Is the season over for the Central Section's football teams after the final four division championships took place Friday night?
Robbery if it is.
Never in the five-year history of the two-day CIF State Bowl Championships at Carson's Home Depot Center has a section team been invited.
But Bakersfield and Washington -- at least one, if not both at 13-0 -- should be today, when pairings are announced for the five games Friday and Saturday.
It's a subjective process, with the state's 10 commissioners determining the participants -- five teams from the state's north versus five from the south in an Open Division and divisions I, II, III and IV. Teams must win a section title to be eligible.
Enrollment-based bowl divisions vary slightly from the Central Section playoffs, where Washington captured a second-straight D-IV title with a 55-12 drubbing of arguably the best Wasco team (11-2) in school history.
Washington, with 1,076 students, falls into D-III for state bowl consideration. That game will be played at noon Saturday.
The section has struck out so far in the bowl bonanza for a combination of reasons:
- It is linked to the state's south, which swallows 60% of the state's 1,500 schools.
- The best Central Section teams, in general, don't play a regular-season schedule as difficult as the best of the Southern Section.
- Southern Section schools are commonly anointed like royalty by Cal-Hi Sports, a state prep website whose rankings have strongly influenced the committee.
In this go-around, Cal-Hi says 14-0 Lompoc should represent the South D-III over Washington.
But in no way should this be automatic, given Lompoc's 24-17 and 23-15 escapes over Pioneer Valley-Santa Maria (5-5) and Santa Ynez (5-6).
Washington can't sell a strong schedule, but wins against D-II Sunnyside, section D-III champion Kingsburg (20-16) and Wasco provide leverage.
Further, the Panthers offer ticket-sellers the bowls like to see in two-way stars Deontay Greenberry and Donald Phelps. Washington has outscored the opposition 578-102 and given up four touchdowns in the past nine games.
Meanwhile, the SoCal postseason played out favorably for Bakersfield, in line to receive a D-I bid after rocking Bullard 38-3 for its state-record 35th section title.
Kingsburg played 53 games -- going 48-5 -- while winning three consecutive section titles and appearing in four straight championships.
"That's pretty much 51/4 seasons of games in four years," coach Dave Steele says. "That's hard to believe, and now I know why I'm so tired."
The Vikings closed a 12-2 season with wins over unbeaten teams in Dinuba (34-10) and Ridgeview (41-34).
In Kingsburg, it begins with the triggerman, and what a run -- Tyler Bray, Garrett Steele and this year's tandem of Austin Bray and Brandon Steele.
Nice when talent runs in the family.
Hall having a ball
Not a bad audition for Cory Hall.
Named Clovis North's interim head coach in March after Tim Simons had heart surgery, the former Fresno State and NFL player delivered a 9-3 season and the program's first section football crown -- a 28-19 D-II road conquest of No. 1 Garces.
"My [original] plan was to coach at the college level," he says, "but right now I'm having fun developing relationships with these kids at North. I'll more than likely be back here and try to push for the [Tri-River Athletic Conference] title. I'm riding the high of high school football."
Clovis North won six D-II championships in eight fall sports. And it took a miracle rally by Madera to deny a seventh in girls volleyball. The Coyotes overcame four match points in set 4 en route to a 3-2 win.
- If Clovis' best offensive player, running back Yoon Conner, doesn't get injured six weeks ago, the Cougars go 10-0 in the regular season (as opposed to 9-1), get seeded second (as opposed to fourth) and, ultimately, match 12-0 records with Bakersfield in a D-I title showcase. No justice for coach Rich Hammond, who has restored credibility in Clovis' rich history.
- Bakersfield option wizard Chris Hannible totaled 254 yards rushing and passing against Bullard. He had 45 against Clovis in the semis.
- From the public-address announcer, who trumpets Bakersfield individual statistics during the game (not that he should), to the Drillers' athletic offense, to their sandlot defense and nonstop dancing sideline, there's something magical, indeed, about Bakersfield football at Griffith Field.
- Bullard coach Donnie Arax has achieved a goal, regardless of Friday's result. He will be the first to say he has followed the Clovis Unified model of excellence, ranging from youth program development, to community support, to strength and conditioning and staff competence. And now, with three D-I title game appearances in seven years, he can say this: the Knights rank with Bakersfield and Clovis West among the top three large-school programs in the section.
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