Yes, there’s some history here after all.
Dating back to the 2004 season, when Liberty’s Bryan Nixon was head coach at Centennial High School, him and his coaching staff have faced Fresno-Central seven times. Nixon and company have gone 4-3 in those meetings — 1-1 while he was leading the Golden Hawks, and now 3-2 over the past six years with the Patriots.
They'll meet again Friday, when the two teams square off for the Central Section Division I football championship in Fresno.
This year’s version of the contest will be the ultimate test for Liberty’s defense.
Bakersfield High gave No. 1-seed Central all it could handle in the Grizzlies’ 46-34 semifinals win on Friday.
BHS led 21-14 at halftime and the Drillers scored another TD on their first drive of the third quarter. Still, Central didn’t fold under the pressure and tension. Instead, they stuck to the gameplan, called their plays, and pulled away with the victory. They still scored three unanswered touchdowns to close out the game. They still dropped 46 points, and won by two scores. In short, that’s what championship teams do.
After the contest, Grizzlies head coach Kyle Biggs said the Drillers were the most talented team his 12-0 program has faced this season. And that wasn’t coach speak. Yes, Bakersfield High is that good — at quarterback, at the skill positions, on defense. They’re fast, athletic, and dynamic.
No. 3 Liberty doesn’t quite have that level of firepower. Instead, the Patriots are a physical football team, relying on their offensive and defensive lines to make a difference in the trenches, and leaning on workhorse running back Sam Stewart Jr. to carry the load. Liberty’s defense is outstanding. All those attributes were on display in their 24-23 semifinals road win over No. 2 Clovis-Buchanan.
And, in many respects, the Patriots just know how to scheme. Liberty beat BHS 7-0 to close out the 2018 regular season. Think about that. When was the last time the Drillers flat-out didn’t score a point?
It speaks to the Patriots’ defense, and their coaching staff. Can Liberty pull another rabbit out of its hat against Central? If they do, it will be another incredible accomplishment for the Patriots in what’s already been a terrific season.
BCHS answers the bell
There were questions about Bakersfield Christian entering the 2018 season.
The Eagles’ schedule was more daunting, as they entered the South Yosemite League after years of dominating the South Sequoia League. Then BHS got off to a 2-3 start to the year.
But the Eagles have responded ever since.
The team has won seven straight games. They ripped through the SYL with a 5-0 league record, and won two playoff games including Friday’s 28-7 semifinals home win over Kingsburg.
The Eagles have talent at the skill positions, and it showed once again on Friday. Specifically, it was wide receiver Keonte Glinton in the semifinals win, as he recorded 89 receiving yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
As the No. 2 seed in the Central Section Division III bracket, the Eagles will face a monumental task in Friday’s championship game: On the road, at No. 1 Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial. The Panthers are quite the opponent, holding a 12-0 record and winning their first two playoff games by a combined score of 125-57.
Regardless of what takes place moving forward, it’s been another strong season for the Eagles, who have reached their fourth section title game over the past seven years and second during head coach Darren Carr’s four-year tenure at the school.
Shafter, Kennedy roll into D-V championship
Yes, Kern County will be guaranteed at least one state tournament team, as Shafter and Kennedy continued their torrid 2018 seasons with respective semifinal victories Friday.
For No. 1 Shafter, it was much of the same on its homefield — a 60-32 win over No. 5 Woodlake, as quarterback Alex Aguilar set a Central Section record. His 63rd touchdown accounted for this year — passing, running and on defense — is the most in a single-season for a quarterback, as Aguilar continued to spearhead the attack for the 12-0 Generals.
As for No. 3 Kennedy, its win came in the form of 595 yards rushing in a 73-19 victory over No. 2 Caruthers. Running back Tyreak Walker had 311 of those yards on the ground and scored five TDs. Kennedy is now 12-1 on the season.
The Generals and Thunderbirds now square off in the D-V title game, in a league rematch from earlier this season — a game Shafter won on its homefield 47-14.
Two trains of thought here: For one, it can be tough to beat a good team twice in one season, and Kennedy did not play its best game in the first contest. Secondly, however, is that the Generals won fairly handily, have been rolling all year, and know exactly what they’re stepping into the second time around.
We shall see come championship Friday.