Central High has a No. 1 football seed but not the All-American who wore jersey No. 1 while playing a significant two-way role in helping the Grizzlies earn top billing.
Hence, the Central Section postseason in Division I begins Friday night for Central sans wide receiver/cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
The Utah commit closed his prep career in a 49-21 Tri-River Athletic Conference win over Clovis West at Koligian Stadium on Oct. 28, had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and will be on the sideline as the Grizzlies (9-1) host a quarterfinal against No. 8 Edison (5-6) at 7 p.m.
“Everyone’s doubting us without Jaylon,” Central first-year coach Kyle Biggs says, “but that’s when we play at our best. We don’t want this thing to end.”
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This “thing” is the mission to deliver the first section title in the 86-year history of the program.
Edison won the D-I championship in 2014 before going 5-7 last year and opening this season 0-5 against teams who are a combined 39-16.
But the Tigers closed a 4-1 County/Metro Athletic Conference run, behind unbeaten Sanger, with what coach Matt Johnson called a “signature win,” 21-7 over Bullard, before blasting No. 9 Stockdale 35-14 to open the playoffs last week.
Edison has that major-college look in many areas – wide receiver/defensive back Teyjohn Harrington, to name one – and the speed to match a Central team deeply swift afoot.
But Biggs has the TRAC champion only looking in the mirror, not at the opposition: “Our concern is just us playing our game, us doing our job and taking care of each and everyone’s responsibility.”
That’s without Johnson, whose long-term availability was in question all along after he was hurt in a summer camp. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection says his priority is regaining top health for Utah’s preseason camp.
“We expected about five games out of him and we got nine,” Biggs says. “It was a decision Jaylon felt he needed to do and we support him 100 percent.”
Among other D-I quarterfinals, No. 4 Clovis West (7-3) and No. 5 Clovis (7-3) meet again at Veterans Memorial Stadium two weeks after the Clovis West Golden Eagles won 41-27 in a TRAC finale. Such a quick rematch is generally avoided, but section Commissioner Jim Crichlow said in this case that would have “distrupted” the seeding process.
The Central/Edison and Clovis/Clovis West winners will meet in the semis.
Clovis West quarterback Adrian Martinez, a Fresno Bee Player of the Year candidate, has accounted for 821 yards and eight touchdowns in the past two games – the win over Clovis and 49-28 loss to Central.
Division II – Several compelling story lines: top-seeded Sanger (10-0) playing No. 8 Dinuba (8-3) two weeks after Apaches apparent outgoing 27-year coach Chuck Shidan picked up his 200th career win; No. 5 and North Yosemite League champion Sunnyside (8-2) playing at No. 4 Tulare (9-1) a year after the Wildcats, with duplicate seedings, routed Tulare 46-14; No. 6 Ridgeview, 5-5 after consecutive D-II titles, playing at No. 3 Redwood (9-1); and No. 7 El Diamante (5-5) at No. 2 Garces (7-3), which is marching toward an anticipated final against Sanger despite the early-season loss of quarterback Conor Bruce with a broken leg.
Division III – Four quarterfinalists (Memorial, Hanford, Tehachapi and Tulare Western) have stronger strength-of-schedule ratings than top-seeded Bakersfield Christian of the South Sequoia League, according to Maxpreps.com. So, who knows with the 9-1 Eagles and 6-5 junior quarterback Braden Wingle (2,839 yards passing, 31 TDs) against No. 8 and NYL runner-up Fresno (8-3)?
Division IV – Top-seeded Selma (10-0), led by running back/linebacker Jordan Dominguez, takes on No. 8 Wasco (8-3). The Bears last won a section title in 1954 (Sequoia Division). Their first was also the section’s first, in 1915, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Division V – Mendota High senior quarterback Junior Cardenas enters with the most prolific passing numbers in school history: 5,575 yards and 71 TDs. This season, he’s thrown for 30 TDs against four interceptions for the No. 1 Aztecs (10-0), who open at home against No. 9 Desert (6-4). The Scorpions throttled No. 8 Immanuel 44-14 in Reedley last week.
Division VI: No. 1 Strathmore (10-0) will open at home against No. 8 Orange Cove (4-6), which it defeated 43-0 in late September. Sierra Pacific (6-4) looms large as a No. 2 seed at the bottom of the bracket.
CENTRAL SECTION QUARTERFINALS
No. 8 Edison at No. 1 Central
No. 7 Buchanan vs. No. 2 Bakersfield (West Bakersfield High)
No. 6 Clovis North at No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield
No. 4 Clovis West vs. No. 5 Clovis (Veteran’s Memorial Stadium)
No. 8 Dinuba at No. 1 Sanger
No. 2 Garces vs. No. 7 El Diamante
No. 4 Tulare vs. No. 5 Sunnyside (Bob Mathias Stadium)
No. 3 Redwood vs. No. 6 Ridgeview-Bakersfield (Mineral King Bowl)
No. 6 Kingsburg vs. No. 3 Hanford (Neighbor Bowl)
No. 7 Tehachapi vs. No. 2 Tulare Western (Bob Mathias Stadium)
No. 8 Fresno at No. 1 Bakersfield Christian
No. 5 Memorial at No. 4 South Bakersfield
No. 8 Wasco at No. 1 Selma
No. 10 Central Valley Christian at No. 2 Golden West
No. 11 Madera South at No. 3 Chowchilla
No. 5 Taft at No. 4 Chavez-Delano
No. 9 Desert-Edwards at No. 1 Mendota
No. 10 Yosemite at No. 2 Dos Palos
No. 11 Bishop at No. 3 Firebaugh
No. 12 Woodlake at No. 4 Sierra
No. 8 Orange Cove at No. 1 Strathmore
No. 5 Tranquillity at No. 4 Riverdale
No. 6 California City at No. 3 Kennedy-Delano
No. 7 McFarland vs. No. 2 Sierra Pacific-Hanford (Neighbor Bowl)