Short-handed yet hot-handed, top-ranked Buchanan High delivered an emphatic message at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday night: Don't feel sorry for us.
Without running back Nigel Simmons and wide receiver Jake East because of injuries, the Bears received 345 yards passing and four scores from Lance Orender and rocked No. 3 Central 56-20 to win the Tri-River Athletic Conference title and complete the second unbeaten regular season in the program's 17-year history.
Alex Wood carried 17 times for 172 yards and four touchdowns, and Austin Kemp caught scoring passes of 62 and 78 yards as Buchanan (10-0, 5-0) completed a determined sell for the No. 1 seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs.
"I think we deserve the No. 1 seed, but I'm sure Bullard has something to say about that," Bears coach Mike Vogt said.
Buchanan and County/Metro Athletic Conference champion Bullard (10-0) are the only unbeaten teams in D-I. But the fact the Bears have done so after winning the section's premier league, the TRAC, gives them an edge.
The seeding will be determined today.
Buchanan earned the top seed last year after tying Clovis West and Clovis East for the TRAC title for the second straight year. But Orender dislocated an ankle in the Bears' final regular-season game, and they would lose 28-20 to Clovis East in the semifinals.
And, once again, Buchanan seemed cursed with Simmons (636 rushing yards, 15 TDs) out for the season with a broken ankle, and East (1,107 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns) possibly also out for good with a hairline leg fracture.
On Friday, the Bears, ranked 18th in the state, compiled 516 total yards against a Central defense that hadn't given up more than 14 points in each of its past five games.
"I've never felt so good about something; this is amazing. I was nothing without my offensive line. They were perfect," said Alex Wood, whose father arrived from Florida for Senior Night. He had never seen his son play in high school.
Dominating the Grizzlies (7-3, 4-1) were tackles Tyler Cooper and Tyler Ogden, guards Jimmy Funk and Seth Wright, and center Lucas Gingold.
Buchanan's defense scored a second-half shutout against the section's fastest team.
The key play was nose tackle Kyle Papendorf's stop of Central quarterback Michael Baker on fourth-and-1 from the Bears 9-yard line midway through the second quarter.
Three plays later, Orender and Kemp connected for the 78-yard score for a 35-20 lead and the rout was on.