Clovis News: Sports

Quick Blitz: Central Section playoffs

The numbers game: As the Central Section's CIF office continues to charge aggressively in pursuit of achieving competitive equity in playoffs, enrollment promises to be an issue.

How hot? Case by case, obviously.

Consider football.

An argument, albeit moderate, can be made in Tulare County after that area's Division II standard bearers of the decade -- El Diamante and Tulare -- were bounced at home from the Division I tournament by lower-seeded yet larger schools from Clovis and Clovis East.

Fourth-seeded El Diamante (enrollment 1,924 by the section's latest count) lost 14-7 last week to No. 5 Clovis (2,605). Sixth-seeded Tulare (1,879) lost 20-7 two weeks ago to No. 11 Clovis East (2,280).

El Diamante and Tulare have been elevated to D-I in football as part of the section's philosophy that now aligns playoffs -- independent of each other in all sports -- by recent competitive history as opposed to school size.

Much more alarming than the enrollment discrepancies was the fact Clovis, which came in 7-4 and a 3-2 second-place tie finisher in the Tri-River Athletic Conference; and Clovis East, which arrived 3-7 and an 0-5 cellar-dweller in the TRAC, have clearly been stronger equipped in the past than the teams that eliminated 9-1 squads from El Diamante and Tulare.

The wins by Clovis and Clovis East pointed more to their playoff preparation coming out of the high-level TRAC -- as opposed to the mid-levels West (El Diamante) and East (Tulare) Yosemite leagues -- than it did their advantage by numbers.

Centennial and Dos Palos, meanwhile, plow forward without complaint to student population.

Centennial (1,858), a relative little guy in a D-I that ranges from Liberty-Bakersfield (1,854) to Central (3,695), finished second in the division last year and has reached the semifinals once again.

And Dos Palos (775)? A state icon in the sport, it will talk only about football, as opposed to mathematics, in a program that has advanced to the D-IV semifinals with Coalinga (1,131), Chowchilla (888) and Washington (1,047).

Paint it green and gritty: Like the macho stuff with hand-to-hand combat? Then Dos Palos' Bill Hume Stadium is the place to be for your 6 bucks tonight as Coalinga's Brian Alvarado opposes the Broncos' Kevin Schofield in an attractive duel of running backs/ linebackers.

"Not huge guys, not sprinters, but both weight-room guys and real strong," Dos Palos coach Mike Sparks says. "We're telling our guys, and I suppose [Coalinga coach Carlos McCaleb] is telling his guys the same thing, 'Better wrap up this guy, hang on and get help.' "

Schofield, a senior, has 1,686 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns. In a 66-35 rout of Roosevelt last week, he made 28 tackles, breaking a 27-year school record of 25 by Danny Slevin, who would go on to play at Cal.

Alvarado, a junior, has 2,121 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns. He's also made 80 tackles in a dominant two-way performance that has charged the greatest turnaround in section football.

The fifth-seeded Horned Toads of first-year coach Carlos McCaleb tied Kingsburg and Exeter for the Central Sequoia League title, and are 9-2 overall after going 2-18 the past two seasons.

Top-seeded Dos Palos (10-1) is attempting to send out 23-year coach Sparks with a seventh section championship and the school's 16th. He announced his resignation before the season began.

The Broncos are also in contention for a State CIF Bowls Championship berth. They are pulling for Kingsburg to win the section D-III title because their only loss was 34-28 to the Vikings in a season opener.

Smith a go for Clovis: Cougars coach Rich Hammond confirmed Thursday evening that senior quarterback Andrew Smith will return after missing the Redwood game with a sprained ankle.

"He's had a good week of practice," Hammond said of the 6-5, 215-pound senior, who will need to be better than good against the state's 15th-ranked Golden Eagles three weeks after Clovis lost 56-14 to them at Lamonica Stadium.

Top-seeded Clovis West has won eight straight in the series, outscoring the Cougars by an average of 35 points in the past five.

The Eagles will fire school record-breaking running back Kendall Brock (1,999 yards rushing, 36 TDs) and Hunter Burns (907-8) out of their shotgun wing-T offense against a Clovis defense led by linemen Dakota Gordon and Taylor Ferguson, linebackers Ryan Davies and Nate Palomino, and safety Donnell Vercher.

Kessler vs. Burrell: Five weeks after Centennial beat Bakersfield 28-14 in the Southwest Yosemite League, the second-seeded Golden Hawks (10-1) oppose the No. 3 Drillers (9-2) in a rematch at Centennial.

It offers a quarterback classic, matching Centennial's Cody Kessler against Brian Burrell.

USC-bound Kessler, one of six finalists for the U.S. Army Player of the Year award, has passed for 2,606 yards, 34 touchdowns and a .692 completion percentage, with one interception in 221 attempts. Burrell, in a 46-29 win over Clovis East last week, rushed for 218 yards and four TDs and passed for 78 yards and another score. A three-year starter, like Kessler, he has accounted for 2,024 total yards.

Centennial and CIF officials decided against moving the game to Bakersfield College because of costs -- $400 an hour in rental fees, running from early in the day to post-game cleanup, plus $1 per fan and 90% of concession revenue.

CAL-HI BOWL RANKINGS

Cal-Hi Sports' South Region rankings for state bowls purposes has No. 9 Clovis West and No. 16 Centennial in D-I, No. 6 Porterville in D-II and No. 3 Dos Palos and No. 9 Washington in D-III.

The rankings are used as a guide, not a rule, for the state's 10 section commissioners, who will determine matchups for five bowls Dec. 17-18 at the Home Depot Center in Carson. Participants have to section champions.

Should Dos Palos run the section table, the Broncos' chances of advancing to a bowl should be excellent -- regardless of Cal-Hi rankings -- because the Central Section hasn't been represented in the four-year history of the event.

The four bowl divisions vary from the six the Central Section uses in playoffs.

PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Brent Farris, Lemoore: Is there a more anonymous player standing in all of the section playoffs? Coming out of a league, the WYL, that went 1-4 in the postseason outside of his own team -- and this a Tigers outfit that placed fourth at 3-3 in that league -- the junior quarterback has ninth-seeded Lemoore (8-4) on the threshold of its first section championship game appearance in five years. The Tigers, who beat Yosemite 48-16 for the 2005 D-III title, have gone on the road to upset eighth-seeded Sanger 23-22 and No. 1 Frontier 35-28 to advance to tonight's D-II semifinal at No. 5 Memorial (9-3).

Farris, in his first year as a varsity starter, shredded Frontier of the worthy SWYL for 19-of-27 passing, 378 yards and four touchdowns. Memorial, third behind Sunnyside and Edison in the County/Metro Athletic Conference at 3-2, has beaten No. 12 North (56-12) and No. 4 Redwood (21-20) in the playoffs. Panthers junior Chris Brown (shoulder), one of the section's premier running backs in a strong year for the position, will not play tonight or next week, should they advance, coach Anthony Goston said Thursday night.

OTHER PLAYOFF GAMES

Tehachapi (11-1) at Garces (10-1), D-II: South Sequoia League champion Tehachapi has won 10 straight since losing 35-6 at home against Garces on Sept. 10. The Rams, winners of the Southeast Yosemite League, had senior Jalen Sykes rush for 213 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-21 quarterfinal win over Clovis North.

Ridgeview (9-2) at Porterville (11-0), D-III: Fourth-seeded Ridgeview (9-2) won the South Yosemite League crown. Top-seeded Porterville (11-0) is gunning for its first section title in football behind one of the section's top backfield combinations in EYL Offensive Player of the Year David Ali (938 yards rushing, 13 TDs) and league Specialist of the Year Bruce Volaski (972 yards rushing, 406 receiving, 21 TDs).

Independence (5-7) at Kingsburg (10-1), D-III: Independence, at No. 11, the lowest seed standing in the section, has upset No. 6 Hanford 35-7 and No. 3 Golden Valley 30-26. Kingsburg, last year's D-IV champion, has arguably the state's top two-way quarterback in Garrett Steele (1,797 yards rushing, 1,751 passing, 38 TDs accounted for).

Chowchilla (8-3) at Washington (9-2), D-IV: It's the latest version of double-wing muscle vs. spread speed in a series that's split 4-4 in the past eight. Second-seeded Washington (9-2) rallied for a 29-25 win over the Redskins on Oct. 22 en route to winning the North Sequoia League title.

Strathmore (8-4) at Orange Cove (8-3), D-VI: This title game is a repeat of last year's championship won 37-26 by Strathmore behind Jesse Soria's 349 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He's gone, but junior Juan Medrano (1,454 yards rushing, 14 TDs) has emerged as the Spartans' go-to back. The Titans counter with quarterback Alvaro Rodriguez (1,190 passing yards, 260 rushing, 19 TDs accounted for).

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 Clovis West, follow on Twitter: @beepreps) and Nick Giannandrea (Lemoore at Memorial). Coaches: Got a score to report? Call (559) 441-6379 or e-mail sports@fresnobee.com.

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