UPDATED, 12:47 a.m.: Ridgeview ended up beating Porterville in a thriller, 38-35 in double overtime, on the strength of Ryan Huish's 39-yard game-winning field goal. The Wolf Pack won despite losing its top two quarterbacks to injury; freshman Ja'Mar Moya finished the game at QB.
So here are next week's title games. Five of last year's six section champions are still alive, with only Wasco coming up short in title defense thus far.
Division I: No. 6 Clovis North at No. 1 Bakersfield
Division II: No. 3 Garces at No. 1 Visalia-El Diamante
Division III: No. 6 Ridgeview at No. 5 Dinuba
Division IV: No. 3 Bakersfield Christian at No. 1 Tulare-Mission Oak
Division V: No. 2 Mendota at No. 1 Liberty-Madera Ranchos
Division VI: No. 1 Farmersville 47, No. 2 Strathmore 35 (tonight)
UPDATED, 9:45 p.m.: El Diamante scores a touchdown with 4 seconds left to beat Sanger, 21-17, so the Miners will host Garces next week in the Division II championship. A Sanger win would have given Garces a home game.
In Division III, Ridgeview and Porterville are headed to overtime at 28-28. Dinuba leads Independence 56-34 with three minutes left.
Mission Oak beat Wasco big, so the Hawks will host Bakersfield Christian, which beat CVC 21-14, for the championship next week.
UPDATED, 9:21 p.m.: Final score: Bakersfield 45, Central 6. More dominance from the Drillers, who allowed only 86 yards of offense. Bakersfield vs. Clovis North for the title next week.
UPDATED, 9:19 p.m.: The Drillers will face Clovis North for the championship next week. The Broncos beat Clovis 28-14 in the other Division I semifinal. BHS vs. defending champs next week at Griffith Field.
UPDATED, 9:11 p.m.: Bakersfield has tacked on a 33-yard field goal from Coleman Olivas, and it's 38-6 at the end of the third quarter.
Most of the dramatic action is going on elsewhere. Ridgeview clings to a 28-21 lead at Porterville as they end the third quarter. Garces holds a 25-14 lead at Kingsburg in Division II. All the scores are updating at the bottom of the post.
Now Marcus Bruce has just returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown. It's 45-6, and we've got a running clock. In a section semifinal. Really.
UPDATED, 8:55 p.m.: Bakersfield has a 302-37 edge in total yardage, including 259-9 on the ground, at the half. Drillers getting the ball first in the second half, too. Good kickoff return from Marcus Watkins sets them up at their own 43. But an incomplete pass and a couple of tackles for losses make it fourth-and-long. Hayes will punt — no, he won't. He's taking off on a fake, makes one man miss and then nothing but green in front of him. He picks up 22 and the first down. Central's defense was pumped up with the stop, but now they've got to get back out there. Rufus keeps for 25 yards, and Bakersfield is in business again. But now the Grizzlies come up with a stop and get it back. But Central is backed up at its own 10 — make it the 5 after a substitution. Nick Wilson picks up 6, then 2, to set up third down. Jimenez to throw now, and it's picked off by Vickers at the 34.
A penalty and two plays later, it's a one-yard Bruce touchdown run for Bakersfield and a 35-6 lead. This one is over but the shouting (and there's plenty of that, with another unsportsmanlike penalty flag down, this one against Central.
Elsewhere, Clovis is making a comeback on Clovis North. It's now 21-14 Broncos. Garces and Ridgeview with leads, Wasco is trailing MIssion Oak and Bakersfield Christian is tied with CVC.
UPDATED, 8:17 p.m.: There was a flag on the touchdown, unsportsmanlike conduct against Bakersfield. I think Vickers was called for taunting on the touchdown run. So that could give Quick another chance at a return. Instead, Olivas squibs it and Central falls on it, but the Grizzlies have good field position at their 49. Short complete from Szpor to Tamar Johnson, and he brings it down to the 32, plus a flag for roughing the passer. That sets Central up all the way down at the Bakersfield 17, but now Szpor is sacked by Malone and Nathaniel Stancil back at the 23. Now Nick Wilson is taken down by Malone at the line of scrimmage, and it'll be third and long. Wilson, nursing that sprained ankle, comes limping off again after that. Now Szpor throws incomplete. Fourth down. Central calls timeout, but they're going to go for it with 1:41 left in the half. Szpor, under pressure, incomplete again. Not much avaiable downfield against the Drillers tonight. Central turns it over on downs with 1:36 remaining.
Option pitch from Rufus to Hill picks up 13, and Hill goes out of bounds — kind of gingerly, I might add, so we'll keep an eye on whether he comes back in the game. Might be hurt. Two plays later, it's third-and-7, and Rufus is sacked. Fourth down. Hayes will punt for Bakersfield. Only 14 seconds left for Central. Grizzlies throw downfield incomplete a couple of times, and that's the half. Dominating 28-6 lead for Bakersfield.
UPDATED, 8:04 p.m.: Bakersfield is forced to punt for the first time tonight, but the Drillers answer with a defensive stop (with the help of a third-down holding call) and get it back at the Central 43.
After a Rufus loss on a run, Jeremiah Reddick picks up 27 on a rough-and-tumble run, and Bakersfield is in business again. Bubble screen to Vickers. He cuts it back in and is going to go all the way. 19 yards for the touchdown, and it's 28-6 Drillers.
UPDATED, 7:44 p.m.: Central picks up its first first down of the night on a 16-yard Nick Wilson run, but the Grizzlies are three plays and out from there, with a drop from one of the receivers key. Central punts to Kevin Hayes, who runs 15 yards backwards trying to find a lane before he's dragged down. Ill-advised return there, so Bakersfield is backed up.
Marcus Bruce picks up an 18-yard gain and a first down two plays later, the first quarter comes to an end.
Drillers marching now in the second quarter, facing a third-and-1 at the Central 44. Rufus keeps and he has a big hole on the option. A huge hole. Michiah Quick will catch up to him, but Rufus drags him down to the 1. First and goal, and from there, Reddick has the touchdown. It's 21-0 and look out, because Bakersfield might run away with this one.
Drillers have been using a short kickoff, and this time, Central pitches it 12 yards backwards to Quick, who's cutting across midfield. He's running away from people, and he's gonna go — 81 yards for a touchdown! What an answer for Central, which will go for 2. It's a run, and David Hernandez is bottled up. No good. It's 21-6 Bakersfield.
UPDATED, 7:29 p.m.: Bakersfield forces a three-and-out, with a Kevin Hayes tackle for loss and a Dillon Littles sack to thank, and now the Drillers on the move again. Option pitch to Derrick Vickers picks up 20, and now runs from Lameshio Hill and Jeremiah Reddick have the ball on the 13. Rufus fumbles — for the second time tonight — but Hill gets it back in the middle of a big pile-up. A break for the Drillers, though it's now third-and-12. Bubble screen to Coleman Olivas, who darts inside down to the 6. It'll be fourth down. Drillers going for it after a timeout.
Reddick gets it with a second effort, down to the 1. Now Rufus on an option keeper. Walks in for a touchdown. PAT good, and it's 14-0.
UPDATED, 7:14 p.m.: Three turnovers on the first six plays in an extraordinary start here at Griffith Field. Derrick Vickers intercepted Eric Jimenez and returned it all the way to the Central 9, but two plays later, Jonathan Malone fumbled into the end zone, handing the ball back to the Grizzlies via a touchback. On the next play, though, a new Central quarterback, Nick Szpor, threw another pick, a jump ball that Kevin Hayes came down with at midfield.
From there, things settled down a bit. Bakersfield converted a fourth-and-1 with a 27-yard gain inside the 20. Two plays later, Marcus Bruce banged in a 2-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. That's a lot that's happened in less than four minutes.
UPDATED, 6:50 p.m.: The BVarsity Live crew is live at Griffith Field at Bakersfield High, where the top-seeded Drillers are hosting Central in the Division I section semifinals. Kickoff is about 13 minutes away in all of the semifinals across the Central Section. The rest of Kern County, as previously mentioned, is on the road tonight, everywhere from Porterville to Dinuba to Kingsburg.
We're about to go on the air — we'll have extended highlights up later, but we can't live stream because of rights agreements the Central Section has. But you can get all the updates you want right here.
ORIGINAL POST: It's going to be a mostly dark Friday night in Bakersfield, with the notable exception of Griffith Field, where the lights will shine down on a juicy Central Section Division I semifinal between Fresno-Central and Bakersfield.
As opposed to last year, when three Kern County teams had No. 1 seeds and hosted playoff games on their way to championships, every other local team must hit the road tonight. That doesn't mean none will win — on the contrary, I think most expect Bakersfield Christian to avenge its loss to CVC, and all three of those defending chmapions (Garces, Ridgeview and Wasco) won't go down easily. Neither will Independence, for that matter, I wouldn't think.
But here on the blog, we'll focus mostly on the Central-BHS game, with the winner taking on either Clovis North or Clovis in next week's D-I championship. For the Drillers, ranked No. 17 in the state by Cal Hi Sports, a win means not only a chance at extending their state record of 35 section championships but also continued hope for their first CIF regional bowl berth.
We'll keep an eye on scores from all across the section and update tonight, but the live updates and highlights are coming at you from Griffith Field starting at about 6:30 p.m.
(All games 7 p.m. Friday; Central Section seed in parentheses)
DIVISION I SEMIFINALS
(1) Bakersfield 45, (5) Fresno-Central 6, F
(6) Clovis North 28, (7) Clovis 14, F
DIVISION II SEMIFINALS
(1) Visalia-El Diamante 21, (5) Sanger 17, F
(3) Garces 32, (2) Kingsburg 14, F
DIVISION III SEMIFINALS
(5) Dinuba 56, (9) Independence 34, F
(6) Ridgeview 38, (2) Porterville 35, F (2OT)
DIVISION IV SEMIFINALS
(1) Tulare-Mission Oak 47, (4) Wasco 7, F
(3) Bakersfield Christian 21, (2) Visalia-Central Valley Christian 14, F
DIVISION V SEMIFINALS
(1) Liberty-Madera Ranchos 19, (4) Lindsay 10, F
(2) Mendota 45, (3) Firebaugh 0, F
DIVISION VI CHAMPIONSHIP
(1) Farmersville 47, (2) Strathmore 35, F
NORTHEAST DIVISION SEMIFINALS
San Luis Obispo-Mission Prep 51, Desert 30, F