Assignment upgrade for Clovis: After staging defensive clinics on how to stuff wing-T offenses for three consecutive weeks -- and against ranked opposition, no less -- No. 8 Clovis will have something else to think about tonight against No. 4 Central at Koligian Stadium.
Try Michael Baker and B.J. Kelley for starters.
This is not to suggest the Grizzlies won't lead with the run as they generally do in the Tri-River Athletic Conference game. They surely will, especially considering they'll welcome the return of standout senior running back Robert Johnson, who's missed three games with a concussion. Yet Central averaged 46.3 points while winning those games.
A year after balancing a 562-yard offense in a 49-14 throttling of the Cougars, the Grizzlies return with multiple firepower once again -- Baker has completed 68% of his passes for 1,276 yards and Kelley has averaged 24.8 yards on 28 receptions -- 10 for touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see what Clovis asks of safety Donnell Vercher -- concentrate on the pass? Or the run? He's had some combination of fumble recoveries, forced fumbles and interceptions for five consecutive games, and has combined with middle linebacker Nate Palomino to help set the tempo for a Cougars defense that has given up only one touchdown in three games while holding Clovis East, Sanger and Stockdale to an average of 136 yards.
Midseason Oscars: Accounting for playoffs, we're about halfway through the show. And the winners are: Best Player -- Kendall Brock, Clovis West. Best Coach -- Rick Stewart, Porterville. Best Team -- tie, Centennial and Clovis West. Best Game -- Dos Palos 31, Chowchilla 28. Best Crowd -- Reedley at Sanger. Best Surprise Player -- Johnny Phaxay, McLane. Best Surprise Team -- Porterville. Best Leader -- Cody Kessler, Centennial. Best Versatile Player -- Garrett Steele, Kingsburg. Best Ironman -- Kevin Schofield, Dos Palos. Best Play -- Steele's zigzagging, last-second winning 80-yard TD pass at San Luis Obispo (check out fresnobeehive.com/sportsbuzz/ for a link).
Root guns for 3K Club: Redwood's Dillon Root needs 55 rushing yards tonight against Tulare Western to reach 3,000 for his career. After seeing the Fresno State-bound athlete scorch Hanford for 311 yards last week at Neighbor Bowl, Hanford public address announcer Danny Coulon -- a former Bullpups standout quarterback who has seen Jewerl Thomas, Sean Wills and many other great ones motor in that venue -- said of Root: "Best running back I've seen in a long time -- power, patience and has another gear."
Big blow for Broncos: Senior tight end/linebacker David Hayes, an anchor for Clovis North's program since its inception, is out for the year with a torn ACL. It's the same knee that required surgery in January after he learned he had played the 2009 season with a partial tear. He reinjured it this time without contact in a practice three weeks ago. Broncos coach Tim Simons says Hayes has major-college talent at either tight end or linebacker.
Cal-Hi bowl rankings: Porterville has made its first appearance, at No. 14 in Cal-Hi's South D-II for state bowl purposes. The Central Section is also represented by No. 5 Centennial and No. 12 Clovis West in D-I and No. 3 Dos Palos, No. 4 Chowchilla and No. 10 Exeter in D-III. The state bowl divisions vary slightly from the section's six playoff divisions.
The sixth annual state bowl games -- In Open, D-I, D-II, D-III and D-IV divisions -- will be played Dec. 17-18 at Carson's Home Depot Center. The Central Section has never been represented. Participants are determined by a vote of the state's 10 commissioners. They will meet Dec. 12.
PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Chad Neal, Chowchilla: In a key Central Sequoia League game with major D-IV seeding implications, visiting Chowchilla will need to be tougher to survive against Washington's big-play threats, featuring QB Sean Stell, RB Yaffet Thomas and WRs Deontay Greenberry and Josh Williams. And the Redskins have just the man in Neal, a fullback/middle linebacker who would not only start, but have an impact for any team from Clovis to Bakersfield.
OTHER GAMES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
No. 14 Buchanan at No. 2 Clovis West: Buchanan has given up 84 points the past two weeks, including a 296-yard rushing performance by Stockdale's Deon Martin. And now Kendall Brock? Ouch!
Sunnyside at No. 11 Memorial: Wildcats have followed an 0-3 start with three straight wins, albeit against teams (Hoover, Fresno, Madera) with a combined 4-14 record. But they're running the ball well and will duel the Panthers' Chris Brown in a former North Yosemite League matchup now shifted to the County/Metro Athletic Conference. The winner takes a big step ahead in the standings.
Kingsburg at Coalinga: Must-win for the Vikings following a 26-14 loss last week to Exeter. But, in the year of the running back in the section, they will face an emerging star in Horned Toads junior Brian Alvarado, who has rushed for 1,289 yards and 15 touchdowns this season and 1,996 and 19 scores in his career. He's looking to help Coalinga continue its step forward in the Central Sequoia League.
Follow us: Keep up with the action tonight at blitz.fresnobeehive.com and on Twitter: @scoopy sports. Coverage will be provided by Andy Boogaard (Clovis at Central, follow on Twitter: @beepreps) and Nick Giannandrea (Chowchilla at Washington). Coaches: Got a score to report? Call (559) 441-6379 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.