The test at Tulare: The most intriguing of all Central Section opening-round football playoffs tonight sends 11th-seeded Clovis East (3-7) to No. 6 Tulare (9-1) in Division I -- the first matchup between the schools.
So many subplots:
- Tulare, in the section's competitive equity driven realignment, has been elevated to D-I after often overpowering D-II, including a 37-2 run from 2007-09. And that was highlighted by a 13-0 section championship season in 2008.
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- Clovis East, in coach Tim Murphy's previous eight seasons, not only never had a losing record, it never had lost consecutive games in the same season. And the Timberwolves won D-I titles in 2003 and '06. Yet, before going 0-5 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference this season, they did win 29-0 at Liberty-Bakersfield, which placed third behind Southwest Yosemite League co-champs Centennial and Bakersfield.
CAL-HI BOWL RANKINGS
Cal-Hi Sports' South Region rankings for state bowl purposes: No. 10 Clovis West, No. 16 Centennial and No. 20 Bakersfield in D-I, No. 7 Porterville in D-II and No. 3 Dos Palos and No. 10 Washington in D-III. Porterville made a three-spot jump from last week.
The four bowl divisions vary from the six the Central Section uses in playoffs. The bowls' main event is an Open Division game Dec. 18 at the Home Depot Center in Carson. There will be a total of five games there Dec. 17-18. Bowl selections made by the state's 10 section commissioners will be determined Dec. 12.
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Khari McGee, Edison: Now an experienced sophomore, as opposed to one who hadn't thrown a varsity pass in August, he's a future star who will be thrust under a brighter spotlight tonight in a D-I first-rounder at fifth-seeded Clovis (6-4), which tied for second in the Tri-River Athletic Conference. No. 12 Edison (4-6) has won four of its past five games after an 0-5 start. And the strong-armed McGee's development has been a key. His decision making will be key while attempting to find talented receivers Jeremy Williamson and Terrell Green against a Cougars secondary featuring Donnell Vercher, arguably the section's premier safety.
OTHER GAMES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
North (4-6) at Memorial (7-3): Running back Chris Brown (sprained shoulder) is questionable for the fifth-seeded Panthers against No. 12 North in the D-II game. Regardless, quarterback Jordan Stallworth and running back Titus Garrett, motoring behind a strong offensive line, should provide enough firepower to get past the Stars, who lost 49-28 last week to Southeast Yosemite League champion Garces, which lost 41-35 to Memorial on Sept. 25. A Panthers victory tonight would set up a potential brilliant rushing duel, matching Brown against Redwood's Dillon Root in next week's quarterfinals.
Buchanan (6-4) at Stockdale (5-5): This D-I game is a rematch of an Oct. 8 nonleague contest at the same site, where Mustangs sophomore sensation D.J. Martin rushed 23 times for 296 yards -- including touchdowns of 79, 41 and 53 yards out of a wing-T attack -- in a 44-24 rout of a Buchanan team that was 4-0. The Bears, struck hard by injuries in the past two years of playoffs, have rallied a bit in the health department. Mainly, running back Kenny Castle, who didn't play in the Stockdale loss because of a sprained ankle, is back and averaging 109 yards rushing in his past three games. Wide receiver/corner back Austin Kemp (hamstring), the team's fastest player, might return for the first time in two months.
Follow us: Keep up with the action tonight at blitz.fresnobeehive.com and on Twitter: @scoopy sports. Coverage will be provided by Andy Boogaard (Edison at Clovis, follow on Twitter: @beepreps), Jeff Davis (Tulare Western at Sunnyside) and Nick Giannandrea (Clovis East at Tulare). Coaches: Got a score to report? Call (559) 441-6379 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.