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By David Dennis / Special to the Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
Playoff brackets are out, and that's all anyone in the high school football world really wants to talk about — I get that. But let me take tonight, as I do every Sunday night, to take one last look back at the week that was (and the regular season that was, in this case). Call it the calm before the playoff storm.
I'll also do Central Section rankings Monday or Tuesday, even though they don't mean anything at this point. First off, they never did mean anything, and second, they're interesting anyway. And you'll probably enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. So let's do what makes us happy, shall we?
Now a look back at Week 10 and all the rivalry games it brought us.
Garces 24, Tehachapi 14: Sheldon Croney was a man in this one, carrying 27 times for 168 yards and all three Garces touchdowns — and the Rams needed him to be a man, because the improved passing game was out of sync, and Tehachapi eventually got its own offense going. Garces won it with a second-half flurry that included a long touchdown drive, a sack/forced fumble from David Grimm and then another quick Croney TD run that turned a close game into a comfy 24-7 lead. Of course, beating a good team twice in the same season is a tall order, and the Rams might just have to do that after they fell to the No. 3 seed in Division II. The defending champs thought they might be worthy of the No. 2 seed, but instead, it looks like they'll face an almost immediate rematch with No. 6 Tehachapi in the quarterfinals (if the Warriors can get by North first). And here we were thinking that last week was the last time the longtime rivals would play for a while.
Bakersfield 37, Stockdale 6: Stockdale came in as a hot team, and it was easy to wonder what the Mustangs' big-play running attack could do if it got an early lead. That would require finishing drives, though, and Stockdale turned the ball over on downs twice in the first half while Bakersfield was busy racking up points. Asauni Rufus ran for three touchdowns and completed 5 of 7 passes for 178 yards (that's more than 25 yards per attempt, if you're wondering, and I know you were) and Bakersfield had another easy second half. The only question marks surrounding this Drillers team, which is the bona fide favorite in Division I after Edison lost to Bullard on Friday night, is how BHS will fare when faced with a team that can match it athlete for athlete (Edison, Central, Bullard maybe) and how the Drillers react in a close game in the second half. They've only really had a couple of those, and they were both losses to Oaks Christian and Long Beach Poly. But until further notice, expect Bakersfield to be bringing home section title No. 35 a month from now.
Liberty 44, Centennial 7: Bryan Nixon is a gracious man — honestly, he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet in this business — but he had to feel some sense of satisfaction from this. He moved from Centennial to Liberty, its biggest rival, heard every variation of "you look funny in blue" for 10 months, and watched as the Golden Hawks surged under Kevin Sneed. But Liberty won this one convincingly, went to 9-1 and got the No. 2 seed in the Division I playoffs, giving Nixon a great shot at reaching his second D-I final and a chance to win his first. Don't get me wrong; Nixon doesn't wish any ill on Sneed, one of his mentors, or on Centennial. I'm sure of that. But I'm also sure he badly wanted to win this game. Anthony Mariscal was a star again, running 15 times for 118 yards and a touchdown, plus a receiving TD. And Ryan Renz's defense held his old school to 56 rushing yards before Brandon Robinson broke a 95-yard score in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout. After a three-week lull, the Patriots seem like they're firing on all cylinders again. Now they need to come out of this bye week better than they did their last.
Wasco 56, Shafter 28: Don't let the final score fool you. This was a close game for the first half and then some, with Shafter sticking with its biggest rival in a 14-14 game just before the break. But Wasco, reinforced by the return of Isaiah Sharp and Terrance Grinner, pounced in the second half, scoring 35 points in the second half and intercepting two Kyle Millwee passes in the fourth quarter to sniff out any thoughts of a Shafter comeback. This is the seventh victory in a row for Wasco in the series, and the Tigers go into the Division IV playoffs as a most dangerous No. 4 seed. If they can get past Exeter in the quarterfinals, it'll be interesting to see them knock heads with Mission Oak's mighty defense.
North 44, East 21: David Reyes ran for a touchdown, ran a punt back for a touchdown and ran an interception back for a touchdown. That's getting it done. And, oh, by the way, the victory vaulted North into the playoffs the year after an 0-10 season. Chad Brown's first year was marked by steady improvement and a lot of close losses, so it's nice to see the Stars put it all together in Week 10. The playoff run might be short-lived, considering a trip to the mountain is on tap, but no matter what happens Friday, North can consider this season a huge success. For East, meanwhile, this was a huge disappointment. I can't think of a bigger game between 3-6 teams on the final week of the season; North was celebrating and East was mourning like it was a championship game. Cool stuff, and North deserves a lot of accolades.
South 44, Mira Monte 12; Ridgeview 55, Golden Valley 14: The Rebels and Wolf Pack each staked a claim to a tri-share of the South Yosemite League title with West, which finished its 3-1 league campaign last week. South survived a game marred by two sprinkler delays with Johnnie Dirden running for 109 yards and the Rebels jumping to a 21-0 halftime lead. Ridgeview ran roughshod over the Bulldogs in perhaps the Wolf Pack's most complete performance of the season. Sophomore QB Lawrence White accounted for five total touchdowns, four of them covering more than 30 yards. The league title is important to the schools for different reasons; for South, it's the first of any kind since 1995, which is awesome for a team that had to overcome the summer death of coach John Wren. For Ridgeview, it's the fourth SYL title in a row (two were shared) before the league changes again next year.
Elsewhere... West played a stout Pac-7 team tough before falling 35-21 to Santa Maria-St. Joseph in an odd Week 10 intersection game. Stanley Dubard ran for 196 yards in a performance that makes me think the Vikings might have another surprise playoff run in them. ... Frontier finished off a disappointing season with a 35-7 beatdown of Independence. The Titans, at 4-6, declined a Division I playoff bid. That's really too bad; if the system allows you to go in, and injuries have kept you from being what you thought you could be, why not take a shot? A sense of pride? That goes out the window when teams like 1-9 Buchanan and 2-8 Clovis East are diluting the bracket already. ... Brandon Jones threw six more touchdown passes (counter says that's 42, vs. 3 interceptions) and Bakersfield Christian won its second SSL title with a 48-7 rout at Arvin. The Eagles have won eight in a row. The other BCHS championship run in this league, by the way, came in 2008, when Derek Carr was a senior. Now a week off, then a game as a big favorite before a tremendous final four in D-IV gets going. ... Kern Valley's longshot run at a regional bowl game ended with a 40-9 loss to Desert. The wheels came off in the fourth quarter for the Broncs, who still might be a factor in the Division V playoffs.
Here's a replay of Friday night's BVarsity Live — you can join us every Friday night at 11 throughout the playoffs, plus catch the preview show at 2 p.m. — followed by next week's five best games.
No. 9 Stockdale (5-5) at No. 8 Clovis West (4-6), Division I first round (Thursday): One of the Clovis games had to move to Thursday, because there's only two stadiums. Mustangs and Golden Eagles drew the short straw in what is probably the best game of the weekend in the section
No. 10 Centennial (5-5) at No. 7 Clovis (7-3), Division I first round: The first time the teams met, Clovis had a huge first quarter and then hung on for dear life. But how much do the Golden Hawks have left in the tank?
No. 10 West (5-5) at No. 7 Lemoore (6-4), Division II first round: Rematch of last year's quarterfinal, when the No. 11 Vikings stunned the No. 3 Tigers
No. 11 North (4-6) at No. 6 Tehachapi (7-3), Division II first round: Any reason to believe this one will be different than Tehachapi's big win at North? Stars will fight, we know that.
No. 9 Independence (4-6) at No. 8 Golden Valley (5-5), Division III first round: The seeds seem reversed here, based on Indy's extreme advantage in strength of schedule. Will that play out in the result?