Central High has a No. 1 football seed but not the All-American who wore jersey No. 1 while playing a significant two-way role in helping the Grizzlies earn top billing.
Hence, the Central Section postseason in Division I begins Friday night for Central sans wide receiver/cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
The Utah commit closed his prep career in a 49-21 Tri-River Athletic Conference win over Clovis West at Koligian Stadium on Oct. 28, had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and will be on the sideline as the Grizzlies (9-1) host a quarterfinal against No. 8 Edison (5-6) at 7 p.m.
“Everyone’s doubting us without Jaylon,” Central first-year coach Kyle Biggs says, “but that’s when we play at our best. We don’t want this thing to end.”
This “thing” is the mission to deliver the first section title in the 86-year history of the program.
Edison won the D-I championship in 2014 before going 5-7 last year and opening this season 0-5 against teams who are a combined 39-16.
But the Tigers closed a 4-1 County/Metro Athletic Conference run, behind unbeaten Sanger, with what coach Matt Johnson called a “signature win,” 21-7 over Bullard, before blasting No. 9 Stockdale 35-14 to open the playoffs last week.
Edison has that major-college look in many areas – wide receiver/defensive back Teyjohn Harrington, to name one – and the speed to match a Central team deeply swift afoot.
But Biggs has the TRAC champion only looking in the mirror, not at the opposition: “Our concern is just us playing our game, us doing our job and taking care of each and everyone’s responsibility.”
That’s without Johnson, whose long-term availability was in question all along after he was hurt in a summer camp. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection says his priority is regaining top health for Utah’s preseason camp.
“We expected about five games out of him and we got nine,” Biggs says. “It was a decision Jaylon felt he needed to do and we support him 100 percent.”
Among other D-I quarterfinals, No. 4 Clovis West (7-3) and No. 5 Clovis (7-3) meet again at Veterans Memorial Stadium two weeks after the Clovis West Golden Eagles won 41-27 in a TRAC finale. Such a quick rematch is generally avoided, but section Commissioner Jim Crichlow said in this case that would have “distrupted” the seeding process.
The Central/Edison and Clovis/Clovis West winners will meet in the semis.
Clovis West quarterback Adrian Martinez, a Fresno Bee Player of the Year candidate, has accounted for 821 yards and eight touchdowns in the past two games – the win over Clovis and 49-28 loss to Central.
Division II – Several compelling story lines: top-seeded Sanger (10-0) playing No. 8 Dinuba (8-3) two weeks after Apaches apparent outgoing 27-year coach Chuck Shidan picked up his 200th career win; No. 5 and North Yosemite League champion Sunnyside (8-2) playing at No. 4 Tulare (9-1) a year after the Wildcats, with duplicate seedings, routed Tulare 46-14; No. 6 Ridgeview, 5-5 after consecutive D-II titles, playing at No. 3 Redwood (9-1); and No. 7 El Diamante (5-5) at No. 2 Garces (7-3), which is marching toward an anticipated final against Sanger despite the early-season loss of quarterback Conor Bruce with a broken leg.
Division III – Four quarterfinalists (Memorial, Hanford, Tehachapi and Tulare Western) have stronger strength-of-schedule ratings than top-seeded Bakersfield Christian of the South Sequoia League, according to Maxpreps.com. So, who knows with the 9-1 Eagles and 6-5 junior quarterback Braden Wingle (2,839 yards passing, 31 TDs) against No. 8 and NYL runner-up Fresno (8-3)?
Division IV – Top-seeded Selma (10-0), led by running back/linebacker Jordan Dominguez, takes on No. 8 Wasco (8-3). The Bears last won a section title in 1954 (Sequoia Division). Their first was also the section’s first, in 1915, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Division V – Mendota High senior quarterback Junior Cardenas enters with the most prolific passing numbers in school history: 5,575 yards and 71 TDs. This season, he’s thrown for 30 TDs against four interceptions for the No. 1 Aztecs (10-0), who open at home against No. 9 Desert (6-4). The Scorpions throttled No. 8 Immanuel 44-14 in Reedley last week.
Division VI: No. 1 Strathmore (10-0) will open at home against No. 8 Orange Cove (4-6), which it defeated 43-0 in late September. Sierra Pacific (6-4) looms large as a No. 2 seed at the bottom of the bracket.
CENTRAL SECTION QUARTERFINALS
No. 8 Edison at No. 1 Central
No. 7 Buchanan vs. No. 2 Bakersfield (West Bakersfield High)
No. 6 Clovis North at No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield
No. 4 Clovis West vs. No. 5 Clovis (Veteran’s Memorial Stadium)
No. 8 Dinuba at No. 1 Sanger
No. 2 Garces vs. No. 7 El Diamante
No. 4 Tulare vs. No. 5 Sunnyside (Bob Mathias Stadium)
No. 3 Redwood vs. No. 6 Ridgeview-Bakersfield (Mineral King Bowl)
No. 6 Kingsburg vs. No. 3 Hanford (Neighbor Bowl)
No. 7 Tehachapi vs. No. 2 Tulare Western (Bob Mathias Stadium)
No. 8 Fresno at No. 1 Bakersfield Christian
No. 5 Memorial at No. 4 South Bakersfield
No. 8 Wasco at No. 1 Selma
No. 10 Central Valley Christian at No. 2 Golden West
No. 11 Madera South at No. 3 Chowchilla
No. 5 Taft at No. 4 Chavez-Delano
No. 9 Desert-Edwards at No. 1 Mendota
No. 10 Yosemite at No. 2 Dos Palos
No. 11 Bishop at No. 3 Firebaugh
No. 12 Woodlake at No. 4 Sierra
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 vs. No. 2 Sierra Pacific-Hanford (Neighbor Bowl)