It’s Edison High versus Clovis. Again.
And think Kevin Jeanniton isn’t stoked?
“I’m so pumped, I’m ready for Clovis right now,” the Cougars transfer and standout defensive end said on the Sunnyside Stadium field Friday night after leading the eighth-seeded Tigers to a 16-6 win over No. 9 Bakersfield in the first round of the Central Section Division I playoffs.
Sophomore quarterback Gerard Mendez and Jimmy Gray connected for a 22-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter for an Edison lead it would not lose, and the Tigers secured it in the final minutes over the winningest program in state history on a 4-yard scoring run by Jaylen King and a quarterback sack for a safety by linebacker Jake Hanson.
With that – while only 5-6 and a far cry from the 12-2 D-I winning outfit of a year ago – Edison advances to a quarterfinal at top-seeded Clovis (9-1) next Friday at Lamonica Stadium.
The Tigers – as top seeds – trailed the Cougars 14-0 before scoring all their points in the final 7 minutes to rally for a 21-14 win in last year’s semifinals at Sunnyside.
Edison then returned to the same venue a week later to defeat Liberty-Bakersfield 21-14 for its first top division football title in 39 years.
And here the Tigers are again, still standing, with an offense that’s a minute-to-minute mystery, but a defense that can match up with the best of foes, led by Jeanniton, fellow linemen Leevel Tatum and Alim Shabazz, linebacker David Tate and deep backs Kobe Manning, Steve Stephens and Dee Tillman.
Clovis features a 2,463-yard, 27-TD passer in Sean Kuenzinger and the section’s finest receiving tandem in Coltin Velasquez and JJ Wills.
“Monumental task,” Edison coach Matt Johnson said. “Rich Hammond coaches those Clovis guys up as well as anybody; they’ve got a very, very quality game plan. But, hey, we’re here and ready to battle. How well we’ll execute is always up for discussion, but our guys are battle tested.
“The beautiful thing about the kind of year we’ve had, we’ve had a few moments of great quality and some moments of pain and anguish, but we’re battle tested. We’ve got some speed on this team and that might be a bit of an equalizer against Clovis.”
That speed includes Gray, who only became eligible last week, and Will Lee, who made his first appearance Friday night after breaking a foot in a 14-7 nonleague win at Bakersfield on Sept. 4.
King carried 27 times for 127 yards against Bakersfield (5-6), which is a shell of the 13-2 and state-winning D-I machine of 2013 that averaged 44.7 points and 403.8 yards behind quarterback Asauni Rufus – now a starting safety at Nevada.
Drillers quarterback KeAyr Gragg hurt Edison on several option plays, but, rarely protected against the Tigers’ pressure, completed only 2 of 10 passes for 15 yards.
Still, state record-holding 36-time section champion Bakersfield was very much in the mix, but was stung when it failed to convert a fourth-and-2 on the Edison 19 in the third quarter and lost a fumble on the Tigers 34 a few minutes later.