Fans of the four teams from the Southwest Yosemite League that advanced to the Central Section football playoffs may feel slighted.
It’s warranted, but, then again, it’s not.
Let me explain.
First, Liberty received the four-seed in Division I, just ahead of No. 5 Bakersfield. Both teams received a bye in the opening round of the playoffs.
The quarterfinal game will be a rematch of the SWYL finale that was played just last week, meaning, they will have consecutive games playing each other.
Then in D-II, No. 5 Frontier is at No. 4 Garces. Those two played two weeks ago and will play Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals because the D-II bracket has just eight teams.
The winners of these two games will likely play the No. 1 seed in the bracket, which means it’s highly likely they will be playing on the road in the semifinals at either No. 1 Fresno-Central in D-I or at undefeated Tulare Union in D-II.
Break that down even further, and it means Kern County is an underdog in both and the likelihood is the county could be shut out of the championship game in both of the top divisions for the first time since 2008.
This could have been avoided, but the direction fingers are being pointed the wrong way.
It’s the issue with the current system that led to a lack of higher seeds for locals, especially in D-I.
The system, which was proposed by the football advisory with each league represented was approved by the section board of managers.
Without going into great detail, here is the skinny: First it comes down to coaches rankings, overall record and strength of schedule. Then if a school receives two of the three within that criteria, then they get that assigned spot.
There cannot be any funny business with the coaches rankings, like seven teams putting one team at 10 and three putting them at No. 2. That stuff doesn’t fly.
So, here is the truth, the coaches in D-I all picked Central at No. 1 and Clovis West at No. 2. All of them, even Liberty coach Bryan Nixon, despite the fact that the Patriots beat the Golden Eagles on Aug. 25.
So, then it comes down to the 3-seed.
Clovis-Buchanan, which beat Liberty 34-28 in Clovis on Sept. 14, received eight of the 11 votes for No. 3, with Liberty getting the other three.
Buchanan’s overall record (8-2 with only losses coming to Central and Clovis West) was better than Liberty (6-4) with the Patriots taking the cake in strength of schedule (33.3 according to Calpreps.com to 23.9 for the Bears).
So, that’s it. The system in place where every Fresno/Clovis-area coach voted for Buchanan (other than Sanger which picked Liberty at No. 3) and the fact that Liberty played a tougher schedule and well, didn’t win enough games.
There’s the reason, plain and simple.
So, blaming a seeding committee or calling for backlash against the section office is barking up the wrong tree.
It’s a system set in place by the coaches, with the majority of the teams in D-I and D-II located in the northern half of the section.
In fact, eight of the 11 schools in D-I are from Fresno, Clovis and Sanger with only BHS, Liberty and Ridgeview from Kern County.
In D-II, the only schools from the county are Garces and Frontier.
Whereas, six of the 13 schools in D-III are county schools. Four of the 12 in D-IV are from Kern, with North the highest seed at No. 6.
Only two of the 11 schools in D-V are from the county, but Shafter received two first-place votes and five second-place votes to get the two-seed behind undefeated Caruthers, which had the advantage in all three categories over the Generals with more first place votes (9), a better record and a higher strength of schedule.
With that being said, is it time to change the system, play lesser opponents, or take lumps in September in hopes that playing a tougher schedule in non-league will set a team up for road games in November?
That’s left to the coaches, and, I’m sure they have a plan.