down on the field with his head and neck immobilized. Ambulance coming. Let's pray that's just precautionary.
Here, Liberty has false-started and now faces fourth-and-6. They'll punt. Fair catch at the 12. Buchanan backed up again. Robinson gets them out of a hole with a nice burst, though, up to the 23 and a first down. Two plays later, it's third-and-7 from the 26. Buchanan calls timeout with exactly four minutes on the first-half clock.
Incomplete on third down, but a flag down. Defensive holding for a first down. Buchanan trying to make a game of this before halftime. A nice run from Robinson goes for 7, then he gets about 2. Third and a yard. Robinson again, and he has it. First down at the Buchanan 49. Bears haven't yet crossed the 50 tonight, and yet if they can get points on this drive, they're still in OK shape at halftime. Fry throws too far for receiver. Second down. The fullback, Levatino, with a nice gain up to the Liberty 45. First time across midfield for Buchanan. Now Robinson, short of the first down by about a yard and a half.
Fourth down. Robinson gets it — no, he never had the handoff. Fumbled it. Liberty recovers at its 42 with 1:12 left in the half. Buchanan has looked terrible, frankly.
Liberty throwing deep for Mariscal. Incomplete. Now Jountti gets a couple, and Liberty will let the clock run. Call timeout with 20 seconds left on third-and-8. Patriots look content to let this get to the half. Jountti one more time, gets a yard, and that'll be half. Liberty leads 14-0.
UPDATED, 7:44 p.m.: First down fun for Robinson, and though he fumbled again at the end, the Bears got it back that time. First down at the Buchanan 37. However, the next series is two incomplete passes and a short run from Robinson to set up yet another Buchanan punt. Taken by Kole Harl inside his 35. A couple of nice moves, and Harl briefly breaks free, across midfield before Buchanan can drag him down. Nice return, and Liberty set up at the Buchanan 45.
Jountti for 4, then an incomplete pass. Third-and-6. Medina to throw again, steps up in the pocket under pressure, but he's taken down. Loss of just a yard there, but it will cause Liberty to kick again. The Patriots have dominated this game, but it's still within striking distance for Buchanan, at 14-0. Punt is shanked, too, so Buchanan won't be backed up this time. Bears start at their 25, 8:57 to play before halftime.
A couple of blowouts elsewhere in Division I, with Bakersfield predictably beating Clovis East 21-0, and Bullard, less predictably, doing the same to Stockdale. The Mustangs have been maddening this year.
Fry to pass, and he's sacked just as he scrambles to the line of scrimmage. Second down and about 11. Fry to pass again, chased out of the pocket again and throws for Sakamoto, but it's out of bounds. Third down. Draw play to Robinson gets about 3, and Buchanan goes three and out again. Punt goes out of bounds at the Liberty 40. Patriots cruising right now.
UPDATED, 7:34 p.m.: Buchanan goes three-and-out again, two incomplete passes and a short completion from Fry to Korby Batesole for about 6 yards. Punt coming from Adam Soesman is a nice, high kick. Fair catch at the 37, and that's where Liberty will begin its third drive.
Jountti running over right guard, nearly slips but catches himself and makes a yard out of what looked like nothing. Now he goes left and has a nice hole. Close to the first down. Very close. They'll measure. He's about a football length short. Third and short. Buchanan defense desperately needs a big play, and this could be it. First-quarter clock down to about three minutes. Medina will pass? Drops back and throws a fade to Mariscal and it sails out of bounds. That was strange, especially considering how well Liberty has ran the ball. The Pats line up to go for it on fourth down. And Buchanan jumps offside. The Bears have gone from bad to worse here, and now they've gifted Liberty a first down. Short pass to Davis gets about 4. Now Jountti blown up in the backfield, Andrew Moreno finally with a big play for Buchanan forces a loss of about two. Third and long now, and Medina throws over the middle incomplete. Liberty forced to punt for the first time. Sullivan's kick is under pressure, but he gets it off, and it bounces dead right at the 10. Nice job by Liberty special teams.
Buchanan starting from its own 10 and gives to Robinson, who picks up about 2. Fry to pass, now he'll keep and run. Not much there, maybe 2 more, so now third down. Fry completes to Scott Sakamoto for the Bears' first first down of the night here in the final minute of the quarter. The fullback, Levatino, gets about a yard, so it's second down. One more snap before the quarter ends. Fry to pass. Has all day, but doesn't have any open receivers. He'll scramble and get hit hard after about a gain of 5. Third down coming up when the second quarter begins.
UPDATED, 7:19 p.m.: Need to correct myself: Yusuf Robinson is Buchanan's tailback, not Korby Batesole, and he was the one who lost the fumble on the first drive. Robinson gets about 2 on first down from the 20 on the Bears' second drive, and now quarterback Tyler Fry will roll out to pass. Too far and out of bounds. Third down. The fullback on a dive, Zack Levatino, gets about two more yards. Buchanan will have to punt. Strange play call on third-and-8.
Punt goes out of bounds at the Buchanan 40. Medina to throw on first down. Batted back at the line of scrimmage. Low pass, had no chance. Second down. Handoff to Jountti, and there's another hole there. He picks up close to 9 and sets up third and short. Jountti gets it again. Not much there, but he's able to fall forward to the 50, and that's a first down.
Medina in the shotgun under pressure. Throwing deep for Anthony Mariscal. Underthrown, but Mariscal is open. He catches it but lands out of bounds. Incomplete, second down. Now Mariscal will take a handoff and pick up about 5. Third down. Medina quick pass to Davis. Knew he was going to his top receiver there, and Davis makes the catch and turns upfield for a first down to the 36. Liberty on the move here. Jountti with another big hole. Dragged down at the 26, but that's another first down. Liberty is doing anything it wants right now.
Jountti again, gets about 5. Already 47 yards for the senior, who appears to be close to 100 percent after suffering a high ankle sprain about a month ago. Now a swing pass to Davis, who makes a man miss and has the first down. Flag down at the end, and that'll be a facemask. Half the distance makes it first and goal at the Buchanan 6. Jountti gets a couple. Second down. Jountti in, untouched. Buchanan's running the matador defense right now. Sullivan's PAT is good, and it's 14-0 Liberty, 5:14 left first quarter.
UPDATED, 7:08 p.m.: Time for kickoff, and Liberty's Zack Sullivan, kicking from my left to my right, reaches the end zone for a touchback. Buchanan will start at its 20. Draw play to Korby Batesole gets about a yard. He gets it again. Ball is loose. Big scrum for it. Liberty says they have it, and they do. First big play of the night is a turnover, and it goes to the Patriots.
Corbin Jountti goes to work right away and has a big hole. He's inside the 20 to the 16 and has a first down. He'll get it again, running over left tackle now, and he's got another first down, this one at the 5. Play-action. Quarterback Josh Medina rolls right, throws a bit high to the corner — and Kenny Davis comes down with a leaping, falling catch. A great catch, and a perfect start for Liberty. Sullivan's PAT is good, and it's 7-0 just 1:32 into the game.
UPDATED, 7:00 p.m.: Buchanan has won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. That's unusual, but the Bears want to give their high-flying offense a shot to take a lead out of the gate. Not a bad strategy, methinks, not against this Liberty team that likes to get a lead and suffocate opponents. Liberty streams onto the field through its inflatable tunnel, and now Buchanan comes between two rows of cheerleaders from the other corner. National anthem and then gametime.
UPDATED, 6:45 p.m.: Here at Liberty for the first-round playoff tilt between the Patriots and Buchanan Bears. It's a rematch from a Week 4 game when Liberty hammered Buchanan, 42-21. Both teams' personnel has changed a bit since then due mostly to injuries. I'm expecting a competitive game tonight, with the winner moving on to face No. 1 seed Clovis in next week's quarterfinals.
Liberty is warming up to my right in all navy uniforms with silver trim, with white numbers and silver helmets. Buchanan is to my left in all white with red trim and blue numbers and helmets. The Bears use a spread passing attack that could challenge Liberty in open space; Liberty would love to control the clock with Corbin Jountti and its running game and play solid defense to advance.
We're about 15 minute from kickoff.
ORIGINAL POST: A long, long week has included lots of volleyball, plus tennis, golf, cross country and much else. Even Frank Gifford, a Bakersfield High graduate and member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, is in town today for a ceremony honoring Hall of Famers in their hometowns. I have to assume that his wife, Kathie Lee, did not make the trip, unless they had the Today show from Bakersfield this morning. Alas.
But forget all that. Now it's time for football.
The live blog visits Buchanan at Liberty tonight, a first-round Division I game that will send its winner to No. 1 Clovis in next week's quarterfinals. All games in the playoffs, remember, begin at 7 p.m., so expect live updates to start firing at 6:30 or 6:45.
Until then, check out this week's Central Section rankings, our playoff preview webcast and first-round predictions. I'll also be on Californian Radio on 1180 AM some time between 9:30 and 9:45 to talk football. Feel free to call in with questions or comments.
(All games 7 p.m. Friday; seed in parentheses)
CENTRAL SECTION PLAYOFFS, FIRST ROUND
(8) Liberty 28, (9) Clovis-Buchanan 3
(5) Bakersfield 63, (12) Clovis East 7
(4) Fresno-Central 55, (13) Tulare Union 15
(6) Fresno-Edison 41, (11) Clovis West 15
(10) Fresno-Bullard 42, (7) Stockdale 14
(8) Kingsburg 28, (9) Porterville-Monache 14
(11) West 31, (6) Tehachapi 13
(7) Visalia-Redwood 21, (10) Fresno-Hoover 13
(8) Delano 22, (9) Fresno-Washington Union 13
(7) Madera 49, (10) Fresno 8
(8) Arvin 19, (9) Chavez 14
(5) Chowchilla 54, (12) Fresno-Roosevelt 20
(4) Coalinga 28, (13) Fresno-McLane 27
(6) Fowler 57, (11) Dos Palos 14
(10) Hanford West 36, (7) Exeter 14
(9) Reedley-Immanuel 14, (8) Caruthers 12
(7) Woodlake 31, (10) Orosi 24
Division VI (quarterfinals)
(4) Avenal 28, (5) McFarland 9
(3) Strathmore 49, (6) Kennedy 28
(1) Northwest Christian 75, (2) Lemoore-Kings Christian 60
SOUTHERN SECTION PLAYOFFS, FIRST ROUND
Eastern Division (VIII)
Burroughs 17, San Jacinto 8
Northeast Division (XIII)
San Luis Obispo-Mission Prep 41, Frazier Mountain 8
Boron 68, Anza-Hamilton 0
Santa Monica-St. Monica 28, Kern Valley 26
Desert 28, San Juan Capistrano-Saddleback Valley Christian 21
8-man Division II
Mojave 63, Carpinteria-Cate 21