Of all the compelling story lines in the Central Section football seedings Saturday – and there were many – there was nothing quite like Central and Bakersfield going Nos. 1-2 in Division I.
While that was expected for the champions of the Tri-River Athletic Conference and Southwest Yosemite League, it did come with a historic twist. The 9-1 Grizzlies seek their first title in an 86-year program; the 8-2 Drillers have won a state-record 36.
Also landing top seeds, without surprise, were Sanger (D-II), Bakersfield Christian (D-III), Selma (D-IV), Mendota (D-V) and Strathmore (D-VI). All, like Central and Bakersfield, received first-round byes and will advance directly to Nov. 18 quarterfinals.
First-round games are scheduled for Thursday instead of Friday because of Veterans Day. Kickoffs are at 7 p.m.
Additional story lines of note:
▪ Central and Bakersfield will enter the playoffs minus top players. Grizzlies wide receiver/cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who has committed to Utah, announced last week his season was finished because of a shoulder injury that would require surgery. The Drillers lost starting quarterback Josh Maran (collarbone) in September but have surged since then behind the tag-team play of sophomore Cameron Williams and junior Caden Ochoa.
▪ Sanger completed a 10-0 regular season Friday night with a 56-21 County/Metro Athletic Conference rout of Memorial for 27-year coach Chuck Shidan’s 200th career victory. He is expected to step down after this season, but he continues to stop just short of making the official announcement: “Oh no, we still have a goal. We’re just zeroing in on who we play.” The Apaches will play either No. 8 Dinuba or No. 9 Independence in the quarters.
▪ Also arriving unbeaten in the postseason are Selma, Mendota and Strathmore.
▪ The seeding, dictated largely by a coaches’ poll road map – particularly for the top four choices in each division – was settled by a five-man staff in the Porterville office of Commissioner Jim Crichlow. He said quick rematches are generally avoided, but it wasn’t with No. 4 Clovis West and No. 5 Clovis in D-I because “it would have upset the structure of the bracket.” They’ll receive first-round byes before playing in the quarterfinals. The Golden Eagles defeated the Cougars 41-27 Friday night to close the TRAC.
▪ Central has won nine straight, including seven against section-ranked teams, since a season-opening 24-3 loss to Bullard.
Bakersfield has won six in a row since losing to Southern California powers Chaminade-West Hills (28-20) and Valencia (48-9).
The Drillers are 116-33 with four section crowns under 12-year coach Paul Golla. Their last section title – 60-21 over Clovis North in 2013 – was delivered by arguably the greatest team in section history.
“Bakersfield was flying under the radar – no one was talking about them – but we were keeping an eye on them all along,” said Grizzlies first-year coach Kyle Biggs. “They’ve got dudes; they’ve got guys. And coach Golla is fantastic. I’ve been paying attention to them every week. They’re getting better and better, and they’ll be there when it’s all said and done.”
Central, meanwhile, is soaring behind sophomore quarterback Trent Tompkins, who has passed for 2,630 yards and 31 touchdowns against only four interceptions, and a defense led by two of the section’s elite players in lineman Samuel Satele and linebacker Mathew Mendoza.
Bakersfield will play a quarterfinal against the winner of No. 7 Buchanan and No. 10 Bullard.
Central will play against either No. 8 Edison or No. 9 Stockdale.
Biggs, at this point, emphasized more his own team than who the Grizzlies might play: “Sometimes our biggest opponent is ourselves – how good we practice, how we are dialed in pregame. That’s the fight we’re fighting, having a week off and being No. 1-seeded. The players will hear how great they are; we (as coaches) will tell them win or go home. The teams that want to keep practicing are the teams who will advance each week.”
Central Section Football Playoffs
(All games at 7 p.m.)
No. 9 Stockdale-Bakersfield vs. No. 8 Edison (Sunnyside)
No. 11 Frontier-Bakersfield vs. No. 6 Clovis North (Lamonica Stadium)
No. 10 Bullard at No. 7 Buchanan
Byes: No. 1 Central, No. 2 Bakersfield, No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield, No. 4 Clovis West, No. 5 Clovis
No. 9 Independence-Bakersfield at No. 8 Dinuba
Byes: No. 1 Sanger, No. 2 Garces-Bakersfield, No. 3 Redwood, No. 4 Tulare, No. 5 Sunnyside, No. 6 Ridgeview-Bakersfield, No. 7 El Diamante
No. 9 East Bakersfield vs. No. 8 Fresno (McLane)
No. 12 North Bakersfield at No. 5 Memorial
No. 13 Hoover at No. 4 South Bakersfield
No. 11 Highland-Bakersfield at No. 6 Kingsburg
No. 10 Delano at No. 7 Tehachapi
Byes: No. 1 Bakersfield Christian, No. 2 Tulare Western, No. 3 Hanford, No. 4 South Bakersfield
No. 9 Kerman at No. 8 Wasco
No. 12 Roosevelt at No. 5 Taft
No. 11 Madera South at No. 6 Liberty-Madera Ranchos
No. 10 Central Valley Christian at No. 7 Washington
Byes: No. 1 Selma, No. 2 Golden West, No. 3 Chowchilla, No. 4 Chavez-Delano
No. 9 Desert-Edwards at No. 8 Immanuel
No. 12 Woodlake at No. 5 Fowler
No. 13 Farmersville at No. 4 Sierra
No. 14 Rosamond at No. 3 Firebaugh
No. 11 Bishop at No. 6 Caruthers
No. 10 Yosemite at No. 7 Lindsay
No. 15 Kern Valley-Lake Isabella at No. 2 Dos Palos
Bye: No. 1 Mendota
(All games at 7 p.m.)
No. 8 Orange Cove at No. 1 Strathmore
No. 5 Tranquillity at No. 4 Riverdale
No. 6 California City at No. 3 Kennedy-Delano
No. 7 McFarland at No. 2 Sierra Pacific-Hanford