Mendota High is knocking on the Central Section championship football door again, and guess who is rapping his knuckles on the wood?
It’s another Segura.
This one is Erick, a sophomore, who has rebounded from an ankle injury to rush for 309 yards and two touchdowns in two playoff wins as the Aztecs have advanced to the semifinals for the eighth consecutive year.
He is the brother of Edgar Segura, who left Mendota with a section career-leading 7,311 rushing yards and The Bee’s Player of the Year honor in 2013.
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The older Segura played on two section-winning teams and a runner-up.
Division V No. 4 Woodlake at No. 1 Immanuel No. 7 Mendota at No. 3 Dos Palos
Younger brother and the 8-4 Aztecs, as No. 7 seeds, will need to deliver a second straight Division V upset to have a chance at a title plaque.
A week after dominating No. 2 Fowler 24-7 on the road, Mendota will go to No. 3 Dos Palos (7-4) Friday at 7 p.m. in a duel sure to empty many homes in both West Side communities. The Broncos won the first 12 games of the series and lead 15-2 overall, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
The winner will play either top-seeded Immanuel (8-2) or No. 4 Woodlake (9-2) for the D-V title Dec. 4.
Dos Palos won 14-13 at Mendota on Oct. 9 en route to a 5-0 record in the West Sierra League. Segura didn’t play in that one.
“Erick does a lot of good things; Edgar did a lot of great things,” Aztecs coach Beto Mejia says. “Edgar, at this grade, was more advanced than Erick. But Edgar was 16 years old as a sophomore. Erick’s only 14, and that makes a big difference. By the time he graduates, Erick’s going to be a pretty darn good running back.”
Mendota isn’t nearly as dependent on the younger Segura as it was the older because the Aztecs are passing much more behind Junior Cardenas (2,158 yards, 24 touchdowns).
Dos Palos, meanwhile, has drawn from its rich past – hammering away on the ground in I-formation – while reversing a near-unprecedented four-year run of losing records.
Not since coach Mike Sparks closed his 22-year, 209-win career with a 10-2 mark in 2010 have the Broncos had a winning record.
Dos Palos has won 15 section titles and has the sixth-winningest record (629-261-25) in the state, Barnett says.
The Broncos, under first-year coach Rob Calvert – a longtime assistant at the school – run the ball for 80% of their plays behind Andrew Walker (872 yards, 7.1 average).
“They’ve got back to old Dos Palos football – I-backs and pound the ball,” Mejia says. “It’s been their blueprint to success, and I think it’s a pretty smart move. It’s so simple, yet hard to stop. If they get a push from their line the whole night, we’ll be in trouble.”
A preview of other division semifinals Friday night (all games start at 7 p.m.):
No. 5 Clovis North at No. 1 Clovis
No. 3 Bullard at No. 2 Liberty-Bakersfield
A Clovis vs. Liberty-Bakersfield championship game, anticipated by many since August, is one week from coming to fruition. But don’t be too quick to make that reservation. The top-seeded Cougars (10-1) must first accomplish what has been proven difficult to do for years by teams coming out of the Tri-River Athletic Conference: beat a good team from the league twice. Clovis will play Clovis North (7-4) only four weeks after defeating the Broncos 41-28. And Southwest Yosemite League champion Liberty-Bakersfield (7-3) must deal with the greatest insurance policy in the sport – a powerful running game in November. And Bullard has just that in senior Charles Williams (2,039 yards, 27 TDs).
No. 5 Sunnyside at No. 1 Ridgeview
No. 3 Sanger at No. 2 Lemoore
Ridgeview (11-0), a prohibitive choice all along to go wire-to-wire in this division after winning it last year, is ranked No. 22 in the state overall and No. 3 in D-II by Cal-Hi Sports. But Tulare coach Darren Bennett, after getting throttled 46-14 by Sunnyside (8-3) in the quarters, thinks the Wildcats have the size and athletic ability to cause suspense in Kern County. Lemoore (9-2) hasn’t been pushed since beating Sanger (10-1) 21-19 in mid-September. And the Tigers played without leading quarterback Logan Ahlin (concussion) in that one. But the Apaches can flat play defense.
No. 12 Golden Valley at No. 1 Hanford
No. 6 Tulare Western at No. 2 Memorial
Unusual the way this division has played out in that there remains Nos. 1 (10-1 Hanford) and 2 (8-3 Memorial) seeds, a No. 6 (9-3 Tulare Western) and a No. 12 (6-6 Golden Valley). Most compelling is who is playing now after missing many games – Hanford receiver/cornerback Juwuane Hughes (six with a broken arm) and Tulare Western quarterback Andre Aguilar (the first five because of transfer-related ineligibility). Golden Valley will go to defending champion Hanford while Tulare Western will play at Memorial, which had an off-season petition approved to drop from D-II.
No. 9 Kerman at No. 4 Chowchilla
No. 3 Washington at No. 2 Chavez
Kerman (7-4), coming off a 21-14 stunner of No. 1 Central Valley Christian, is considerably better than the team that got drilled 46-21 at home by Chowchilla (9-2) in the North Sequoia League in early October. But are the Lions 26 points better? Washington (8-3) and a gifted quarterback in Ashanti Ross go to Chavez (9-2) and a gifted defense that has given up seven points or fewer in seven games while giving up an average of 8.1 points overall.
No. 3 Sierra Pacific at No. 2 Avenal
No. 4 California City at No. 1 Kennedy
This is likely where the feel-good story of California City (8-3) ends at Kennedy (8-3), which is averaging 39.9 points. California City and the High Desert League shifted from the Southern Section to Central Section in 2013. And that came with an agreement that prohibited High Desert teams from hosting playoffs in any sport for three years. Sierra Pacific (8-3) goes to Avenal (7-4) nearly three months after losing 25-19 to the Buccaneers in a nonleague game.
Andy Boogaard: @beepreps