Arax says Brock is best: One of the marquee matchups among 21 Central Section playoff games tonight will unfold in Division I with Clovis West (5-5) running back Kendal Brock opposing a Bullard defense featuring three-year starting linebackers Daniel Snelling, Caleb Justice and Kyle Staples.
The No. 2 Knights (10-0), while giving up 14 points or fewer in eight games, have also been stellar up front behind nose guard John Williams and end Bryce Contreras. Brock rushed for 178 of his 1,604 yards in a 28-21 nonleague loss to Bullard on Oct. 2. "He's the best running back in the Valley, no question, and we have three good ones," Knights coach Donnie Arax says. "He's a good inside runner because he's tough, and, on the outside, he has tremendous speed and is smart. We've got to win the battle up front."
Apaches-Redskins rematch: In D-II, No. 8 Sanger (6-5) will go to No. 1 and defending champion Tulare (10-0) a year after the Redskins pulled away in the second half behind running back Jontell Reedom and quarterback James Guerrero for a 38-20 semifinal win over the Apaches. Bee Player of the Year Guerrero and All-Star Reedom have graduated and, so what? "After they left, I thought, 'There goes that deal,' but, I'll tell you what, I heard from a couple coaches that they are better than last year and I didn't believe it until I saw them on film," Apaches coach Chuck Shidan says. "And they're ahead 30-0 in the second quarter of every film we have." Sanger's defense, torched 50-7 by D-I top-seeded Buchanan in a season opener, has matured behind sophomore safeties John Pinedo and Renzio Apostal. But they'll confront major-college talent in Tulare's Edward Dillihunt (536 yards rushing, 721 yards receiving, 19 TDs) and Marquess Wilson (43 receptions, 893 yards, 20 TDs).
State rankings: Buchanan is No. 18 and Bullard No. 23 in Cal-Hi Sports' overall top 25 rankings. In rankings for state bowl purposes, Buchanan is No. 7 and Bullard No. 10 in D-I, Tulare No. 8 in D-II and Taft No. 5 and Corcoran No. 9 in D-III. Conspicuously absent is Memorial (10-1), whose 2008-09 enrollment of 604 places it in D-III.
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PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Chris Brown, Memorial: Memorial's offensive line, coached by assistant Mike McClurg, is one of the section's finest. But he found perspective after the sophomore Brown, wearing jersey No. 4, rushed for 178 yards in a 47-7 first-round rout of Mt. Whitney: "No. 4's not hard to block for." Similar to Clovis West's Brock challenging Bullard, Brown opposing Edison's rushing defense is a splendid matchup.
OTHER GAMES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Centennial (7-4) at Buchanan (10-0): Quarterback delight with Centennial's Cody Kessler facing the Bears' Lance Orender.
Liberty (7-3) at Central (7-3): Best defense in Kern County chases the Grizzlies' section-best speed in D-I.
Redwood (6-5) at El Diamante (9-1): West Yosemite League D-II rematch won 37-21 by El Diamante on Oct. 30.
Clovis North (5-6) at Dinuba (8-2): Clovis North 1,291-yard running back Alec Mechikoff is a go in the D-III game against the top-seeded Emperors, coach Tim Simons says, after missing the second half of a 37-6 win at Chavez with a stomach illness.
Sierra (8-3) at Washington (8-2): Regardless of this D-IV result, which will come a month after Washington defeated the Chieftains 49-7 in the North Sequoia League, Sierra interim coach Rob Hastie has earned Bee Coach of the Year consideration. The Chieftains were 2-8 a year ago.
Parlier (6-5) at Fowler (8-2): In D-V, this is a West Sequoia League showdown, part II, after Fowler won 21-19 on the road Oct. 16.
Orange Cove (6-5) at Tranquillity (8-2): Rematch of 2008 D-VI final won 30-26 by Tranquillity.