It’s one thing attempting to defend all those marvelous Edison High toys that quarterback Hunter Swearingen has the luxury of playing with on Friday nights — Khai Williams, A.J. Greeley, Kamron Lewis, Tyler Horton and on and on ...
In addition, Clovis coach Rich Hammond says with reverence, there are the “hidden” factors, the unconventional touchdowns the top-seeded Tigers have made somewhat conventional on punt, kick, intercepton and fumble returns.
“I broke down eight of their games,” says Hammond, whose No. 5 Cougars (8-4) will play Edison (10-1) Friday night at Sunnyside Stadium in the Central Section Division I semifinals, “and they’ve got to have one, or sometimes two, defensive and special-teams touchdowns in each of them. That’s the part that’s amazing to me.”
Hammond points specifically to the Tigers’ 42-12 nonleague route of Clovis West in early October when their scores included a interception return by Anthony Shepard, a punt return by Greeley and a fumble return by Chris Allison.
Hammond also cites Edison’s defense, specifically lineman Xavier Hamilton, linebacker Vance Sams Jr. — a Bee Player of the Year candidate — and deep backs Greeley, Horton and Juwan Murphy.
“They’ve got a lot of dudes who can play,” says Hammond, who has split four games with the Tigers in a six-year Cougars career that has restored tradition in a program that has won eight section titles. “They have guys everywhere you look.”
Edison, ranked 19th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and on a mission under second-year coach Matt Johnson (19-3) to capture its first section large schools championship in 39 years, has won four straight while throttling the opposition 170-27.
That included last week’s 42-0 quarterfinal rout of Centennial in a game in which senior running back Williams scored three touchdowns and Fresno State commit Greeley returned an interception 78 yards for a score.
Clovis, meanwhile — appearing in its fourth D-I semifinal in five years — was rallying from a 14-6 halftime deficit to beat No. 4-seeded Clovis North 28-17.
Cougars quarterback Evan Geiger completed his last five passes against the Broncos for 109 yards and two TDs — including a momentum-reversing 55-yarder to J.J. Wills — while plowhorse Adam Prentice and sophomore Samir Allen continued to run well and senior linebacker Lane Barnes was dominant.
Wills and Barnes represent impressive lineage.
Wills is the son of former Hanford running back Shawn Wills, one of the best the section has known. And Barnes is the son of former Clovis West running back Todd Barnes and the nephew of the late Golden Eagles star lineman/wrestler Trent Barnes.
The Clovis-Edison game is one of 11 Friday night in six divisions, including top-seeded Kennedy and No. 2 Avenal for the D-VI championship in Delano.
• No. 3 Bakersfield (9-2) at No. 2 Liberty-Bakersfield (9-2), D-I: Liberty will attempt to become the first team to beat Bakersfield twice in one season in the Drillers’ 111-year history, according to section historian Bob Barnett. The Patriots beat Bakersfield 21-14 in a Southwest Yosemite League game Nov. 7.
• No. 4 Sanger (8-3) at No. 1 Ridgeview (10-1), D-II: Yes, the Wolf Pack have an 1,825-yard, 25-TD rusher in Sheldon Croney, who toasted Tulare for 339 yards rushing and six scores in a 55-27 quarterfinal. But how about Ridgeview holding Romello Harris to 44 yards rushing? He entered with 2,517 and 30 TDs. Sanger is not far from a 10-1 season, also. The Apaches had both Lemoore and Bullard beat late in losses.
• No. 3 Dinuba (10-1) at No. 2 Lemoore (11-0), D-II: Splendid matchup of Emperors running back Michael Wright against Tigers quarterback Cort Groathouse. Dinuba QB Isaac Leppke has made significant strides after replacing graduated star Marcus McMaryion.
• No. 3 Madera (8-3) at No. 2 Mission Oak (9-2), D-III: Here’s your most entertaining game of the night, matching the Coyotes and quarterback Nate Nelson, running back Jesus Jimenez and wide receivers Alec Gamboa and Kris Bueno against the Hawks and running back Le’Andre Jefferson, who scored four of his 27 TDs in a 63-0 demolition of North last week.
• No. 5 Bakersfield Christian (7-4) at No. 1 Hanford (10-1), D-III: Hanford escaped a game-ending fight with Fresno last Friday without suspensions. The Bullpups, two wins away from their first section title, had no ejections in the 41-16 win. Fresno had one ejection in the game called with 12 seconds remaining because of the brawl.
• No. 4 Golden West (7-4) at No. 1 Liberty-Madera Ranchos (11-0), D-IV: Golden West has an enrollment of 1,628, Liberty 577. Will it matter? Nothing to suggest so with the Hawks, who are leading the section in scoring (49.7 average) and are 37-2 in three seasons, including two D-V crowns.
• No. 3 Chavez (10-1) at No. 2 Central Valley Christian (10-1), D-IV: Another numbers imbalance that could be meaningless. Chavez has 1,423 students, CVC 262. And so a Liberty-CVC duel anticipated for four months has reached the threshold.
• No. 8 Corcoran (9-3) at No. 4 Mendota (9-3), D-V: Corcoran QB Nico Portillo (23-28-263, 2 TDs) upstaged secton career-leader Sam Metcalf in a 26-14 quarterfinal upset of top-seeded Farmersville. Mendota, meanwhile, isn’t certain about the return of sophomore QB Junior Cardenas (dislocated finger), who missed a 26-14 quarterfinal win over Sierra while Marco Rodriguez filled in admirably.
• No. 7 Fowler (9-3) at No. 3 Immanuel (8-3), D-V: The Eagles match senior running back Robert Grier (1,535 yards, 14 TDs) against a Fowler offense that punished No. 2 Kern Valley for 520 yards in a 44-28 upset behind the rushing of Isaac Munoz (155 yards, TD) and Izaiah Moreno (105-1) and the passing of Matt Kahaian (16-18-206, TD).
• No. 2 Avenal (8-3) at No. 1 Kennedy (8-3), D-VI championship: Kennedy’s quite the story, having gone 4-48 in its first five years of existence. Avenal is seeking the first section football title, according to Barnett.