Week 5 in Central Section football had top-ranked Clovis High School deliver a golden performance in the presence of its Olympian, Jenna Prandini; Clovis West and Bullard stage a predictable playoff-level thriller with seven lead changes; Redwood and Selma remain unbeaten; and Sunnyside win on a last-second field goal.
But Week 5 was like Week 4.
And Week 4 was like Week 3.
And Week 3 was like Week 2.
It was about Central. Again.
“It all happened after Bullard,” Grizzlies coach Kyle Biggs says.
What happened after that season-opening 24-3 loss to the Knights has been one of the most extraordinary runs by a section Division I team in recent memory.
In chronological order of destruction: Sunnyside 56-15, Liberty-Bakersfield 38-0, Frontier 59-17 and Ridgeview 42-7.
No, I’m not forgetting Liberty-Bakersfield’s march through the D-I playoffs only a year ago, when the Patriots mauled Central 40-27, Bullard 41-7 and Clovis 56-21 at Lamonica Stadium.
And I’m certainly not dismissing the 2013 D-I postseason throttling by the finest section football team I’ve seen in 40 years at The Fresno Bee – Bakersfield, which rolled through Clovis West (44-21), Central (45-6) and Clovis North (60-21) of the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
All those wins were at the Drillers’ home field.
What distinguishes this Central run is the Grizzlies went on the road to whip then-No. 1 Liberty-Bakersfield, the 2015 D-I champion, and Ridgeview, the two-year reigning D-II titlist.
Biggs revisits the Bullard impact: “They gave us a slice of humble pie, made our kids angry and they started to play with a chip on their shoulders. You could definitely see some blank faces after the Bullard game. We had two or three weeks of practices, but weren’t getting better. And once they made that realization on their own, things changed.
We preached all summer about changing the perception of what people have of Central, and that’s not fair to them. We get to write our own story, our own book, and let’s write it with the ’16 team.
Grizzlies coach Kyle Biggs
“We preached all summer about changing the perception of what people have of Central, and that’s not fair to them. We get to write our own story, our own book, and let’s write it with the ’16 team.”
The Grizzlies, who will have a bye this week before opening the TRAC at home against Buchanan on Oct. 7, has had a deep list of stars, such as sophomore Trent Tompkins, who passed for 318 yards and six touchdowns against Ridgeview.
“It’s so easy playing with these guys,” Tompkins told The Bakersfield Californian after completing 18 of 26 passes. “All you have to do is give them a chance and they make a play. My line protects me, and I get it to them.”
He’s thrown for 15 touchdowns in the winning streak, in which Central has outscored the opposition 195-39.
Biggs points first to the trenches – Joshua Asuncion, Jordan Tavita, Dominic Padilla, Jason Russell, Paul Tadros, Erik Martinez and Kirby Peine rotating in the offensive front, and Samuel Satele, Rodney Murphy, Russell, Brandon Ballard and Chris Lee down and dirty defensively.
Coming from one of the section’s smallest schools in Fowler (769 students) to the largest in Central (4,039), Biggs knew he’d have the luxury of depth.
“But I didn’t know we’d have depth like this.”
Eagles have last say – Tykee Woods, Adrian Martinez and seventh-ranked Clovis West served last in a 31-27 thriller over Bullard at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The last of the lead changes had Martinez completing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Chad Day with five minutes remaining.
That came four plays after Woods intercepted a Jack Taylorpass that deflected off the hands of the Knights’ Daylan Zarate, giving the Eagles possession on Bullard’s 19 with 6:13 to go.
Dakota Helms intercepted a Taylor desperation heave to finish a game that snapped the Knights’ two-game winning streak in a series Clovis West leads 27-10.
“This was a very emotional game,” said Woods, a junior cornerback. “The last time we played Bullard here, they were out there yelling in front of our stadium.”
The lead changes in a contest sure to have Division I seeding repercussions in six weeks were: Clovis West 10-7, Bullard 14-10, Clovis West 17-14, Bullard 20-17, Clovis West 24-20 and Bullard 27-24 before the Martinez-to-Day connection in the right corner of the west end zone.
“Big play Chad Day, that’s what we call him,” said Martinez, who passed for 260 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 55 yardsand a score for Clovis West, which will have a bye next week before returning to The Vet to open Tri-River Athletic Conference play against No. 9 Clovis North (3-2) on Oct. 7.
“Get this win, get momentum, get all our guys healthy and go into Clovis North firing on all cylinders,” Martinez said. “Really, that’s what we were trying to do, and we will do.”
The Eagles are but a couple of plays from being unbeaten, having lost to Liberty-Bakersfield 28-24 in a season opener and at Northern California power Rocklin 28-27 a week before the Bullard game.
“I’d like to be undefeated,” Clovis West coach George Petrissans said, “but I think we learned some valuable lessons from the losses also. It’s never been about effort or heart for this team; we’re just learning how to finish.”
Taylor, a three-year starter, passed for 192 yards and four touchdowns for Bullard, which will also have a bye next week before beginning County/Metro Athletic Conference play with a showdown at No. 11 Sanger (4-0) on Oct. 7.
Kern County crunch – It was a rough night for Kern County perennial powers.
In addition to the Ridgeview loss, The Bee’s No. 3 Bakersfield lost 48-9 to Valencia and No. 4 Liberty-Bakersfield was crushed 49-7 by Cathedral Catholic-San Diego, which is ranked No. 10 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
Worse, for Bakersfield, quarterback Josh Maran broke his collarbone on the Drillers’ opening drive.