This is a big one for the Buchanan High football team.
The Central Section No. 2-ranked team will host national power De La Salle-Concord at 7 p.m. Friday in Clovis.
And the Spartans know how tough it can be to play at Veterans Memorial Stadium. They found out 13 years ago.
Clovis West defeated De La Salle in consecutive seasons in 2004 and 2005 with the last win – a 7-0 victory – coming at the Vet.
“We’ve played down there years ago and that stadium is a tough place to play,” De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “It presents a real challenge.”
To date, those Clovis West victories are the only ones by Central Section teams against De La Salle. Last season, Central lost 49-30 to the Spartans in Concord. It didn’t set the Grizzlies back too much as they went on to win the Central Section Division I title.
De La Salle lost in last year’s state open championship game to Mater Dei-Santa Ana. The Spartans have won six state championships and had 20 undefeated seasons.
De La Salle (5-0) is coming off a 27-21 win over Bishop Gorman-Las Vegas. The Spartans boast Division I-caliber recruits led by linebacker/running back Henry To’oto’o who has many offers, including Alabama. Others are tight end/defensive end Isaiah Foskey, linebacker Jhasi Wilson and cornerback Amir Wallace.
Buchanan matches resumes with five-star running back Kendall Milton, four-star wide receiver/cornerback Jalen Cropper and safety/wide receiver Brock Jones who just committed to Stanford on Sept. 14.
“Buchanan plays hard-nosed, physical football,” Alumbaugh said. “They rally to the ball on defense and move the ball well on offense. That is a tough combo to face.”
Alumbaugh also singled out the Bears’ rushing offense and ability to “get the ball to athletes especially Cropper in space” as concerns for his defense.
Ticket information – The second deck of the stadium is $10 for reserved seating. Bears athletic director James Gambrell said there are 600 seats remaining.
Reserved tickets can be purchased in the Buchanan athletic office until 4 p.m. Thursday.
General admission tickets are $7 for lower level home side, visitor side and south grass berm. About 10,000 will be available on game day.
Parking is $5 and the school encourages arriving no later than 6:15 p.m.
Milestones – Section historian Bob Barnett noted three quarterbacks each passed for eight touchdowns in one night for the first time in section history. It happened Sept. 7 by Martin Urroz of Minarets, Jayden Pineda of Mt. Whitney and Trent Tompkins of Central.
▪ Jalen McMillan set a San Joaquin Memorial school record with 202 receiving yards and four touchdowns in a 47-20 victory over Garces on Sept. 8. He also had a punt return for a touchdown.
▪ Minarets wide receiver Preston Conti set three school records with 10 receptions, 277 yards and six touchdowns (which tied the section record) in a 60-7 win over Tranquillity on Sept. 7.
Central volleyball still dominating – Defending section D-I champion Central opened the Tri-River Athletic Conference girls volleyball season sweeping past Clovis West 25-20, 25-12, 25-11.
Makayla Lewis and Bailey Combs each had 12 kills apiece, while Alli Santoyo totaled 23 digs for the Grizzlies.
This past weekend, Central placed 12th out of 64 teams at the Durango Fall Invitational in Las Vegas. The tournament featured 19 of 30 nationally ranked teams.
The Grizzlies (26-3, 1-0) are ranked No. 7 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. Their first showdown with Buchanan, last year’s section runner-up, is Tuesday at Central.
Central Section Top 10 football rankings
4. San Joaquin Memorial
6. Tulare Union
7. Tulare Western
8. Arroyo Grande
10. St. Joseph