We exhaustively discussed Friday night's section championship games on BVarsity Live on Friday, and I'm tired, and I want to get on to regional bowl discussion (for the first time in Kern County history, by the way) so I'm going to keep this recap brief.
No. 1 Bakersfield 60, No. 6 Clovis North 21: The Drillers' three performances in the playoffs got better and better each week, and no matter how good the TRAC usually is, nothing that league had could keep BHS from turning three big-time playoff games into three laughers, all of which needed a running clock in the fourth quarter. Asauni Rufus had 166 yards and three touchdowns rushing, and he was 8-of-9 passing for 162 yards and two more scores. All of that (combined with a timely loss from Gardena-Serra, which opened up an extra spot in Division I) was enough to get the Drillers into a regional bowl for the first time in their illustrious history. It was also enough to make a believer out of the Fresno Bee's Andy Boogaard, who has been following prep football in the Central Section for 50 years and claims this is one of the best — if not the best — teams he's ever seen. That's lofty praise, certainly, but the good news for Bakersfield is that it will get a chance to back it up against Mission Hills. At this point, it's getting tough to pick against the Drillers.
No. 1 Visalia-El Diamante 28, No. 3 Garces 14:A team finally figured out a way to slow Sheldon Croney, and it cost the Rams a second straight Division II title. Croney ran for 96 yards and a touchdown, but he was mostly shut down in the first half as the Miners jumped to a 14-0 lead.. The turnover bug caught up with the Rams, too; they committed a couple in the red zone against Kingsburg and got away with it, but three more giveaways were too many on this night. Still, the Rams trailed only 21-14 early in the fourth quarter and drove to the El Diamante 23-yard line, but Jake Pavletich's pass to the end zone fell incomplete, and the Miners (who got 162 yards and three TDs from fullback Alex Schapansky with DeAngelo Torres out with an injury) drove for the championship-clinching touchdown. It was still a season of improvement for Garces, which has the potential to be even better next season.
No. 5 Dinuba 45, No. 6 Ridgeview 14:The magic finally ran out on a terrific playoff run by Ridgeview, which used quarterback Lawrence White sparingly because of a knee injury. He did throw a 26-yard touchdown pass to freshman Ja'mar Moya in the second quarter that cut the Dinuba lead to 14-7, but the Wolf Pack couldn't keep up with the Emperors' onslaught after that. Marcus McMaryon, an Oregon State commit, threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns and Michael Wright ran for 95 yards and three TDs (he also caught a TD pass) as Dinuba avenged a 55-14 loss to Ridgeview in last year's Division III final. The Wolf Pack are a very young team that probably enters next year's new-look league with Independence and Tehachapi as the favorite.
No. 3 Bakersfield Christian 35, No. 1 Tulare-Mission Oak 34: The astounding thing here isn't so much that Bakersfield Christian won and reached its own state bowl game — the Eagles were chosen to play LA-View Park Prep on Monday after a San Diego County court denied El Cajon-Christian's bid to get into the game. The Eagles were certainly always talented enough to spring the upset on unbeaten Mission Oak. No, the surprise for me is that BCHS was able to win after spotting the powerful Hawks a 20-0 first-quarter lead. I thought that meant curtains for the Eagles, because Mission Oak features a physical defense and a running back, Elijah Porchia, who finished with 245 yards and three touchdowns, all longer than 50 yards. But the Eagles stayed patient, chipped away at the lead and finally, after a series of fourth-quarter turnovers from both teams, got a Matt Smith touchdown run to go ahead with about three minutes to go. One final defensive stand sealed the deal for BCHS, which is going bowling.
Now, for the first time in 86 years, Kern County's season will continue after the section championships. Bakersfield High won six state titles in the 1910s and 1920s, including the final championship the CIF staged, in 1927, until the bowl system started in 2006. The Drillers won section titles in 2007 and 2011 but were snubbed by the bowl committee, as BCHS was in 2007 and 2008 (in fairness to the CIF, there were fewer state divisions in the early years of the bowl games and no regional games until last year). Now both the Drillers and Eagles are moving on. There's much more about the Drillers' bowl game with Mission Hills here (and here's a short update regarding the Bakersfield Christian situation from earlier today), and I'll have much more coverage as the week goes on.
For now, here's a look at Friday night's BVarsity Live, which has a full championship recap (and plenty of now-outdated bowl speculation, too), followed by a brief look at the local matchups in the Southern Cal bowl games.
Next week's matchups:
Division I: Bakersfield (11-2) at San Marcos-Mission Hills (12-1): The Grizzlies feature two Division I-bound linebackers, probably a necessity for stopping the BHS offense. Will it be enough?
Division IV: L.A.-View Park Prep (13-0) at Bakersfield Christian (11-2): Eagles are, by far, the best team View Park has played this year