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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
Sorry for the late predictions, but they're in 24 hours before gametime, which gives you plenty of time to pick them apart.
It's been a busy preps week, and today might be the pinnacle of that, with prep volleyball quarterfinals going off tonight, preceded by the girls golf Southern Cal regional, at which neither Stockdale's team nor any local individuals advanced to state, and the league cross country finals this afternoon at Hart Park.
But Friday and the football playoffs are what we're all waiting for.
Back to predictions: I had another good week last week, continuing my bounceback from the Week 8 debacle. The nitty gritty follows.
The good: Another very solid week overall, but in particular, I almost nailed the score for Bakersfield's win over Stockdale and Ridgeview over Golden Valley.
The bad: My upset pick of Arvin over BCHS worked out ... until the final few minutes, when the Eagles scored a touchdown to beat the Bears. Also way off on the type of game Garces-Tehachapi would be. Thought shooout, turned into a grinder.
The ugly: I don't think I was alone here, but I thought with a playoff spot on the line, Foothill would have no trouble with Highland. Thought wrong.
Friday, Nov. 9
CENTRAL SECTION PLAYOFFS
DIVISION I FIRST ROUND
NO. 12 CLOVIS EAST (2-8) AT NO. 5 BAKERSFIELD (8-2) — Normally, every Division I team is at the very least a competitive and tough out, making even the first-round games fun to watch. I can't remember the last time I felt like a D-I playoff game was more of a mismatch. Clovis East hasn't won a game since Sept. 21, and the Timberwolves' five losses since then came by an average of 36 points. This has all the markings of a team that is ready for the season to end. Bakersfield, meanwhile, has something to prove after starting the year as a unanimous section No. 1 and then dropping two of three games in the middle of the season. The Drillers still have one of the most talented rosters in the section and perhaps the Valley's most accomplished coaching staff. I'll be stunned if this is a game in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Bakersfield 52, Clovis East 6
NO. 10 FRESNO-BULLARD (7-3) AT NO. 7 STOCKDALE (5-5) — This is a much tougher egg to crack. Both schools have looked just fine in breezing past lesser opponents and have had issues when they step up in class: Bullard lost by double digits to Division I teams Buchanan, Clovis West and Edison, while Stockdale lost by 20-plus to Clovis, Garces, Frontier and Bakersfield. Something's gotta give here, and my thinking is it might be the Knights' running defense. Stockdale has so many options in the backfield, and Bullard doesn't have the top-notch front seven it had last year in reaching the section title game. The great equalizer, as always, could be turnovers, and the Mustangs have had huge problems with that in their losses. But that's hard to predict, and so I'll go with what we know: Stockdale should be able to move the ball regularly.
Prediction: Stockdale 42, Bullard 31
NO. 9 CLOVIS-BUCHANAN (4-6) AT NO. 8 LIBERTY (6-4) — There are a lot of mines in the Division I field, but I have to think Buchanan wanted to avoid a trip to Kern County. The Bears' first two jaunts this way ended in lopsided defeats at the hands of Liberty and Stockdale — not to mention that Bakersfield High laid the wood on Buchanan at home. But here we are, and Buchanan is headed this way again. Any reason to believe a change is in store from the first meeting, a 42-21 Liberty win? Well, the Patriots returned a kick for a touchdown and got a free TD when a bad snap sailed over Buchanan's punter's head. If the Bears can shore up special teams, they can make this a game. But the Patriots had control of that first meeting with defense and running game before the game turned on those two big plays. Liberty is still a bit beat up on the offensive line, but it's healthier than it was in losses to Frontier and Stockdale in Weeks 7-8. That should be enough to make it an SWYL sweep in the first round.
Prediction: Liberty 34, Buchanan 21
DIVISION II FIRST ROUND
NO. 11 WEST (4-6) AT NO. 6 TEHACHAPI (8-2) — Based on records and recent program success, you'd think this to be a mismatch, too, but keep in mind two things: (1) The SYL was a tougher league top-to-bottom than the SEYL, making things tough on West, and (2) The Vikings played Tehachapi tough in a 34-29 loss at home in the regular season. This one is on the mountain, however, on a day that's supposed to see a 12-15 degree drop in temperatures. That's not good news for West, nor is the fact that the Warriors seem to be playing really well right now. Even in a season-ending loss to top seed Garces, Tehachapi played tough. The Rams' spread offense didn't shoot off many fireworks, which is probably bad news for West's athletic attack. The Warriors, as usual, have that look of a team that could go deep in the playoffs, no matter their seed.
Prediction: Tehachapi 35, West 23
DIVISION III FIRST ROUND
NO. 9 FRESNO-WASHINGTON UNION (3-7) AT NO. 8 DELANO (5-5) — I'm in the minority here, but in general I'm not a big believer in momentum. Oftentimes a long winning or losing streak is more the result of an injury bug or a turn in the schedule than any magical wave of good feelings or current of bad ones. This is all a way to lead into saying ... I'm still not sold on Delano, and it doesn't have much to do with the Tigers' current four-game losing streak. Truth is, the Tigers haven't beaten a winning team all year, and they haven't been competitive against most of them. Washington Union certainly isn't the same team that won a CIF state bowl championship in Division III, but the remaining Panthers have good feelings from the playoffs. Give me Washington Union in a mild upset.
Prediction: Washington Union 31, Delano 27
DIVISION IV FIRST ROUND
NO. 9 CHAVEZ (5-5) AT NO. 8 ARVIN (6-4) — Both teams come in feeling OK about themselves — Chavez won its final two games, then had a Week 10 bye, and Arvin was competitive (for a half) with top seed Wasco and for the whole game with No. 3 Bakersfield Christian. This is a brutal draw for either, because the winner will have to face Wasco again, but you can be sure either team would love the chance. That's especially true for Arvin, which has toughened up on D throughout the year and learned that Orlando Perez is a real star offensively. The Bears beat the Titans 32-20 up in Delano in the second week of league play. Both teams are playing better now, but this one is in Arvin. Give it to the Bears by a couple of scores.
Prediction: Arvin 35, Chavez 17
DIVISION VI QUARTERFINALS
NO. 6 KENNEDY (2-8) AT NO. 3 STRATHMORE (5-5) — I'm not totally sure how Kennedy got a No. 6 behind McFarland when the Thunderbirds beat the Cougars early in the year, but right now, this is a program just happy to be in the playoffs at all after three consecutive 0-10 seasons to start its history. The downside is that this is a rematch of a game won 36-14 by Strathmore back in Week 1. Kennedy will have toughened up since then with the SSL schedule, but it also might be more beaten up. The Thunderbirds won't get blown out again here, but I think Strathmore marches on.
Prediction: Strathmore 24, Kennedy 16
NO. 5 McFARLAND (3-7) AT NO. 4 AVENAL (6-5) — The Buccaneers are quite a turnaround story, going from 1-9 last year to a winning record and a home playoff game in 2012. McFarland has played some of its best ball since a 19-3 loss at home to Avenal on Sept. 28, going 3-2 since then and reaching the playoffs. Whether that's enough to make a 16-point difference when going home to road seems a lot less certain. In a game where a win for either team could make the season a success no matter what happens in next week's semifinals against No. 1 seed Mendota, I'm leaning towards Avenal.
Prediction: Avenal 23, McFarland 10
LEMOORE-KINGS CHRISTIAN (6-4) AT NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN (8-2) — I've been mistaken about this all year long (8-man football schedules and procedures are notoriously difficult to decipher). In years past, the Central Section has just named the winner of its only 8-man league the section champion, but this year, the top two finishers will face off. Neither had a close game in league except against each other, and that game was a 77-64 Northwest Christian victory. This Guardians team has a lot of ties to the 2007 8-man section title team at the school, then known as Lighthouse Christian. The coach, Jeremy Trammell, had two younger brothers on the team, and several players had older brothers play. That's enough of a pedigree for me: Give the first Valley football title of the year to Northwest Christian.
Prediction: Northwest Christian 63, Kings Christian 48
SOUTHERN SECTION PLAYOFFS
EASTERN DIVISION (VIII)
SAN JACINTO (6-4) AT BURROUGHS (5-5) — Neither team was a world-beater during the regular season, but both did enough to earn playoff berths — and in Burroughs' case, win a share of the Desert Sky League title with Barstow, which the Burros defeated. Now they can see if a playoff run can be put together. Judging by past scores, the teams look pretty evenly matched. San Jacinto has been more competitive against good teams, while Burroughs has been much better at home. It's hard to say which means more. When in doubt, go with the home team? Normally, but something tells me the Tigers' experience in close games against good teams wins out here.
Prediction: San Jacinto 28, Burroughs 24
NORTHEAST DIVISION (XIII)
ANZA-HAMILTON (5-5) AT BORON (9-1) — It's been a strange season for Boron, which won every game by at least 50 points — except for a 48-6 loss to Rio Hondo Prep, which kind of soured the whole experience, I would think. Now the Bobcats step out of the weak Desert Mountain League and into another matchup they should win easily. Rio Hondo Prep would await in the section semifinals, should both teams get there. That would be a much-desired chance for redemption for Boron and quarterback Austyn Fink, who leads Kern County in passing. Step one in that process shouldn't be a problem.
Prediction: Boron 59, Hamilton 3
SANTA MONICA-ST. MONICA (5-4) AT KERN VALLEY (7-3) — Another year, another playoff berth for Ben Goffinett's Broncs, and the bonus here is that they get a game against a pretty evenly matched opponent at home. That's a huge edge for Kern Valley, which enjoys the same kind of mountain edge Tehachapi does. St. Monica played a pretty tough schedule, but none of its results really pop out at me. They'll struggle after a long trip, both in distance and altitude.
Prediction: Kern Valley 31, St. Monica 21
FRAZIER MOUNTAIN (6-4) AT SAN LUIS OBISPO-MISSION PREP (8-1) — Congratulations to Frazier Mountain and coach Russell Heasley in his first year; the Falcons were given an at-large berth to the Division XIII playoffs and can officially call this season a success no matter what happens here. That's good, because Mission Prep, formerly of the Central Section, is having one of the best seasons in program history. The Royals' only loss came to unbeaten Santa Barbara-Bishop Diego last week, and Mission Prep is in line for consideration for a regional bowl berth.
Prediction: Mission Prep 45, Frazier Mountain 13
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO-SADDLEBACK VALLEY CHRISTIAN (6-4) AT DESERT (6-4) — Another even matchup, though Desert seems to have figured things out at the right time. After three losses in four games early in the season (though there's no shame in losing to Boron, Fillmore and Bishop), the Scorpions finished by winning three out of four, and the one loss was in overtime to a good Kern Valley team last week. At home, I think Desert can take care of business here and have its shot at (probably) Rio Hondo Prep next week.
Prediction: Desert 33, Saddleback Valley Christian 17
8-MAN DIVISION I QUARTERFINALS
CARPINTERIA-CATE (8-1) AT MOJAVE (9-1) — It's too early to call this a championship-caliber game, but the winner of this quarterfinal is going to be feeling pretty good about itself going into the final four. For Mojave, a title run would be a great way to wrap up its first season as an 8-man program, but the Mustangs better have figured out a way to stop Cate, which beat Mojave 70-40 early in the season. I think the teams are more evenly matched than that, but I don't see how the Mustangs can make up a 30-point difference.
Prediction: Cate 55, Mojave 44
Last week: 18-2 (.900)
This year: 202-46 (.815)