Clovis News: Sports

Central High football rides roller coaster

The son of a preacher, Caleb Harrington has had his faith tested often as a varsity football player at Central High.

The Grizzlies' trials and triumphs in his three-year career under coach Casey Quinn have led to maddening emotional swings and unpredictability for the senior offensive tackle and anyone associated with the program.

And nothing has changed entering one of the school's most important games ever -- a home-field Tri-River Athletic Conference showdown with No. 2 Clovis West (7-1, 3-0) tonight.

"I've gone through a lot, all kinds of highs and lows, I don't know how else to put it," Harrington says. "Grading out really bad, grading out really good; having close games, winning big games, getting killed in games -- everything you can think of in a football game has happened here in three years."

Consider:

When Harrington was a sophomore in 2008, the Grizzlies went 1-9 in Quinn's first season.

In 2009, in one of the Central Section's greatest turnarounds, they went 7-4, including a 4-1 TRAC mark and a 24-3 whipping of Clovis West on the road. But the season ended in the first round of the Division I playoffs with a 27-21 overtime loss at home as a No. 4 seed to No. 5 Liberty-Bakersfield.

Then to this season, and where to begin?

Nationally ranked running back Brendon Bigelow was lost for the season in August with a knee injury.

An exhilarating 27-12 road conquest of state-ranked Chaparral-Temecula followed by a home-field 28-22 loss to El Diamante. Then, a month later, a 40-21 thrashing of Buchanan followed by a home-field 32-25 loss to Clovis. But hopes soar once again with a 54-34 throttling of Clovis North on the road a week later.

There's more.

  • Running back Robert Johnson is academically ineligible and gone for the season.
  • Standout cornerback T'Anjani Shepard out this week with a shoulder injury.
  • Quinn made an emergency drive to Oregon late Tuesday to be with his mother, who's ill.
  • Quinn has returned, but what's to be expected of the No. 7 Grizzlies (6-2, 2-1) against Clovis West, ranked 17th in the state and with the section's premier running back in Kendall Brock?

    "Hard to say," says Central defensive coordinator Rich Clayton. "I can't give a definitive answer. This game is going to tell."

    The Golden Eagles have won eight section titles since 1985 and lead the series with Central 15-5.

    "They have tradition to rely on," Clayton says. "We have one year, and we're excited about that one year. We're trying to change the culture here, but that's not a one-year, two-year or three-year deal; it's a 10-, 12-, 15-year process."

    And Harrington happens to be at the launching point.

    "One-and-nine [in 2008] was tough," he says, "but coming back last season and having the season we had meant a lot. And, at this point, I'm feeling really good about this season.

    "Our first goal is to win the league, but our motto all year has been Week 14, which is [the D-I] championship game."

    Playoffs seedings thoughts

    Another thought on the decision the section's playoffs seeding committee will tackle Nov. 13 regarding new Division I members Tulare and El Diamante:

    If Tulare is going to be penalized for competing in an East Yosemite League that, outside of the Redskins, combines D-II to D-V schools, then El Diamante must be dinged as well for losing to Tulare 21-20 in a nonleague game Oct. 15.

    Meaning: Should Tulare (vs. Mission Oak and Tulare Western) and West Yosemite League's El Diamante (vs. Golden West) win out in the regular season as expected -- each going 9-1 -- the committee really has no choice but to seed them closely. That's either fairly high, such as Nos. 4 and 5 behind Centennial, Clovis West and Bakersfield, or more toward the middle of the road, such as Nos. 6 and 7.

    The X factor in this entire scenario is Central, whose forecast is as predictable as Lindsay Lohan's rehab trips.

    • Coaches Darren Bennett of Tulare and Mark Rogers of El Diamante should wear orange and black today. Not for the San Francisco Giants or Halloween. Those colors also represent Central, which, with wins over Clovis West tonight and Clovis East next Friday, would boost the stock of Tulare and El Diamante substantially.
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