With the current playoff system in place for the Central Section with six divisions, it leaves most of the top ranked teams around the region at home this week hitting the road this week as the playoffs begin.
Those coaches will watch possible quarterfinal opponents and we are left with just seven games played within the valley region of Kern County.
However, with Division II and D-IV fielding just eight teams each, the quarterfinals in those two divisions begin this week (games are Thursday this week with 7 p.m. starts, hence this coming out on Tuesday), giving us a few solid matchups.
One in particular is a Southwest Yosemite League rematch between No. 5 Frontier and No. 4 Garces in D-II while Ridgeview, a team that won two D-II titles and has played in six consecutive section title games, is up in D-I this week as the 10-seed at No. 7 Clovis.
Also intriguing is four more games involving two county teams, which while exciting for ticket sales and parents and fans not having to drive far, will cut down the amount of local teams that will advance into the later rounds.
Guess that’s what the playoffs are for, win or go home. Right?
Well, here we go.
Division I (first round)
No. 10 RIDGEVIEW (6-4, 4-1 SYL) at No. 7 CLOVIS (6-4, 2-3 TRAC) - This is such an intriguing first round matchup. The lone common opponent these two teams have is Stockdale. In the opening week of the season, Ridgeview beat the Mustangs by two touchdowns on Aug. 25 and Clovis beat Stockdale 17-14 three weeks later. Clovis has basically done as expected. The Cougars finished the regular season winning the games Clovis was supposed to win and came up short against better teams. With Ridgeview, it’s been a season of ups and downs. The Wolf Pack lost to Frontier, but two weeks later, handed Liberty a loss to end September. That win started a run of four wins over the next five weeks before they lost a game at Tehachapi. Then, like last season, the chance for an eighth consecutive South Yosemite League title on the line, the Wolf Pack beat Independence 35-14. The talent is there and Ridgeview has a winning pedigree. It’s very unlikely Ridgeview will get to a sixth consecutive section title game this season now that the Wolf Pack are in D-I, but a road win here seems like a good choice.
Trevor’s pick: Ridgeview 28, Clovis 21
Josh’s pick: Ridgeview 31, Clovis 27
No. 5 FRONTIER (7-3, 2-3 SWYL) at No. 4 GARCES (4-6, 4-1 SWYL) - These two teams had polar opposite non-league schedules as Garces started the season 0-5 and Frontier was undefeated heading into Southwest Yosemite League play. The opponents were of no comparison. Garces played five teams that went a combined 36-14 and all have positive ratings on Calpreps.com state rankings. Frontier’s non-league opponents were 13-37, with only Ridgeview having a winning record while the rest all are left out of the playoffs. That’s not shorting the efforts of the Titans, but it’s more of an indication of why the Rams finished in second place in league at 4-1 while the Titans dropped three of the five league games, including a 17-7 loss at home to Garces on Oct. 27. The Rams offense is led by senior running back Isaiah Martin, the school’s all-time leading rusher. On the flip side, Tye Johnson has been key in the Titans success running the ball and controlling the clock. This one may not be as low scoring as the first time around, but I still feel there is going to be a lot of heavy hitting.
Trevor’s pick: Garces 28, Frontier 20
Josh’s pick: Garces 24, Frontier 20
D-III (first round)
No. 12 SOUTH (5-4, 3-1 SEYL) at No. 5 TEHACHAPI (5-5, 4-1 SYL) - Much like his predecessor, in his first year as the head coach for Tehachapi, Doug DeGeer has the Warriors in a home game to start the playoffs. Back in 1982, a youthful Steve Denman did the same as the Warriors beat Panorama City-Montclair Prep 28-21 in the Southern Section Inland Conference playoff opener. Enough of the history lesson, just thought it was pertinent. And just like last season, Denman won his 301st and final win as Tehachapi’s head coach in a 27-0 win over Delano in the D-III opener last fall after starting the season 1-5, just like this season. This time around, it’s South coming up the hill for this D-III opener. After a 14-13 loss to Independence to open SYL play, the Warriors defense has been stout and the collection of running backs along with quarterback Chris Garcia have done just enough to keep opposing defenses honest while the Warriors defense, led by Dylan Ragsdale, has been stout. That depth for Tehachapi could be huge in this one against a talented, yet, small roster for the Rebels. South’s five wins, while impressive over North on Oct. 6, have come against down-right bad football teams. The other four wins came against teams that did not make the playoffs and were a combined 3-33. South has been a dominating regular season school over the past four years, but that has not translated into postseason success, and this may be one that ends very early for the Rebels and gets the Warriors back into the quarterfinals.
Trevor’s pick: Tehachapi 27, South 20
Josh’s pick: South 27, Tehachapi 17
No. 13 FRESNO (5-5, 3-2 NYL) at No. 4 INDEPENDENCE (7-3, 4-1 SYL) - Last season, Independence lost to Ridgeview 41-13. The loss kept the Falcons from an undefeated SYL record in school history. The Falcons then went on to loss a road game at Dinuba in the D-II opener. Now down in D-III, Independence again suffered a regular season loss to Ridgeview to spoil a perfect SYL record, however, the Falcons are at home this week against No. 13 Fresno. This one, on paper, looks like a blowout. The Warriors five wins came to teams that went a combined 6-36 while the five losses all came in double-digit losses to playoff-bound teams. This is the best season, wins wise, in Falcons’ history and that is large part to so many players coming up clutch for Independence. Whether it’s Armani Denweed, Chris Wyrick or Malik Delouth running the ball behind a stout offensive line led by Luke Galvez and Lance Henderson, Independence has been powerful at times. Chalk this one up the Falcons getting a playoff win for the first time since 2013.
Trevor’s pick: Independence 34, Fresno 21
Josh’s pick: Independence 34, Fresno 14
No. 10 WEST (5-4, 2-3 SYL) at No. 7 HIGHLAND (8-1, 3-1 SEYL) - What a heartbreaking way for the Scots to end the regular season. On the verge of the first undefeated season and outright league championship regular season in school history, Highland lost 21-14 to North in a SEYL road game last Friday. The Scots’ run game was stymied for the most part by the Stars despite the Scots’ defense playing very well despite giving up a few big plays against North. In come a West squad that fell 27-21 to a surging Tehachapi team last week and have dropped three of the last four games, with all losses going to the SYL tri-champions in Ridgeview, Independence and Tehachapi. Highland’s passing game with Cade Sakamoto at quarterback slinging it Noah Ramirez, Nick Salas and Michael Miranda is fun to watch, but the Vikings triple-option veer attack is something to behold. With sophomore sensation L.J. Laulu inching towards 1,000 rushing yards and senior Donta Mason accounting for 473 rushing yards and another 426 through the air, it’s a tough offense to defend. Something tells me that West offense will come out on top and after such a magical regular season for Highland, the season comes to an aburpt halt in the D-III opener.
Trevor’s pick: West 21, Highland 20
Josh’s pick: Highland 31, West 20
D-IV (first round)
No. 11 EAST (3-7, 0-5 SYL) at No. 6 NORTH (7-3, 3-1 SEYL) - Here is another SYL team on the road at an SEYL opponent like West at Highland. Could have North pulled a more opportunistic opening round opponent? Just look at it. East let go of head coach David Fanucchi after the Blades’ lost to Golden Valley, 28-27. Former East coach Dave Thorpe takes over on an interim basis for a team that is senior-heavy and still quite talent, but has lost five straight and seven of the last eight. North on the other hand, looked very good in a 21-14 win over Highland, which kept the Scots from a perfect regular season record. North coach Norm Brown gives tough love, and a lot of it, to his players. Many, like James Johnson, who caught a 94-yard touchdown pass on the Stars first play against Highland and sacked Highland quarterback Cade Sakamoto on fourth down with a minute left to clinch the win last week, know they need a coach that holds them accountable as players and people. That’s a good thing late in the year that the relationship has grown and usually translates into wins, like it did last week over Highland and likely this week against future league opponent in East.
Trevor’s pick: North 28, East 13
Josh’s pick: North 35, East 21
No. 10 WASCO (5-5, 4-2 SSL) at No. 7 DELANO (5-4, 3-2 EYL) - Mario Abundez has done a masterful job in his first year as head coach at Delano. After the Tigers opened the season with with losses to East and North, it’s been fantastic since. Take away the two blowout losses to Tulare Union (10-0 and D-II 1-seed) and Tulare Western (9-1 and D-III top seed) Delano has won five of the last seven, including a 42-0 drubbing of Wasco, which makes this rematch so interesting. Following that loss, Wasco went on a four game win streak in the South Sequoia League, but all four game to teams without winning records including Arvin, Chavez and Taft (combined 4-23) before ending the regular season in a 47-7 loss to rival Shafter, the first loss against the Generals in a decade. That’s hard to come back from. Delano should be able to use home field advantage and the momentum of a three-game win streak to advance the season after a 27-0 loss to Tehachapi in the D-III opener last season.
Trevor’s pick: Delano 27, Wasco 20
Josh’s pick: Delano 21, Wasco 13
D-V (first round)
No. 9 FOWLER (6-4, 2-2 WSL) at No. 8 KENNEDY (5-5, 3-3 SSL) - Neither of these two small school programs have a common opponent to compare from, so looking for a running narrative to decipher from here is difficult. The Thunderbirds finished the regular season with a four-game win streak, but only one of them, last week in a 41-12 win over Bishop, came against a playoff team. Kennedy played up in non-league, but lost close games to Highland and Kerman (combined 17-2) before blowout losses to Bakersfield Christian and Shafter (combined 17-3). See a trend? Sometimes playing up and seeing where you are and what has exposed you can help a young program. Fowler (my dad’s alma mater) is in the same boat as Kennedy. The four losses for the Redcats came to teams that combined went 33-6 while the wins came against non-playoff teams. In this case, go with the home team and a coach like Dennis Moody, who finds ways for his teams to play really well in the playoffs.
Trevor’s pick: Kennedy 35, Fowler 28
Josh’s pick: Fowler 27, Kennedy 24
No. 6 CALIFORNIA CITY (5-5, 1-2 HDL) at No. 3 RIVERDALE (8-2, 3-1 WSL) - Consider Cal City fortunate that Kern Valley is in a down year and the Central Section has six divisions for football. If not, the Ravens likely would not be in the playoffs. Cal City beat Kern Valley 13-0 to earn the all-important fifth win and despite a losing record in High Desert League play, advanced as the sixth seed in an eight-team bracket. Riverdale’s only losses this season came to Firebaugh (No. 3 in D-V) and Caruthers (1-seed in D-V) while the Cowboys offense has been high-flying the rest of the season against D-VI competition. This game may likely be out of control early in the second half in Riverdale’s favor.
Trevor’s pick: Riverdale 42, California City 21
Josh’s pick: Riverdale 41, California City 20
No. 7 HANFORD-SIERRA PACIFIC (4-6, 3-2 ESL) at No. 2 ROSAMOND (9-1, 3-0 HDL) - On the flip side of fellow HDL member Cal City, Rosamond riding high heading into the D-VI playoffs. The Roadrunners, other than a loss to a one-loss Pasadena-Poly team in September, is playing as well as anyone in D-VI, including top-seeded Strathmore. Isaiah Escobar has thrown for 24 touchdowns to just three interceptions this season for Rosamond and has another nine scores on the ground. Sierra Pacific’s offense has scored more than 30 points only once, in a 49-21 win over a 1-9 Corcoran team and was shutout twice, including a 42-0 loss to Strathmore. Figure more of that this week with the two hour-plus drive out to the desert.
Trevor’s pick: Rosamond 34, Sierra Pacific 14
Josh’s pick: Rosamond 48, Sierra Pacific 14
Trevor last week: 15-2 (.882)
Trevor this year: 143-53 (.740)
Trevor all-time: 839-301 (.735)
Josh last week: 10-7 (.588)
Josh this season: 69-32 (.683)