UPDATED, 11:22 p.m.: Join us now on the bakersfield.com home page for BVarsity Live to recap a wild night of Central Section quarterfinals. Big upsets for Independence and Ridgview in Division III, and Bakersfield wins big again in Division I. Garces is playing much better defense, which makes the Rams very scary in Division II. And I'm still really looking forward to the Division IV semifinals, both Wasco at Mission Oak and Bakersfield Christian at CVC.
And how hard is it to knock out defending champions? All six from last year are still alive, and all won rather easily on this night: Clovis North, Garces, Ridgeview, Wasco, Liberty-Madera Ranchos and Mendota (which is up in Division V). All scores from the night are complete and are at the bottom of the post.
UPDATED, 9:34 p.m.: Great punt for Dakota Stillson backs Liberty up to its 23. 1:51 left. Medina throws incomplete. Now a false start, and it's second-and-15. Pass complete to Priest for 17 yards to the 35 for a first down. Liberty moving quickly now, completing a couple to Jountti out of the backfield for a couple of first downs. They're in long field goal range now. One more pass attempt for Medina goes incomplete. Fourth down. Zach Sullivan on for a 46-yard field goal that would tie this game. It's way wide left. Clovis will win, 20-17. A last-ditch final drive by Liberty ends in a long missed field goal, and the seventh-seeded Cougars march on to the semifinals.
UPDATED, 9:23 p.m.: Clovis picks up a first down on a third-and-1, and the clock runs down inside 2:30. Three yards on first down, and Liberty uses its first timeout. Watkins again on second down, and this time he lost yardage. Liberty's second timeout. Now Hartmann keeps, and he's taken down behind the line. Liberty's third timeout with 1:59. Clovis will punt.
UPDATED, 9:16 p.m.: Another kickoff out of bounds for Clovis. Unbelievable. The second time, the Cougars squib it, and it sets Liberty up at the 35. Pass from Medina to Brewer is complete deep down the sideline for 21 yards to the Clovis 44. The Patriots stall there, though, and Medina is sacked again on third down. The Pats will punt, and Sullivan's kick bounces into the end zone. Clovis with it, 3:56 left, and Liberty has all three timeouts.
UPDATED, 9:10 p.m.: Liberty forced to punt after another three-and-out. Clovis' defense has done a nice job tonight, but the Cougars need to put together a drive. 9:54 left. Third and 5 right away. Watkins picks up 5 for the first down. Now Hartmann hits Mark Rivera on a wheel route for a big gain. UP to the 48. Two plays later, Clovis fumbles — and Liberty has it. Another Cougars turnover, their fourth, and this one is huge with 7:24 left.
But now Liberty has fumbled the snap, and Clovis has it back. That's the Patriots' first turnover, and Clovis gets a mulligan on its miscue. Big play now, Hartmann deep to Mitchell, all the way down to the 19. Now Watkins with a seam for 15 yards. First and goal. Two plays later, Watkins is in — ball loose, but he crossed the goal line first. Extra point blocked, though, and that's big, because it keeps Clovis' lead at 20-17 with 5:48 left.
UPDATED, 8:57 pm.: A block in the back behind the line of scrimmage is going to put Clovis way off schedule here late in the third. It's seocnd-and-34. Hartmann throws it up for grabs, and Stavros Katsntonis intercepts it. He has a little return going now, and now there's a bunch of flags on the field. Hartmann got into it with a Liberty defender back behind the line of scrimmage. tempers flaring. Penalty is on the Patriots, and Bryan Nixon is hot on the sideline. After all of that, it's the end of the third quarter, and a Liberty first down at its 31.
UPDATED, 8:48 p.m.: Clovis kicks three more kicks out of bounds — don't know what is going on there, but the Cougars coaches are screaming in the booth next to me — and Liberty is set up on its 45 after all of that.
The Patriots go three-and-out, though, with Medina missing a wide receiver on third down. He's not happy, and Liberty will have to punt. Sullivan on and looks like he's pinned the Cougars deep — and the Clovis returner muffs it. Big pile on the ball. Liberty has it at the 11. Wow, another gaffe by Clovis.
Liberty's offense stalls, though, with Medina getting only 5 on third-and-9, and Sullivan is on for a short field goal. It's a 22-yarder, barely longer than an extra point, and Sullivan blasts it through. 17-14 Liberty with 2:40 left in the third quarter.
UPDATED, 8:40 p.m.: Clovis West wide receiver Tristan Edwards collapsed on Griffith Field and was taken off the field by ambulance. Obviously, prayers and best wishes to Edwards.
On the field at Bakersfield, the Drillers lead the Golden Eagles, 37-7. Easy stuff for big-play Bakersfield.
Here, Clovis is grinding out a drive, but it's third-and-8 from the 47. Hartmann throws a jump ball up, and Brett Stelling comes down with it inside the 30. Two plays later, play-action pass, and Hartmann hits a wide-open Tevin Mitchell. Touchdown, Clovis. Boy, that happened on two big pass plays. Now the Cougars will go for 2. Hartmann, again with play-action, and he reverses field to Watkins. Wide open. 2-pointer is good, and we're tied, 14-14.
UPDATED, 8:29 p.m.: Liberty picks up one first down and then is forced to punt, thanks to another Clovis sack. So Cougars get the ball back at their own 40. Hartmann will pass, and it's tipped up — and picked off. Running the other way is Anthony Mariscal, with his bad arm hanging at his side. He's gonna score! 45-yard interception return by a guy with one good arm, and what a huge, game-changing play that is. PAT good, and it's 14-6 Liberty with 8:53 left in the half.
UPDATED, 8:20 p.m.: Halftime stats: Clovis has a 152-100 edge in total yards, but the Cougars' failure to punch in a ball inside the Liberty 10 is the difference so far. It's 7-6 Liberty at the half.
Here are some individual statistics:
PASSING: RJ Hartmann, Clovis, 8/13, 69 yards, INT; Josh Medina, Liberty 4/7, 55 yards, TD
RUSHING: Marlon Watkins, Clovis, 14-83; Liberty: Quincy Jountti 5-33, Anthony Mariscal 6-24
RECEIVING: Tevin Mitchell, Clovis 3-36; Ross Puskarich, Liberty, 1-35, TD
UPDATED, 8:03 p.m.: Bakersfield gets a safety on a bad Clovis West punt snap, and the Drillers lead 23-7 over at Griffith Field. Sheldon Croney has scored for Garces, and the Rams lead Tehachapi 7-3 in Division II.
Here, Clovis is trying to get some points before halftime. Hartmann picks up 6 on a scramble, then 9 for Watkins and a first down. Now Watkins with a hole up the middle and a nice push across midfield. Gain of 16 there. Clock down to 3:30. Holding call will push Clovis back, but Hartmann hits Tevin MItchell in the flat for a 14-yard gain. Now Watkins fumbles but gets it back. Third down. Watkins got 4, a yard short. Clovis timeout. Cougars are going to go for it, 1:07 left in the half.
Watkins got 5, needed just 1. First down Clovis, but time is a factor now. Hartmann keeps on second down and gets 8, and now he hits Mitchell for a quick 12 down to the Liberty 15. Cougars have just one timeout left, and the clock is down to 14 seconds. Hartmann to pass. Now he runs. Doesn't get out of bounds — and the clock spills over to 0:00. I think there should be a second left on the clock. The refs agree. One second for Dakota Stilson to cut into the lead. It's a 30-yard attempt, and it's right down the middle. Cougars cut into the lead, but Liberty leads 7-6 at the break.
Drillers have scored again and lead Clovis West 30-7. It's halftime at Garces, with the Rams still ahead, 7-3. Wasco leads Exeter 28-7 at halftime. Ridgeview up 7-6 on Washington Union, and Dinuba up 14-10 on South, both in the second quarter.
UPDATED, 7:48 p.m.: After two kickoffs went out of bounds and Liberty returned the third to the 40. Mariscal is out there, but he's split out as a wide receiver. Quincy Jountti is the running back, and he picks up 14 — and nearly busted that for a touchdown around the left end, but he lost his balance at the last minute and fell.
Now a holding call gives Liberty a first down at the 35. Medina throws on a seam route, complete to Ross Pukarich. Now Puskarich running horizontally and finding some room to the left. He'll go all the way in for the 35-yard TD. Liberty leads 7-3 with 4:24 to go in the half.
UPDATED, 7:36 p.m.: Josh Medina sacked again on third down, and Liberty will have to punt it away from deep in its own end again. Clovis to take over at its 49. Marlon Watkins with some nice running now, picking up 16 yards on third-and-6, and then 22 to get down inside the 10. Liberty holds from there and forces a 21-yard field goal attempt. Dakota Stilson hurries out onto the field and pokes it through. Clovis leads, 3-0, with 5:50 left in half.
UPDATED, 7:27 p.m.: Garces has turned the ball over twice in the early-going, and the Rams trail Tehachapi, 3-0.
Here, Clovis has a nice drive thwarted by a Peyton Solf sack on second down and then a Clovis drop on third down. The Cougars' Alan Crowley with a nice punt that dies at the 7, so Liberty is backed up.
Cougars force a three-and-out, and now Liberty will have to punt it from its own end zone. Decent punt, but Clovis is set up at the Patriots 40. Hartmann will go deep, and there's a man open — but Braylin Evans made up the ground and took the ball with a brilliant one-handed pick! Man, what a play. Liberty backed up again at its own 5, but the Pats do get the ball back.
Third-and-4 now. Mariscal has the first down, but he's hurt. Holding his left elbow or shoulder. End of the first quarter.
UPDATED, 7:13 p.m.: Liberty on a nice drive here, sparked by a 12-yard gain on a draw play by Quincy Jountti and then 9-yard gains from Anthony Mariscal and a Josh Medina-to-Hanz Harker pass. Patriots are in the red zone now. Now they face their first third down. It's third-and-8 from the 17. Medina has time, but he's run down from behind now and sacked by Nick Nevills. So it's a 41-yard field goal for Zach Sullivan. He pushes it right, and it never hooks back. Nice drive for Liberty nets nothing. We're scoreless, 6:23 left in the first quarter.
UPDATED, 7:04 p.m.: We're just a few minutes from kickoff here at Liberty, where the No. 2 seed Patriots are taking on No. 7 Clovis in a Central Section Division I quarterfinal that appears, on the surface, to be very evenly matched.
It looks like Liberty won the toss and deferred. Clovis will start with the ball.
Cougars QB R.J. Hartmann tries a swing pass to Marlon Watkins, and Anthony Mariscal is there for the tackle. Watkins loses a yard on the next play, and now Hartmann overthrows a receiver. A three-and-out for the Liberty defense.
ORIGINAL POST: It's only six days until Thanksgiving, and the business end of the Central Section football playoffs are finally here. Who will still be practicting before they eat turkey? We find out tonight.
One team that will be on that list is Independence, which sprung an upset in a Thursday night special last night. The Falcons, seeded No. 9 in Division III, beat top seed Tulare Western 21-7 to advance to next week's semis, where they'll play either South or Dinuba. I wanted to see a South-Independence game at some point this year, and it certainly seems possible now (though I picked Dinuba on the road tonight).
Everything else gets going at 7 p.m., including four really good quarterfinal matchups in Division I. The live blog will be at Clovis-Liberty. Join us in the next hour for more updates and video highlights.
(All games 7 p.m. Friday unless noted; playoff seed in parentheses)
DIVISION I QUARTERFINALS
(1) Bakersfield 44, (8) Clovis West 21, F
(5) Fresno-Central 21, (4) Fresno-Edison 20, F
(6) Clovis North 35, (3) Fresno-Bullard 0, F
(7) Clovis 20, (2) Liberty 17, F
DIVISION II QUARTERFINALS
(1) Visalia-El Diamante 41, (9) Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial 20, F
(5) Sanger 7, (4) Visalia-Redwood 0, F
(3) Garces 20, (6) Tehachapi 3, F
(2) Kingsburg 21, (7) Lemoore 13, F
DIVISION III QUARTERFINALS
(9) Independence 21, (1) Tulare Western 7, F (Thursday)
(5) Dinuba 42, (4) South 35, F
(6) Ridgeview 24, (3) Fresno-Washington Union 6, F
(2) Porterville 61, (10) Madera 12, F
DIVISION IV QUARTERFINALS
(1) Tulare-Mission Oak 68, (9) Fresno-Roosevelt 18, F
(4) Wasco 42, (5) Exeter 28, F
(3) Bakersfield Christian 61, (11) Kerman 21, F
(2) Visalia-Central Valley Christian 28, (7) Chavez 16, F
DIVISION V QUARTERFINALS
(1) Liberty-Madera Ranchos 42, (8) Caruthers 3, F
(4) Lindsay 28, (5) Kern Valley 20, F
(3) Firebaugh 54, (11) Reedley-Immanuel 40, F
(2) Mendota 52, (7) Shafter 12, F
DIVISION VI SEMIFINALS
(1) Farmersville 50, (5) Laton 8, F
(2) Strathmore 20, (3) Avenal 8, F
NORTHEAST DIVISION QUARTERFINALS
L.A.-Salesian 43, Boron 0, F
Desert 36, San Juan Capistrano-Saddleback Valley Christian 20, F