Clovis News: Sports

D-VI Aztecs play large in boys soccer

It's been a banner season for the Farmersville High boys soccer team.

The Division VI Aztecs have played in the finals of three major tournaments, winning the Jim Inglis Classic and Garces Holiday Invitational gold division titles.

They are one of only two teams to tie or defeat Golden Valley, the 24th-ranked team in the nation, according to the ESPN RISE Fab 50 poll, officially tying the Bulldogs during the Inglis final before winning the tournament title on penalty kicks.

They have victories over two D-I programs (Clovis West and Clovis East) and three Division II teams (Golden West, Redwood and Sanger).

They rolled to the East Sierra League title, have won 15 consecutive games and enter the Central Section Division VI playoffs as its top seed.

And despite all the success his team has enjoyed, Farmersville coach Michael Jordan knows winning the seven-team bracket -- the smallest of the section's six boys divisions -- will be no easy task.

The playoffs open tonight with the Aztecs on a bye; they will host No. 5 McFarland or No. 4 Avenal at 6 p.m. Thursday.

"We're very happy with a first-round bye, and, of course, we want to play in front of our fans and families," Jordan said. "It's a nice reward for a tough season. But other than that, I don't feel there is any advantage having a home game because any team we will play is so talented. Anyone can beat anyone."

The rest of the D-VI bracket includes No. 2 Mendota, No. 3 Tranquillity, No. 6 Strathmore and No. 7 Orange Cove.

Avenal coach Bill Vallem can attest to the strength of the D-VI bracket. After opening the season with nonleague victories over larger schools such as Clovis West, McLane, Hanford and Golden West, the Buccaneers ended up third in the West Sierra League behind champion Mendota and Tranquillity.

"Prior to playing Mendota and Tranquillity in league, I thought we were pretty good," said Vallem, whose 2008 team was the first from the Central Section to reach a CIF Southern California Regional final. "The top four teams in D-VI could compete with anyone in the section, bar none."

In addition to the three games in D-VI, there are 19 other opening-round boys games tonight. Top seeds Buchanan (D-I), Tulare Western (D-II), Golden Valley (D-III), Wasco (D-IV) and Mission Prep (D-V) all have byes before quarterfinal matches Thursday.

GIRLS SOCCER

Carrying the label of the section's hottest team heading into the postseason is Buchanan, winners of 19 straight since its only blemish of the year, a 0-0 tie against Liberty-Bakersfield on Dec. 5.

The top-seeded Bears open the Division I playoffs Friday against the winner of today's game between No. 9 Madera and No. 8 Centennial.

"We're trying to stay grounded," Buchanan coach Erik Farfan said. "It's playoffs now. It was great to do well and we're really excited about how we've done this season, but we'll judge our success at the end of the season."

The Bears appear to be setting the bar high every season.

Last year, Buchanan lost in the SoCal Regional D-I final 3-2 against San Clemente to complete a 21-4-2 season. This year, the Bears are 23-0-1 and chasing their fifth straight section title and third straight appearance in the regionals.

"I give them credit, they have been able to stay focused and they have dealt with the season one game at a time," said Farfan, whose team is ranked No. 6 in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of American and No. 7 in the ESPN RISE Fab 50.

There are 20 opening-round games across six divisions on the girls schedule today. Top seeds Garces (D-II), Madera South (D-III), Central Valley Christian (D-IV), Mission Prep (D-V) and Strathmore (D-VI) have byes Wednesday and will open their playoff runs Friday.

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