Joey Ruiz provided the spark at the end of the first half and the muscle at the end of the game that sent second-seeded Memorial High to a 27-21 victory over No. 7 South on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Central Section Division III football playoffs.
Ruiz returned an interception 37 yards for a score that ignited a go-ahead, 14-point Panthers rally in the last 1:27 of the first half.
After the pick-six sliced the Rebels’ lead to 21-13, Memorial’s defense forced a three-and-out, got the ball back with 28 seconds left and set up the offense to go 69 yards in two plays, taking the lead for good on Michael Alvarez’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Chris Paz.
Memorial’s defense picked up where it left off in the second half, limiting South to 50 yards and holding the Rebels without a score after they advanced to the Panthers 17-yard line midway though the fourth quarter.
Memorial, protecting a six-point lead, took possession for the last time with 4:53 remaining and ran out the rest of the clock behind Ruiz, who rushed for 41 of his 106 yards on the game-ending drive.
The Panthers (8-3) jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, cashing in two plays after Justice Palms’ fumble recovery. Alvarez had a 73-yard scoring run, and Memorial later capitalized on Max Coyle’s interception with Ruiz’s 6-yard touchdown run.
South (9-3) responded in the second quarter with Devin McCord’s 9-yard touchdown run, Michael Perez’s 51-yard interception return and Isaiah Mireles’ 2-yard run for a 21-13 lead.
Memorial will host No. 6 Tulare Western, which upset No. 3 Tehachapi 15-8, in the semifinals next week.
No. 1 Hanford 42, No. 8 Kingsburg 7 – Juwuane Hughes, playing for the first time since breaking his forearm Sept. 18 against Porterville, had more than 150 yards receiving and a touchdown as the defending champion Bullpups (10-1) enjoyed a running clock in the fourth quarter while rolling over the Vikings (6-6).
Ryan Johnson had two touchdown runs and the scoring pass to Hughes. Joseph McDaniel also rushed for two touchdowns for Hanford, which will host No. 12 Golden Valley.
No. 6 Tulare Western 15, No. 3 Tehachapi 8 – David Alcantar scored a pair of second-half touchdowns to lift the Mustangs (9-3) to a road win over the Warriors (7-3).
Alcantar’s 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter put Tulare Western, which has won seven straight games, ahead 8-0. Tehachapi answered in the fourth quarter as Troy Noda scored on a 4-yard run, followed by a 2-point conversion pass from Lars Olofson to Jacob Gonzales.
Alcantar’s 1-yard scoring run provided the winning points for the Mustangs, who will play at No. 2 Memorial.
Tehachapi started the night with 1,300-yard rusher Keyron Scott inactive, then saw leading tackler Angel Garcia go down in the opening half.
No. 12 Golden Valley 28, No. 13 Highland 9 – A week after knocking off No. 5 seed Fresno 35-33, the Bulldogs from Bakersfield kept their run alive and earned a date with the top-seeded Bullpups.
No. 2 Liberty 40, No. 10 Central 27 – Nick Szpor ran for a touchdown and passed for another but it wasn’t enough as the Grizzlies (4-8) couldn’t keep up with the Patriots (7-3) after holding a 7-3 lead at the half.
Quincy Jountti rushed for three touchdowns for Liberty and finished with 217 yards on 27 carries. Jordan Love hit just 4 of 19 passes, but one was good for a 15-yard touchdown to Johnny Balderas, and he also ran for 107 yards.
No. 5 Clovis North 45, No. 4 Buchanan 28 – Jayson Lee rushed for three touchdowns and Jeremy Miller passed for three as the Broncos (7-4) downed the Bears (7-4) to create a semifinal date next week at No. 1 Clovis.
The game was marred in the last 2 minutes by a brawl.
Buchanan Athletic Director James Gambrell said that no Bears were ejected, then declined further comment. Clovis North AD Coby Lindsey could not be reached for comment.
Lee scored on runs of 4, 31 and 5 yards, the last two coming in the fourth quarter as the Broncos pulled away. Miller threw for touchdowns of 5 and 65 yards to Chad Fugman and 40 to Chase Maurer.
Clovis North avenged a 31-28 loss to Buchanan on Nov. 6 that gave the Bears a share of the Tri-River Athletic Conference title.
Buchanan received touchdown passes of 7 and 6 yards from Nolan LeForge to Mitchell Souza.
No. 2 Lemoore 24, No. 7 El Diamante 7 – The Tigers (9-2) showed off their defensive stinginess once again – holding an opponent scoreless in the first half for a seventh straight game while beating the Miners (5-6) for the second time in three games.
Logan Ahlin got the Lemoore offense going in the second, as the quarterback accounted for three touchdowns in the quarter, hooking up with Allen Perryman and A.J. Bow and running in another on a keeper.
Josh Roa kicked a 35-yard field goal in the fourth before El Diamante finally got on the scoreboard.
No. 3 Sanger 13, No. 10 Garces – The Apaches (10-1) were in a bad spot, trailing 10-0 before a big play by Andrew Azua sparked a come-from-behind victory at Tom Flores Stadium.
Azua intercepted a Rams pass on a fake field-goal attempt and returned it for a touchdown with 4:04 left in the third quarter to make it 10-7 and quarterback Michael Castillo hooked up with Christian Graney for the go-ahead touchdown as Sanger won its seventh straight game.
The Apaches’ only loss? A 21-19 setback Sept. 18 at Lemoore – where Sanger is headed next in the semifinals.
No. 5 Sunnyside 46, No. 4 Tulare 14 – Trae Magee rushed for three touchdowns and Tajee Scott ran for two more as the Wildcats (8-3) ground out 421 yards to beat the Redskins (9-2).
Marcus Hawkins paved the way for Sunnyside with 123 yards on 12 rushes, Scott had 101 on 13 carries and Ricky Valderrama added 78 on 13 rushes. Magee finished four rushes for 57 yards – with nearly all of that coming on scoring runs of 5, 43 and 6 yards.
With star running back Romello Harris sidelined with a knee injury, Tulare quarterback Josh Guerrero passed for 249 yards including a 19-yard touchdown to Emoryie Edwards in the second quarter. Harris’ replacement, Kazmeir Allen rushed for 87 yards, including a 25-yard third-quarter TD.
Harris finished his four varsity seasons with 7,311 yards, third best in section history.
The Wilcats advance to play at No. 1 Ridgeview, a 54-35 winner over No. 9 West.
No. 9 Kerman 21, No. 1 Central Valley Christian 14 – Brandon Smith scored with 6:07 left as the Lions (7-4) knocked off the Cavaliers (8-3) – the first top-seeded team to fall in the playoffs.
CVC, which got two scoring passes from Aaron Daggs, had three possessions after falling behind but each time was thwarted by Kerman's defense, which forced a punt and intercepted two passes – including the clincher by Adam Martinez after CVC drove to midfield in the final minute.
Kerman next visits North Sequoia League rival Chowchilla in the semis and will be seeking to avenge a 46-21 loss in league play Oct. 9.
No. 3 Washington 31, No. 6 Selma 14 – The Panthers (8-3) scored 21 unanswered points to put away the Bears (8-4).
Noah Beukers’ second rushing touchdown, a 1-yarder to go with a 30-yard score in the first quarter, gave Washington a 14-7 lead in the second. A 40-yard touchdown pass by Ashanti Ross to Devontae Massey made it 21-7 in the third.
Adam Martinez scored on an 11-yard run in the fourth before Johnny Rodriguez nailed a 32-yard field goal to cap the scoring for Washington, which visits Chavez next week.
Jordan Dominguez scored on an 18-yard run in the first and Joel Arranda caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Henry Ramirez Jr. for Selma.
No. 4 Chowchilla 27, No. 5 Madera South 20 – The Redskins (9-2) bolted to a 21-0 lead then held off the Stallions (5-6) to advance to the semifinals.
Jonah Johnson sparked Madera South with three unanswered touchdown passes to Jacob Kirkpatrick (9, 21 and 41 yards) that made it 21-20 in the third quarter. Alex Gutierrez scored on a 4-yard turn in the fourth quarter to seal it for Chowchilla.
Danny Chavez (2 yards) and Anthony Stewart (5) ran for first-quarter touchdowns and Stewart added a 7-yard scoring run in the second for the Redskins.
Johnson hit 10 of 20 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions – with Kirkpatrick hauling in eight catches for 144 yards.
No. 2 Chavez 28, No. 7 Exeter 17 – The Monarchs (8-4) fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and never fully recovered against the Titans (10-1).
Freshman Alex Trujillo threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Williamson and scored on a 4-yard run for Exeter.
No. 1 Immanuel 44, No. 8 Caruthers 14 – The Eagles raced to a 22-0 first-quarter lead behind a field goal from Viktor Cooper, 8-yard touchdown runs by Kyle Dunigan and Ryan Case and a 20-yard scoring pass from Caleb Paulson to Andrue Lackey, and never looked back against the Blue Raiders.
Immanuel expanded its lead to 30-0 on a 15-yard Case touchdown run and a safety. A second Paulson scoring pass, this one 40 yards to Adrian Jump, and a second Dunigan scoring run, this one 1 yard, put the score out of reach.
The Eagles will host No. 4 Woodlake in the semifinals.
No. 7 Mendota 24, No. 2 Fowler 7 – Sophomore Erick Segura scored on a 7-yard run and Junior Cardenas threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Luis Mojarro as the Aztecs (8-4) bolted to a 14-0 first-half lead en route to the road upset of the Redcats (7-3).
Cardenas also connected with cousin Julian Cardenas on a 20-yard touchdown pass as Mendota advanced to a semifinal at No. 3 Dos Palos, which edged No. 6 Firebaugh 22-18. The Broncos edged the Aztecs 14-13 in a nonleague game at Mendota on Oct. 9.
The Aztecs have reached the semis in all five years under coach Beto Mejia. They won D-VI titles in 2011 and ’12 before volunteering up to D-V.
No. 4 Woodlake 31, No. 5 Kern Valley 14 – Noe Garcia rushed for four touchdowns to power the Tigers (9-2) over the Broncs (8-3).
Garcia scored on runs of 3 and 8 yards in the first half as Woodlake built a 14-7 lead. His 8-yard score in the third quarter made it 21-7 and he put the finishing touches on the game with a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth.
The Tigers also received a 5-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Stevenson to Eric Schwarz.
No. 1 Kennedy 40, No. 8 Strathmore 28 – Nick Salas passed for two touchdowns to help the Spartans (6-6) take a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, but the Thunderbirds (8-3) intercepted him three times as they took control and rallied for the victory.
Devon Lee rushed for three touchdowns and 81 yards for Kennedy, which will host No. 4 California City, a 26-8 winner over No. 5 Tranquillity, in the semifinals.
No. 3 Sierra Pacific 49, No. 6 Orange Cove 13 – Junior Miguel Wharton and sophomore Phillips Jackson each rushed for more than 100 yards as the Golden Bears blew out the Titans on Thursday to earn a repeat trip to the semifinals.
A year ago, Sierra Pacific’s title quest ended when a shorthanded offense and three interceptions helped lift Avenal to a 13-0 win.
This year, the Bears (8-3) can gain a double dose of revenge in what will be a repeat 2-versus-3 matchup at No. 2 Avenal, which beat No. 7 McFarland 72-6, for the right to advance to the final. The Buccaneers also beat Sierra Pacific 25-19 in a Week 1 nonleague game this year.
The Titans, after a 4-0 run to the East Sierra League title, finish 5-5.
All games 7 p.m.
Semifinals: Clovis vs. Clovis North; Liberty vs. Bullard
Championship: Dec. 4
Semifinals: Nov. 27, Ridgeview vs. Sunnyside; Lemoore vs. Sanger
Championship: Dec. 4
Semifinals: Nov. 27, Hanford vs. Golden Valley; Memorial vs. Tulare Western
Championship: Dec. 4
Semfinals: Nov. 27, Chowchilla vs. Kerman; Chavez vs. Washington
Championship: Dec. 4
Semifinals: Nov. 27, Immanuel vs. Woodlake; Dos Palos vs. Mendota
Championship: Dec. 4
Semifinals: Nov. 27, Sierra Pacific vs. Avenal; Kennedy vs. California City
Championship: Dec. 4