It was an interesting opening week to the Central Section playoffs last Friday. With only two Kern County teams on a bye, there was a lot of action for locals and a few had surprise performances.
Frontier, a team that won just two games in the regular season, upset Nipomo in Division II while Garces and Stockdale were also victorious.
The Southwest Yosemite League as a whole went 5-1 with only Centennial losing on the road in D-I action at Clovis.
I went out on a limb with some of my picks and I got burned, going just 9-7. But isn’t that what the playoffs are all about? Win or go home, right?
Well, now there are 14 county teams left in the playoffs.
A year after we only had Rosamond in the D-VI championships last December, there is hope we will have a few title game appearances this time around. And it all starts this week, including two on Thursday night on the road.
No. 7 Stockdale (6-5) vs. No. 2 Tulare Western (9-1), at Bob Mathias Stadium, 7
Stockdale, much like North, has a short week to prepare for the quarterfinals against a higher-seeded team that had a bye last week. Tulare Western’s regular season, much like last year, ended with a loss to in-town rival Tulare Union. The Mustangs went 9-1. Take away the 35-14 loss to the Tribe, and Tulare Western outscored opponents 401-121 during the nine-game win streak to begin the season. Tairyn Johnson has been a workhorse. The junior leads Tulare Western with 1,557 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. Jordan Burrell, also a junior, is a mid-major recruit at cornerback and his brother, Elijah, has been running the offense at quarterback this season. Tulare Western runs a 3-4 defense, something Stockdale has seen plenty of this season against Bakersfield High and Liberty. We keep talking about Evan Burkhart and his rise to stardom as a dual-threat quarterback. He might have put together his best performance last week in the first round in a 45-21 win over Santa Maria-Pioneer Valley. Burkhart ran for 333 yards and touchdowns of 2, 50, 37, 73 and 80 yards. He also threw for another 90. That marked the first playoff win for Stockdale since 2010. In order for Stockdale to secure a second playoff win in the same season since 2004, the offense needs to continue to be more than just the Burkart Show. The offensive line must be able to block long enough to allow Burkhart to make the correct read in the RPO (run-pass option) and the rest of the skill players like Jeremiah Gradowitz, David McGee, Deontae Davidson, Brandon Dunn and Dylan Majors need to be alert to blocking the outside containment if Burkhart does take off down the field. Stockdale must score plenty because Johnson will get his touches for Tulare Western. Stockdale has a chance here to upset the No. 2 seed in the battle of the Mustangs, but a lot needs to go Stockdale’s way. For now, I still have to go with the favorite here.
Trevor’s pick: Tulare Western 42, Stockdale 35
Josh’s pick: Tulare Western 45, Stockdale 21
No. 6 North (7-4) vs. No. 3 Porterville-Monache (6-4), at Porterville-Granite Hills, 7
North is down another standout player, as senior two-way starter James Johnson is no longer with the team for an undisclosed reason. That’s a huge hit for the Stars. North is in the same position as last year, having to go on the road as the No. 6 seed in the D-IV quarterfinals to face the No. 3-seed. Last year North stunned Selma in a 36-35 upset before losing to Visalia-Central Valley Christian in the semifinals. This time around, North is at Porterville-Monache on Thursday. There is history here. Monache beat North last season 31-30 in a game where North turned the ball over eight times. Monache was 6-4 overall in the regular season and went 2-3 in the ultra-competitive East Yosemite League with losses to Tulare Union (10-0), Tulare Western (9-1) and Porterville (8-2). That strength of schedule matters. Even with games against Centennial (D-I) and Monterey (9-1 in Central Coast Section), the Marauders’ schedule is 10.0 according to CalPreps.com computer rating to a 1.9 for the Stars. On the field, both have very effective running backs. Aiden Galvan leads Monache with 1,365 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns while Chris Romero leads North with 1,377 yards and 20 touchdowns as well. The biggest advantage Monache has is the fact they had a bye last week and North is coming off a 24-7 win over Tulare-Mission Oak.
Trevor’s pick: Monache 28, North 21
Josh’s pick: North 35, Monache 30
No. 12 Fresno-Bullard (5-6) at No. 4 Bakersfield High (8-3)
It’s quite incredible how boom or bust BHS truly has been this season. The turnovers have become a mainstay for the Drillers since the first quarter of the season in a 17-7 loss to Anaheim-Servite. Again, BHS trailed Clovis East 14-0 early in the first quarter last week before the play-making ability of the Drillers came out in the fourth quarter during a 28-0 run. They eventually won, 55-31. Wesley Wilson scored an 85-yard touchdown run and led BHS with 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Cameron Williams completed four of his six pass attempts to Carl Jones for 122 yards and both passing touchdowns, while Jacob Zeimet scored on a 47-yard interception return. Ceyontay Bell also recovered a fumble for the Drillers. In comes a Bullard team that has completely turned the corner this season. The Knights began the season 1-6 but have won four consecutive games. Don Arax is widely considered one of the best football coaches in Fresno and he is proving it once again with a quarterfinals appearance for a team that worked through a tough run against the likes of Clovis-Buchanan (10-2), Clovis (7-4) and Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial (10-0). The Drillers still have one of the most talented teams in the section and if the offense does not turn the ball over, BHS is a section title contender. But that hasn't been the norm. Even with a turnover or two, the Drillers should advance to the semifinals for a third consecutive season in a high scoring affair.
Trevor’s pick: Bakersfield 42, Bullard 28
Josh’s pick: Bakersfield 41, Bullard 31
No. 6 Clovis (7-4) at No. 3 Liberty (10-1)
We saw how this all played out the first time. Back on Sept. 14, Liberty began its current seven-game win streak with a 48-10 win over the Cougars at Lamonica Stadium. That night, Sam Stewart Jr. rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns and Dylan Holmes led the Patriots defense with nine tackles and two sacks. The Patriots held the Cougars to just 88 rushing yards with a running clock in the fourth quarter. Most of that is still the same for Liberty, except the Patriots have installed a two-quarterback system with the emergence of sophomore Hayden Mann. The 6-foot-2, 225 pounder completed 3 of 4 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown and Hector Gonzalez threw for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Having both quarterbacks available to keep defenses honest is a huge plus for Liberty in the playoffs. Stewart has 16 rushing touchdowns and nearly 1,500 rushing yards, but when he needs a breather — which is not very often — he takes it on offense rather than at linebacker. Mann will be used in specific situations and in the offense. Clovis beat Centennial last week, 49-14, as Isaiah Robles threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns. The Cougars rushed for 187 yards over the Golden Hawks that evening. Even so, it's hard believing that Liberty won’t win this running away.
Trevor’s pick: Liberty 42, Clovis 7
Josh’s pick: Liberty 49, Clovis 21
No. 8 Garces (4-7) at No. 1 Tulare Union (10-0)
Maybe this whole strength of schedule thing does work out. Garces, which was just 3-7 in the regular season, opened postseason play with a 45-0 rout over visiting Visalia-Redwood. Isaiah Bell and Nick Lopez both had interceptions while quarterback Joseph Campbell threw for two scores and ran for another as the Rams ran for 229 yards in the victory over the Rangers. It was a very impressive win for the Rams, but, oh boy, here comes The Tribe once again. With just eight teams in the D-II bracket last season, Garces beat Frontier in the quarterfinals before losing to Tulare Union (defending D-II section champions) 42-12. While Kazmier Allen and his 3,336 yards and national-record 72 touchdowns are now at UCLA, the defense for Tulare Union has taken center stage. The Tribe has outscored opponents 482-70, including five shutouts. Not to mention the fact that Tulare Union’s senior quarterback Nathan Lamb has thrown for 3,263 yards and 40 touchdowns. With that said, if the Rams can’t get anything going against one of the stingier defenses in the section, it’s going to be a repeat of last season.
Trevor’s pick: Tulare Union 35, Garces 7
Josh’s pick: Tulare Union 56, Garces 14
No. 11 Frontier (3-8) at No. 3 Santa Maria-Righetti (8-2)
Despite just two wins in the regular season and a winless record in SWYL play, Frontier beat No. 6 Nipomo 29-22 on the road in the opening round for the Titans' first playoff win since 2009. Junior Israel Chaverria completed 33 of 53 passes for 376 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions while Kolten Baker caught 19 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Those are massive numbers and both are single-game school records. It was just the second start of the season for Chaverria. Righetti received an opening round bye last week after finishing second in the Mountain League with a 3-1 record. The two losses for Righetti in the regular season was to St. Joseph (eliminated by Bullard) and Centennial (eliminated by Clovis). The common opponent is Centennial, which also beat Frontier in SWYL play. Righetti is a run-heavy offense, led by Adan Solis (1,470 rush yards, 16 TD). If Righetti can control the clock and the line of scrimmage, then the Warriors have the upper hand. But if Chaverria and the Frontier offense can duplicate what the Titans did last week, then it could be another upset for Frontier.
Trevor’s pick: Righetti 28, Frontier 21
Josh’s pick: Righetti 42, Frontier 20
No. 11 West (6-5) at No. 3 Kingsburg (9-2)
What a win for West last week. After the Vikings beat Tehachapi in a must-win situation in the regular season finale, West came out and beat a short-handed Independence team 34-13 in a D-III first round game. West rushed for 307 yards as quarterback Ray Espinoza had 113 rushing yards and three touchdowns and Khaiden Dearmore had a team-high 169 yards on the ground. That’s also a season-high for Dearmore, who has come on strong of late. Kingsburg is the No. 3 seed for a reason. The other Vikings in this matchup lost to Dinuba (No. 3 seed in D-II) and D-III top seed Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial. Kingsburg has also beaten four teams that are in the quarterfinals this week. The man with the best football name in the section, Bo Jackson, leads the team with 921 rushing yards and is the team’s leading tackler. This is a tough task for West. In a battle of Vikings, Kingsburg comes out on top.
Trevor’s pick: Kingsburg 34, West 20
Josh’s pick: Kingsburg 51, West 27
No. 10 Highland (7-4) at No. 2 Bakersfield Christian (7-3)
It’s remarkable that a season after Highland went 8-0 before losing the regular season finale to North — and then lost to West in overtime in the playoff opener — that the Scots are in a complete opposite situation. Highland lost out on a shot at a second consecutive league title after a 20-14 loss to South on Oct. 19. But the Scots turned around and beat East 25-20 two weeks ago, which halted the Blades shot at an undefeated Southeast Yosemite League run, much in the same way North did to Highland in 2017. Then the Scots went on the road in the playoff opener last week and beat Chowchilla, 39-28, to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2015. Coincidently, that season Highland upset No. 4 Bakersfield Christian 28-14 in the D-III playoff opener. So here we are again, four years later, with these two in a playoff game where the Eagles are the favorite. BCHS won the South Yosemite League and have yet to lose a league game in four seasons with Darren Carr as head coach. Josh Maran has settled in as the starting quarterback for BCHS and Donte Harris has been a steady hand as the senior inches closer to a 1,000-yard rushing season. Keonte Glinton, who made a verbal commitment to Wyoming on Monday, leads the team with 607 receiving yards and is a standout defensive back. The Eagles are the more talented team here with PAC-12 recruit Ben Yurosek (tight end/defensive end) again putting together a monster season and Tate Eenigenburg leading the way defensively with 114 tackles. But Highland will put up a fight. Shabazz Muhammed caught four passes for 149 yards and a touchdown last week for the Scots, while Nathan Jackson tallied 23 tackles.
Trevor’s pick: Bakersfield Christian 35, Highland 20
Josh’s pick: Bakersfield Christian 38, Highland 27
No. 8 Wasco (8-3) at No. 1 Porterville (8-2)
This one intrigues me so much. Normally a matchup of a No. 1-seed at home after a first-round bye against a No. 8-seed wouldn’t be that intriguing. But this one feels different. Wasco is just 13 points from an undefeated season. The Tigers lost 29-26 to North in non-league play and suffered five-point losses to Kennedy and Shafter in South Sequoia League play. It’s also debatable on whether Porterville is the top team in D-IV. The Panthers' strength of schedule was slightly higher than that of No. 2 Visalia-Central Valley Christian. Sophomore Hector Nava Jr. is averaging 250 passing yards and has 23 touchdowns, but has also thrown 12 interceptions. The passing attack for Porterville will give Wasco’s defense fits, but the Tigers have the advantage of a run-heavy, triple-option offense that could keep Nava off the field. In true Wasco fashion, the Tigers beat East in the first round 33-31 without completing a pass. Sophomore Christian Alvarez led the way with 176 rushing yards and three second-half touchdowns. But behind a dominating and bruising offensive line, Joel Rocha, Elias Salinas, Josh Horton and Noah Mcclain will all get touches in the run game. Wasco is a very deceiving No. 8-seed and I'm calling the upset here.
Trevor’s pick: Wasco 27, Porterville 20
Josh’s pick: Wasco 31, Porterville 18
No. 9 Dos Palos (6-5) at No. 1 Shafter (10-0)
It’s been two weeks since Shafter beat Wasco 22-17 to finish off the first 10-0 regular season in school history. The Generals, as the D-V No. 1 seed, now have sights set on the program’s first section title in 63 years against No. 9 Dos Palos. Alex Aguilar has 2,631 passing yards, 920 rushing yards and has accounted for 50 touchdowns this season. It’s been a dominating season offensively for Shafter, which averaged 48.7 points a game while Pedro Avila rushed for 1,009 yards and 11 touchdowns. Jackson Sanchez added 1,176 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. But the defense has been crucial. Shafter gave up just 79 points in 10 games, as Avila leads the team with 80 tackles and sophomore Colby Miller has a team-high six sacks. Marco Rodriguez has tacked on three interceptions. Dos Palos overcame a 12-hour round-trip to Bishop in a 41-8 first round win over the High Desert League champions. All of Dos Palos’ wins this season have come against teams, including Bishop, that rank in the bottom-quarter of the section teams compiled by CalPreps. In fact, out of the 104 teams that play 11-man football, the Broncos beat Tranquillity (ranked last), Avenal (103rd), Mendota (100th), Coalinga (88th) and Fresno-McLane (83rd). Add that up and this one should be over by halftime
Trevor’s pick: Shafter 56, Dos Palos 7
Josh’s pick: Shafter 56, Dos Palos 13
No. 6 Arvin (7-4) at No. 3 Kennedy (10-1)
The South Sequoia League has four teams still alive in the quarterfinals this week and two of them are here in this D-V matchup. Kennedy opened the playoffs last week with a 57-15 win over Fresno-McLane as the Thunderbirds reeled off 27 points in the second quarter and had a 40-0 halftime lead, allowing coach Mario Millan to rest his starters. Arvin cruised to a 35-18 win over Reedley-Immanuel last week. Manuel Chavez rushed for 102 yards and Carlos Norzagaray added another 80 as the Bears did not need to complete a pass to win the program’s first playoff game in six years. For this matchup, looking back at the Thunderbirds’ 51-14 win over the Bears on Sept. 21 would paint a picture of another blowout, but in a rematch that’s rarely the same case. Kennedy is the favorite and has been one of the best D-V teams all season, although expect the Bears to compete in what's been a standout season at Arvin.
Trevor’s pick: Kennedy 35, Arvin 21
Josh’s pick: Kennedy 45, Arvin 24
No. 5 California City (7-4) at No. 1 Strathmore (10-1)
Last season, Strathmore beat Rosamond, a High Desert League member, for the D-VI section title as the Spartans finished the season 16-0 and beat Orange 31-29 for the CIF State D-6AA championship. Strathmore’s 21-game win streak was snapped on Sept. 28 in a 38-20 loss to Woodlake, but the Spartans are 10-1 this season and 26-1 over the last two years after beating Boron 54-6 last week in the quarterfinals. Cal City beat McFarland last week 46-6 as senior quarterback Perrion Grays rushed for 105 yards and had four total touchdowns for the Ravens. Cal City has won five consecutive games, but the Spartans are the best team the Ravens have played this season.
Trevor’s pick: Strathmore 42, California City 21
Josh’s pick: Strathmore 41, California City 34
Trevor last week: 9-7
Josh last week: 12-4
Trevor this season: 161-65
Josh this season: 168-59
Trevor all-time: 1,023-370
Josh all-time: 252-101