RUSHING DELUXE: WILSON VS. BOLU
The Year of the Running Back in the Central Section finds another level Friday night at Central's Koligian Stadium.
In one corner: the Grizzlies' Nick Wilson, who has committed to Arizona.
In the other: Clovis North junior Bolu Olorunfunmi, whom Fresno State can only hope accepts their scholarship offer and stays home.
"One guy who's going (to college)," Broncos coach Cory Hall says, "and another who wants to — and will."
Clovis North offensive coordinator Vince Branstetter adds: "The two best backs in the Valley, no doubt. And, (Friday), let them settle it on the field."
Wilson and Olorunfunmi, each combining power and speed, are coming off 1,000-yard seasons and marching to the 2k level this year.
Friday's Tri-River Athletic Conference game is their most important to date this season.
Third-ranked Clovis North, coming off Division I and II titles, is ranked third in the section, 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the league.
No. 4 Central is 5-2, also 2-0 in the TRAC, and more.
The Grizzlies will arrive still simmering from a 50-7 loss to the Broncos last year in a showdown-quickly-turned-scrimmage at Veterans Memorial Stadium that saw Clovis North bolt to a 28-0 first-quarter lead and Olorunfunmi finish with three touchdowns.
Olorunfunmi, at 5-10, 210 and a couple of steps faster than last year, made an immediate statement by rushing for a school-record 341 yards, including a 98-yard TD, in a season-opening 47-25 win over Atascadero.
"He's young but physical and his endurance is unbelievable," Hall says. "When you think he's had enough, he's calling for more. He's one of those horses you have to say, 'Whoa,' not, 'Giddyup.' "
Visalia's four public high schools all have what are considered rivalry games.
Redwood's is against Mt. Whitney. The Rangers and Pioneers, the city's first two high schools, have met 58 times in a game dubbed the Cowhide that annually draws capacity crowds of fans spanning several generations.
El Diamante's rival is Golden West. The Miners and Trailblazers play annually in the Battle for the Saddle, a 9-year-old game that Visalia Unified School District administrators concocted in an effort to rival the Cowhide.
But the most intriguing intracity rivalry game this year actually takes place Friday at the Mineral King Bowl, when Redwood hosts El Diamante in a clash of teams with 6-1 overall records and 3-0 marks in the West Yosemite League.
The Miners are ranked No. 10 overall in the section and No. 1 in D-II by The Bee, while Redwood is No. 15 overall and No. 2 in D-II.
"Any time we play Redwood, it's a big game, but this adds more," said Miners coach Mark Rogers, a Redwood assistant before launching the El Diamante program. "We're playing for first place and that gets people excited. There's a little more interest in this football game."
The Miners and Rangers also entered last year's game 3-0 in the WYL, but they weren't viewed as two of the top contenders for the No. 1 seed in D-II as they are this season. El Diamante ended up the No. 4 seed last year, while Redwood was No. 7 in a division that ultimately had Garces rout Sanger 49-24 in the final.
"It was big last year, but it seems different this year, a little bigger," Rangers coach Shaun Ball said. "It's exciting. The stadium will be rocking. Hopefully, we'll be able to put on a good show."
El Diamante owns a 7-3 edge in the series, including a 34-13 win last season.
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Drew Muller, Tulare Western: The 5-9, 175-pound junior linebacker helped the Mustangs hold then-No. 10 Porterville, a team averaging more than 350 yards rushing per game, to 89 yards on the ground in last week's 28-13 upset by making 10 tackles, including three for losses.
Muller is averaging 9.9 tackles per game and has a team-leading 14 stops for losses, production the No. 18 Mustangs (5-2) will need Friday when they face No. 7 Mission Oak (7-0) at Bob Mathias Stadium in a showdown of teams that are 2-0 in the East Yosemite League.
"Drew stepping up has really solidified our front seven," first-year Western coach Ryan Rocha said.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
No. 18 Sanger (5-2, 1-1) vs. No. 9 Bullard (6-1, 2-0), at McLane: Key for Bullard — sensational last week in a 56-13 win over No. 17 Memorial — is not to peek around the corner to a Nov. 8 regular-season, County/Metro Athletic Conference finale against Edison. The Apaches are too good to be overlooked.
No. 12 Stockdale (4-3, 2-0) at No. 6 Liberty-Bakersfield (6-1, 1-1): We're in a comparative D-I scoring game now, specifically, in regard to Stockdale. Last week, the Mustangs routed Centennial 32-7, but lost earlier 37-14 at Clovis. Liberty lost 45-10 to Bakersfield, but earlier won 43-41 in double OT at Central. What does it mean? Edison, Bakersfield and defending D-I champ Clovis North have seedings leverage in what will be a race to the wire for top D-I billing.
No. 13 Kingsburg (6-1, 1-0) at Central Valley Christian (5-2, 1-1): Vikings could make noise in D-II playoffs; ditto for the Cavaliers in D-IV. But don't kid yourself, there's D-I size in the trenches in this Central Sequoia League game.
Liberty-Madera Ranchos (7-0, 2-0) vs. Washington (4-3, 2-0) at Fowler: A North Sequoia League whopper, matching defending D-V champ Liberty and it's 438-yard per-game offense against the Panthers and Javin Harrison. He's averaging 214 yards rushing in his past four games and is coming off a 313-yard performance in a 42-18 win over Chowchilla.
Woodlake (5-2, 1-1) at Lindsay (6-1, 2-0): Woodlake has lost three straight to the Cardinals, but the Tigers — who beat D-VI No. 1 Farmersville 29-28 this season — are not to be dismissed.
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