(Historical data provided by Central Section historian Bob Barnett)
No. 2 Bakersfield (10-2) at No. 1 Central (10-1)
Section titles: Bakersfield (state-record 36) 1916, ’17, ’20, ’21, ’22, ’23, ’24, ’25, ’26, ’27, ’28, ’29, ’32, ’33, ’35, ’36, ’37, ’38, ’39, ’45, ’47, ’48, ’51, ’54, ’55, ’56, ’67, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’94, 2011, ’05, ’07, ’11, ’13. Central (0).
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How they got here: Drillers won Southwest Yosemite League (5-0); in postseason, defeated No. 7 Buchanan 44-14, d. No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield 44-34. Grizzlies won Tri-River Athletic Conference (5-0); in postseason, d. No. 8 Edison 24-19, d. No. 4 Clovis West 34-28 (OT).
Common opponents: Bakersfield d. Ridgeview 26-19, d. Frontier 49-20, d. Liberty-Bakersfield 44-17, d. Buchanan 44-14, d. Liberty-Bakersfield 44-34. Central d. Ridgeview 42-7, d. Frontier 59-17, d. Liberty-Bakersfield 38-0, d. Buchanan 37-21.
The book on Bakersfield: Two months ago, the Drillers were 2-2 following their worst loss in 31 years, 48-9 to Valencia in a game in which Bakersfield starting quarterback Josh Maran left with a broken collarbone on the team’s first possession. That miserable start, however, has been thrust deep into history as the Drillers won have eight straight since, averaging 43 points in the process. Further, Maran has not only made a remarkably quick comeback, he completed 16 of 18 passes for a school-record 307 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-34 semifinal win over Liberty-Bakersfield. Sophomore Cam Williams, who has already been offered a scholarship by Arizona (likely as a safety), is an electrifying QB as well. Bakersfield is averaging 7.5 yards a rush and 22.9 a reception. Defensively, lineman Ryan White and linebackers Steven Marks and Jacob Vasquez have been wire-to-wire phenomenal.
The book on Central: The Grizzlies, pursuing their first section title in the 86-year history of the program in the debut of coach Kyle Biggs, have won 11 straight. Red flags, however, have been raised in postseason escapes against No. 8 Edison (24-19) and No. 4 Clovis West (34-28, OT). For all the passing excellence of sophomore Trent Tompkins (school records of 2,977 passing yards and 35 TDs against only five interceptions, and with a .618 completion percentage), Central isn’t here without the dominance of defensive lineman Samuel Satele. He has 14 sacks, including rescue stops late in the Edison and Clovis West games. Linebacker Mathew Mendoza has been equally efficient. Glaring question for Central: The status of starting running back Diotry Brewer, who practiced last week but didn’t play because of a leg injury, Biggs says. He also practiced this week. Sophomore Austin Bebout is ready to fire, again, if Brewer does not. Tompkins has multiple receivers who have excelled in jump-ball situations, including Malik White, who beat Clovis West in OT.
No. 6 Ridgeview (7-5) at No. 1 Sanger (12-0)
Section titles: Ridgeview (3) 2012, ’14, ’15. Sanger (7) 1951, ’56, ’68, ’76, ’98, 2001, ’03.
How they got here: Wolf Pack tied Independence and Tehachapi for first (4-1) in South Yosemite League; in postseason, d. No. 3 Redwood 42-21, d. No. 7 El Diamante 46-14. Apaches won County/Metro Athletic Conference (5-0); in playoffs, d. No. 8 Dinuba 42-6, d. No. 5 Sunnyside 56-9.
Common opponents: None
The book on Ridgeview: The Wolf Pack make their sixth straight section finals appearance under coach Dennis Manning, having won in D-III in 2012 and in D-II the past two seasons. They’ll surely be elevated to D-I next season, the first of a new three-year cycle in the section’s realignment model based on recent performance, not enrollment. Ridgeview, as a top seed, defeated Sanger 30-23 in the 2014 D-II semifinals. Senior QB and multiposition star Jamar Moya is one of the section’s elite athletes. He scored on runs of 33, 34 and 17 yards last week against El Diamante. “He’s as quick a kid as we’ll have seen all year,” Sanger coach Chuck Shidan says. The Apaches’ apparent outgoing CEO is no less concerned with Ridgeview nose tackle Ricky Leung-Wai, who has 15 sacks, 30 QB hurries and has forced five fumbles. “He’s very disruptive,” Shidan says. “We have to account for him.”
The book on Sanger: The Hollywood script is one step from completion, which would send out Shidan with an unbeaten season, his fourth section title and 203rd win in 27 seasons. Key to closing the theater with perfection will be the Apaches’ offensive line of tackles R.J. Banegas and Miguel Herrera, guards Jonathon Romias and Nick Steele, and center Sebastian Oliva. They’ve been superb, but this assignment increases in difficulty. Sanger, starting 18 seniors in arguably the finest team of a 117-year program, has a Bee Player of the Year candidate in linebacker/fullback Miguel Garcia. The Apaches have solutions, no questions, at linebacker with him, Josh Arreola, Adrian Valencia and Josh Garza, and in the secondary with cornerbacks Aaron Mosby and Chris Soria and safeties Christian Graney and Jalen Cropper. Quarterback Jacob Tijerina has commanded the offense with few errors, and Andrew Azua is closing a three-year rushing career (2,181 yards, 32 TDs) in style.
No. 2 Tulare Western (9-3) at No. 1 Bakersfield Christian (11-1)
Section titles: Tulare Western (0); Bakersfield Christian (3) 2007, ’08, ’13
How they got here: Mustangs placed second in East Yosemite League (4-1); in postseason, d. No. 7 Tehachapi 9-7, d. No. 3 Hanford 39-16. The Eagles won the South Sequoia League (6-0); in postseason, d. No. 8 Fresno 51-21, d. No. 5 Memorial 41-35.
Common opponents: Tulare Western d. Fresno 41-35, d. Mission Oak 49-0, d. Tehachapi 9-7. Bakersfield Christian d. Fresno 51-21, d. Mission Oak 41-16, d. Tehachapi 14-7.
The book on Tulare Western: Dual-threat QB Andre Aguilar (2,187 yards, 21 TD passing/982 yards, 14 TDs rushing) has helped carry the Mustangs into the second section final in school history with 2,187 yards and 21 passing TDs, and 982 yards and 14 rushing TDs, totals that include 191 yards and two passing TDs and 43 yards and a rushing TD in last week’s semifinal win over two-time defending section champion and reigning CIF State Division IV-AA champ Hanford. The Mustangs’ defense has accounted for 74 tackles-for-losses, led by linebackers Payton Silva (11.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) and Julian Trevino (10.5 TFL, 3 sacks).
The book on Bakersfield Christian: Eagles arrive with the section’s leading passer, according to stats kept on maxpreps.com, in Braden Wingle, who’s thrown for 3,737 yards and 39 TDs this season. And his best performance came last week when he helped Bakersfield Christian overcome an early 14-0 deficit with a season-high 484 yards and five TDs. Eagles also feature two-way standout Jerimiah Foster, who’s caught 81 passes for 1,549 yards and 19 TDs as a WR and made eight interceptions as a DB.
No. 3 Chowchilla (10-1) at No. 1 Selma (12-0)
Section titles: Chowchilla (6) 1951, ’55, ’67, 2004, ’08, ’15. Selma (3) 1915, ’54, ’80
How they got here: Redskins finished in a three-way tie with Liberty-Madera Ranchos and Washington for the North Sequoia League title (3-1); in postseason, d. No. 11 Madera South 49-7, d. No. 2 Golden West 26-24. Bears won Central Sequoia League (5-0); in postseason, d. No. 8 Wasco 55-0, d. No. 4 Chavez 35-3.
Common opponents: Chowchilla d. Roosevelt 51-0, d. Immanuel 28-0, d. Central Valley Christian 42-35, d. Kerman 56-13, lost to Washington 23-21. Selma d. Kerman 41-7, d. Washington 25-3, d. Central Valley Christian 28-17, d. Roosevelt 35-0, d. Immanuel 46-8.
The book on Chowchilla: An 80-yard, 12-play, one-penalty march out of the run-heavy double wing, capped by a miraculous 6-yard TD pass that went from Cody Woolsey to Damon Perry with a lateral to Ronnie Reyes on the game's final play, lifted the defending division champion Redskins over Golden West last week and back into the final. LBs Perry (122 tackles, six for losses) and Reyes (87 tackles, 17 for losses, five sacks, seven forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries) as well as DB Asa Shields (seven interceptions) lead a defense that allows an average of 12.1 points per game. RBs Reyes (888 yards, 15 TDs) and Shields (842 yards, 8 TDs) also carry the load offensively. Redskins beat Washington 20-16 in last season’s section final, before topping Fairfax-Los Angeles 28-16 in the CIF Southern California Division IV-A Regional and losing 20-15 to Sierra-Manteca in the state final.
The book on Selma: A trio of three-year starters have propelled the Bears to their best season since 1980, when they went 13-0 and won the Sequoia Division championship. RB/LB Jordan Dominguez (1,161 rushing yards, 20 total TDs, 67 tackles, 10 tackles for losses), TE/LB Jason Nicacio (139 receiving yards, 1 TD, 60 tackles, 16.5 tackles for losses and five sacks), and RB/DB Joel Aranda (434 rushing yards, 311 receiving yards, six total TDs and three interceptions) have made an impact on both sides of the ball. Selma’s also sparked offensively by QB Junior Ramirez (1,531 yards and 14 passing TDs, 526 yards and 11 rushing TDs) and WR Rudy Rodriguez (594 receiving yards and 12 total TDs). Second-year Bears coach Matt Logue hasn’t trimmed his beard since June, when he vowed not to until his team lost a game.
No. 3 Firebaugh (11-2) at No. 1 Mendota (12-0)
Section titles: Firebaugh (1) 1994. Mendota (2) 2011, ’12.
How they got here: Eagles placed third in West Sierra League (3-2); in postseason, d. No. 14 Rosamond 73-40, d. No. 11 Bishop Union 39-29, d. No. 10 Yosemite 37-20. Aztecs won WSL (5-0); in postseason, d. No. 9 Desert 44-12, d. No. 4 Sierra 50-14.
Head-to-head: Mendota, at home, defeated Firebaugh 58-20 on Oct. 14.
Common opponents: Firebaugh d. Liberty-Madera Ranchos 28-26; d. Tranquillity 62-28, lost to Dos Palos 24-0, d. Avenal 49-0, d. Coalinga 35-21. Mendota d. Liberty-Madera Ranchos 26-19, d. Dos Palos 41-28, d. Avenal 63-0, d. Coalinga 14-6, d. Tranquillity 49-18.
The book on Firebaugh: Eagles get rematch from game in which Firebaugh’s Noey Garcia threw 78-yard TD to Tylor Palmer and scored on a 4-yard run for a 14-0 lead, only to see Mendota storm back with 43 unanswered points. Garcia (2,392 yards and 21 passing TDs) and Palmer (1,106 yards and 11 receiving TDs) are part of a trio of offensive standouts for Firebaugh that also includes RB AJ Molina (1,316 yards, 9 TDs). Eagles, who have won five straight, have a ball-hawking secondary that’s produced 19 interceptions, led by safeties Palmer and Jeshua Gutierrez, who have five apiece.
The book on Mendota: Aztecs have reached a section final for the fifth time in the past six seasons, and seek their first title since they volunteered up to D-V in 2013 after winning back-to-back crowns in D-VI. Mendota averages 42.6 points per game behind an offense led by QB Junior Cardenas (2,084 yards and 37 TDs) and his primary targets in WRs Julian Cardenas (635 yards, 11 TDs), his cousin, and Fabian Jasso (559 yards, 13 TDs). When the Aztecs run, they do it with RBs Mickey Medina (818 yards, 5 TDs) and Erick Segura (707 yards, 10 TDs). Defensively, Mendota relies on LBs Riley Lopez (79 tackles, seven for losses) and Justin Ruiz (53 tackles, nine for loss, five sacks), as well as DB Segura, younger brother of former Aztecs star and 2013 Bee Player of the Year Edgar Segura, and LB Jasso (three interceptions each).
No. 2 Sierra Pacific (8-4) at No. 1 Strathmore (12-0)
Section titles: Sierra Pacific (0). Strathmore (3) 1992, ’98, ’09.
How they got here: Golden Bears placed second in East Sequoia League (4-1); in postseason, d. No. 7 McFarland 63-33, d. No. 3 Kennedy 40-21. Spartans won ESL (5-0); in postseason, d. No. 8 Orange Cove 28-0, d. No. 4 Riverdale 26-20.
Head-to-head: Strathmore, at home, defeated Sierra Pacific 42-28 on Oct. 14.
Common opponents: Sierra Pacific d. Orosi 35-28, d. Lindsay 55-52, d. Granite Hills 34-0, d. Woodlake 66-24, d. Corcoran 77-0. Strathmore d. Orosi 56-13, d. Lindsay 35-0, d. Granite Hills 12-11, d. Woodlake 48-14, d. Corcoran 37-0.
The book on Sierra Pacific: Golden Bears are playing for a section title for the first time in the program’s six seasons after reaching the semifinals each of the past two seasons. Sierra Pacific, Hanford’s third high school, are led by the three-headed rushing attack of Miguel Wharton (1,461 yards, 28 total TDs), Gerod Magee (1,564 yards, 14 total TDs) and Phillips Jackson (984 yards, 19 total TDs). But the trio, who’ve helped the Golden Bears average 340 a game, were held to a combined 236 in a 42-28 loss to Strathmore on Oct. 14. Sierra Pacific has won five straight while averaging 56 points a game since. DT Aaron Ramirez (seven sacks) and DL Nick Gonzales (six sacks) led a defense that’s recorded 36 sacks on the season.
The book on Strathmore: Spartans have reached the D-VI final for the fourth time in the past eight seasons, their last appearance a 47-35 loss to Farmersville in 2013. Strathmore has been carried offensively by RB Joseph Garcia, who’s rushed for 1,498 yards and produced section second-best 32 TDs. He single-handedly outperformed Sierra Pacific’s vaunted rushing trio of Miguel Wharton, Gerod Magee and Phillips Jackson, finishing with one yard less (235-236) and five more touchdowns (6-1) during the Spartans’ 42-28 win on Oct. 14. Strathmore’s offense also features QB Nick Salas (1,228 yards, 11 TDs), RB Erik Flores (489 yards, seven TDs) and TE Andres Lara (416 yards, six TDs). Lara also made 11 of the Spartans’ 30 sacks, while SS Gilbert Acevedo came up with six of the team’s 13 interceptions.