The playoffs started this weekend, but it didn't really feel like it. It was woodshed weekend in the Central Section, partcularly in Division I, where the average margin of victory in five games was 35 points. That's ... not very dramatic.
The good news is that the preliminaries are over now. Every team that's in the quarterfinals, at least in the top four divisions or so, is there because they're a good football team that earned its spot in one fashion or another. There are no easy outs from here on out.
But, as a matter of course, here's a brief look back at Round 1.
Liberty 28, Clovis-Buchanan 3: Don't discount this accomplishment for Liberty just because it wasn't the most exciting game we've ever seen. The Patriots got through the first round easily, were able to rest starters in the fourth quarter and didn't have to give up much from the playbook with a filmer from Clovis on hand. That means it's on to Clovis for Liberty and running back Corbin Jountti, who finished this one with 142 yards. Can the Patriots hang with the Cougars? I think they can. Can they beat them? Not sure about that. But I don't see a blowout.
Bakersfield 63, Clovis East 7: Seeing as the Drillers had this one well in hand by halftime, I'm not sure what the point in adding on three more scores was, unless it was to reinforce to Clovis East that entering the playoffs as a 2-8 team riding a five-game blowout streak is probably a bad idea. As for Bakersfield, it's on to Central, where the competition will be much tougher. It does appear that BHS is back to playing the way it was when we all thought the Drillers would sweep the section. Now to put that theory to the test.
Fresno-Bullard 42, Stockdale 14: An early turnover turned the tide squarely against the Mustangs, and, as they did in previous losses, things pretty quickly went from bad to worse. Stockdale had a chance to pull within a touchdown in the second quarter after Xavier Chisholm was carted off the field with a head injury (minor concussion is the word), but the Knights came up with a goal-line stand, then went 99 yards for a 27-7 lead and never really looked back. Bullard gets Clovis North in the quarterfinals, with Edison (a 41-15 winner over Clovis West) visiting Frontier in the fourth quarter.
West 31, Tehachapi 13: This was no fluke upset. The Vikings, after conceding an early touchdown to Tehachapi, dominated this one on both sides of the ball. Enrique Salazar threw for 172 yards and two TDs, and Micah Mitchell scored on an 89-yard run while West forced two turnovers and got three stops on downs against a usually very efficient Tehachapi attack. The Vikings next face Lemoore, with Kingsburg at Garces, Sunnyside at El Diamante and Redwood at Sanger the other Division II quarterfinals.
Delano 22, Fresno-Washington Union 13: Huge win for the Tigers, who dominated the middle of the game after falling behind at the start and then hung on late. Mario Millian showed in this one that Delano's program has staying power beyond one group of good players. Daniel Quiroz threw for 149 yards and a touchdown. Now the Tigers get to take their shot at top seed Ridgeview. The other D-III quarters: South at Independence, Porterville at Mt. Whitney and Madera at Dinuba.
Arvin 19, Chavez 14: A long third-quarter touchdown drive won it for Arvin after Chavez had erased a 13-0 deficit behind Joe Cervantes' running. Orlando Perez ran for 122 yards and a TD for the Bears, who next get a rematch with Wasco. Remember, Arvin was ahead of the Tigers 21-14 in the second quarter of the first meeting and withing 35-28 late in the third before Wasco pulled away. We'll see if this one will be another test. Other D-IV quarters: Chowchilla at Coalinga, Fowler at Bakersfield Christian and Hanford West at Mission Oak.
Elsewhere: Northwest Christian rode two pick-six touchdowns from Deven Hillberg and four rushing TDs from Michael Pope to a 75-60 victory over Lemoore-Kings Christian for the Central Section 8-man championship. Congrats to the Guardians on their first section title since 2007. ... Burroughs continued to play well at home, beating San Jacinto 17-8 for one of the Burros' best victories of the season. Burroughs will play Rialto-Carter in the Southern Section Division VIII quarterfinals, with the location of that game to be determined by coin flip. ... In Division XIII, Boron (68-0 over Anza-Hamilton) and Desert (28-21 over Saddleback Valley Christian) both moved on to the quarters, while Kern Valley (28-26 to St. Monica) and Frazier Mountain (41-8 to Mission Prep) both saw their seasons end in the first round. ... Finally, another Kern County 8-man team is alive for a championship after Mojave blased Carpinteria-Cate 63-21. The Mustangs avenged their only loss and play Victorville-Excelsior in the section semifinals.
My apologies: Because of technical difficulties, a replay of Friday's BVarsity Live is unavailable this week. But we're already looking forward to next week. In a week full of big games, here are the five I'm the most excited for:
Bakersfield (9-2) at Fresno-Central (9-2): Nobody would have blinked before the season if this had been revealed as the section final. A ton of talent on that field.
Fresno-Edison (8-3) at Frontier (7-3): Rematch of the 2009 D-II section final, won by Edison. This time, it's Frontier that has the big, bad line. But Edison has loads of speed.
Liberty (7-4) at Clovis (9-1): Not your typical 1 vs. 8 matchup. Both teams play close-to-the-vest football, so this could come down to the wire.
Kingsburg (9-2) at Garces (9-1): Again, as No. 8 seeds go, Garces could have hoped for an easier matchup than a three-time defending section champ.
South (7-3) at Independence (5-5): The Falcons' schedule, the theory goes, makes them dangerous in Division III. Or maybe it's just that Indy is a really good D-III team.