Scoreboard watching is generally reserved for late October and November in Central Section football, but we had it Friday night.
Loads of early September intrigue was responsible.
How would Clovis North hold up in Bellflower against the state's third-ranked St. John Bosco?
Would Mike Jacot pull any miracles in his coaching debut for Buchanan against mighty Bullard at Veterans Memorial Stadium?
And who would walk away with a certain Division I seeding advantage in the Liberty-Bakersfield vs. Central game at Koligian Stadium?
The first two questions were answered emphatically.
The third would deliver perhaps the game of the year in the section. And to heck with the fact it occurred long before leaves are turning color.
Clovis North was crushed 31-0 at halftime in a 48-0 loss to a St. John Bosco team ranked third in the state with no fewer than 10 future college players.
And if you want to know why it took seven years for a section large school to pilfer a state bowl invitation among the southern giants (Clovis North last season), there's a pretty good explanation.
Friday's game came nine months after the Broncos lost 28-7 to Long Beach Poly for the Southern California D-I bowl title.
But not to compare the Jackrabbits to St. John Bosco, an all-boys private school of 800 — sort of the De La Salle-Concord of the south.
"Best high school team I've ever seen," Clovis North principal Scott Dille said of Bosco, where Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter accepted his high school diploma. "They were light years ahead of the Poly team we played last year."
At Buchanan, Jacot's Bears were down 35-0 at the turn and lost 54-14 while being outgained 616-151 on a night Bullard quarterback Isaiah Justice accounted for five touchdowns for the second straight week.
Buchanan dropped a pass and got sacked on its first two plays, Jacot barked, "punt team ready," and the night quickly eroded from there as Justice passed for 197 yards and two TDs and rushed for 79 yards and another three scores.
Then to the Westside, where Liberty absorbed shot after shot from one of the state's — if not the nation's — most electric players, Central's Michiah Quick, to outlast the Grizzlies 43-41 in triple overtime.
Only one more game — Frontier vs. Clovis North on Sept. 20 at Veterans Memorial Stadium — is likely to carry similar D-I seeding importance.
Clovis East dropping to D-II? School, district say no
The unthinkable five years ago is not only a thought today, but a legitimate issue — Clovis East dropping from D-I to D-II in football.
Section commissioner Jim Crichlow: "That's where they should be."
Clovis Unified School District athletic director Steve France: "No way."
Clovis East athletic director Anthony Morales: "Not a consideration, not at all; we strongly support competing in D-I."
But that's been a problem — a glaring one — for the once standard-bearing program in the section.
The Timberwolves' ability to compete can be questioned in their 12-34 record since 2009, during which time they've won one playoff game.
Before that, Clovis East went 78-22 with two section titles under former coach Tim Murphy from 2001-08.
Clovis East is now coached for the second season by Tim O'Brien.
The Timberwolves are 1-1 following a 35-28 home-field loss in overtime to Tulare on Thursday.
And that was the same Tulare team that lost 34-0 to D-II El Diamante a week ago.
Tulare is returning to D-II next year in the new section realignment cycle that goes for two years.
Clovis East is remaining in D-I only at its own calling. The section realignment point system would clearly have dropped the T'wolves to D-II, Crichlow says. But the section never denies a school that asks to stay in its existing division — only if it's up a division, not down.
"Tim Murphy established a great decade of Clovis East football," Morales says. "But were just as comfortable with Tim O'Brien. He's doing a tremendous job of establishing a new offensive scheme and culture and climate of Clovis East football.
"We're up and running."
Porterville's best ever?
Offensive efficiency in football is rarely measured by points-per-minute, but at Porterville, how can this be ignored?
The wing-T Panthers, with season-opening routs of Mt. Whitney (80-54) and West (62-24), are averaging 1.48 points a minute.
And the burning question: Could this be the best team in the history of a program launched in 1897?
Porterville coach Carl Scudder won't go that far, but he does say this group is superior to the Panthers' Central Section Division III runners-up of 2009 (10-4) and '10 (12-1).
"Not to take anything away from those guys," Scudder says, "but, overall, this team is stronger and more athletic. … And, we're fast."
There's historical significance to all of this.
Those Porterville teams in 2009 and '10 were the first to reach a section final since 1952, when the Panthers lost 7-0 to Fresno in the then-Yosemite Division, according to section historian Bob Barnett. They've never won a section title.
But this is a point-to season for the Panthers, who start 18 seniors — an unusually high number — after returning 16 starters from a 6-6 team that lost 35-21 to Dinuba in the D-III semifinals.
"This is a great group that we've been grooming the last couple years," says Scudder, who replaced Rick Stewart last season after assisting him for four years.
Porterville will play at Dinuba on Sept. 28 with no doubt the D-III No. 1 seed on the line, though defending champion Ridgeview could have a say along the way.
Video: Buchanan coach Mike Jacot's debut on the sideline
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