SOUTH DIVISION 4-AA
BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN (12-1) AT SELMA (13-0)
How they got here: Eagles won South Sequoia League (6-0); in Central Section D-III playoffs, d. No. 8 Fresno 51-21, d. No. 5 Memorial 41-35, d. No. 2 Tulare Western. Bears won Central Sequoia League (5-0); in section D-IV playoffs, d. No. 8 Wasco 55-0, d. No. 4 Chavez 35-3, d. No. 3 Chowchilla 39-7.
Common opponents: Eagles d. Central Valley Christian, d. Wasco 20-16, d. Chavez 27-21 in overtime. Bears d. CVC 28-17, d. Wasco 55-0, d. Chavez 35-3.
Next: Winner will play at home at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 against North Division 4-AA champ Campolindo-Moraga (10-3) or Palma-Salinas (10-3).
Book on Bakersfield Christian: Eagles won section title a division up from the Bears, leading to rare state bowl intrasection duel but needed to balance the state’s 50-team North and South matchups (favoring South-heavy enrolled schools) and travel. Bakersfield Christian quarterback Braden Wingle has pressed section history with 4,055 yards and 43 TDs passing, but Jeremiah Foster (85 receptions, 1,609 yards, 20 TDs) also has gained the attention of Selma coach Matt Logue: “It’s not just the numbers that pop out. To me, he’s their best player; he’s big, fast and runs great routs. He’s definitely a guy we’ll focus on, try to slow down and disrupt.”
Book on Selma: The program’s first section title in 36 years and outscoring three teams 129-10 in the postseason has featured two-way standouts in quarterback/safety Junior Ramirez (1,732 yards, 18 TDs passing/35 tackles) and running back/linebacker Jordan Dominguez (1,252 yards rushing, 22 TDs/77 tackles, including 11 for loss). But Logue doesn’t go long without citing Joaquin Alcarez, a 5-6, 140-pound nose tackle: “He’s one of the toughest, most relentless guys I’ve ever seen. He’ll get buried two plays in a row, pick himself up and fight the next play. He’s so little and quick, he causes a lot of disruption.” Defending Foster in the secondary will involve a time-share with Ramirez, safety Chris Romero and cornerbacks Joel Aranda and Sergio Pena.
NORTH DIVISION 6-AA
MENDOTA (13-0) VS. AMADOR-SUTTER CREEK (13-1) AT CALAVERAS HIGH
How they got here: Aztecs won West Sierra League (5-0); in section D-V playoffs, d. No. 9 Desert 44-12, d. No. 4 Sierra 50-14, d. No. 3 Firebaugh 50-22. Buffaloes placed second in Mother Lode League (5-1); in Sac-Joaquin Section D-VI playoffs, d. No. 8 Denair 48-12, d. No. 4 Orestimba 17-14, d. No. 2 Bradshaw Christian 30-7; in CIF Bowl play-in, d. Lincoln-San Francisco 45-20.
Common opponents: Mendota d. Orestimba-Newman 36-0. Amador d. Orestimba 17-14.
Next: Winner will play at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at South Division 6-AA champ Rancho Christian-Temecula (12-2) or Franklin-Los Angeles (13-1).
Book on Mendota: Aztecs coach Beto Mejia is 56-11 in six years and unbeaten again after going 12-0 in his first season (2011). But he’s displeased having to travel, particularly against a team whose comparative score against Orestimba doesn’t compare at all with Mendota’s: “It kind of took some of the joy out of our accomplishment, but it also brought some added determination in me, all right. I’ve told the players they have to work harder to earn the respect they deserve. They make us drive, we want to make sure they understand you never (upset) these Mendota kids.” Aztecs senior quarterback Junior Cardenas, in clearly an All-State season, has completed 61 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,411 yards and 42 TDs against four interceptions. He’s passed for 6,325 yards and 83 TDs in a three-year career for teams that have gone 31-9.
Book on Amador: Buffaloes senior running back Daylan Thetford wears jersey No. 1, and for good reason. The 5-9, 175-pounder has rushed for 1,425 yards and 29 TDs. “Let’s see if they have a Plan B,” Mejia says, “because right now he’s A, B, C and all the way through Z. I’m not going to learn his name before or after the game. He’s their guy. Every big play, it’s him. We’ll be aggressive; I’m not going to let one guy beat me.”
NORTH DIVISION 1-AA
BAKERSFIELD (12-1) AT DEL ORO-LOOMIS (12-2)
How they got here: Drillers won Southwest Yosemite League (5-0); in section playoffs, d. No. 7 Buchanan 44-14, d. No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield 44-34, d. No. 1 Central 21-14. Golden Eagles placed third in Sierra Foothill League (4-2); in Sac-Joaquin Section D-II playoffs, d. No. 15 Laguna Creek 79-0, d. No. 10 Vacaville 54-13, d. No. 3 Antelope 50-10, d. No. 8 Inderkum 35-13.
Common opponents: None
Next: Winner will play at 4 p.m. Dec. 17 vs. South Division 1-AA champ San Clemente (13-1) or Edison-Hungtington Beach (13-1) at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.
Book on Bakersfield: This is a rematch of the state’s 2013 D-I final won 56-26 by the Drillers with arguably the best team in Central Section history. They throttled Tri-River Athletic Conference members Clovis West (44-21), Central (45-6) and Clovis North (60-21) in the D-I playoffs that year. And, while this year’s Bakersfield band is not to be compared with that one, in no way will the Drillers be intimidated 300 miles north, especially coming off a 21-14 come-from-behind win over the section’s top-ranked Central last week. Bakersfield has won seven state titles.
Book on Del Oro: In Northern California football, it’s long been De La Salle-Concord and the rest. Well, Del Oro has long been among the best of the rest. The Golden Eagles of coach Casey Taylor (148-50, 15 years), ranked 24th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, have won six Sac-Joaquin titles in 13 years and are playing in their fourth state bowl in six seasons, including a 16-13 victory over Camarillo for last year’s Division 2-AA championship. The key here – how apt-named senior quarterback Stone Smartt (2,633 yards, 25 touchdowns passing; 772 yards, 10 TDs rushing) holds up against a defense that rendered a heretofore remarkable Central sophomore QB Trent Tompkins helpless last week.
NORTH DIVISION 2-A
SERRA-SAN MATEO (9-4) AT SANGER (13-0)
How they got here: Padres tied for first in West Catholic League (6-1); in Central Coast Open Division 2 playoffs, d. Leigh 45-14, Saint Francis 31-17, d. Archbishop Mitty 37-24. Apaches won County/Metro Athletic Conference (5-0); in section D-II playoffs, d. No. 8 Dinuba 42-6, d. No. 5 Sunnyside 56-9, d. No. 6 Ridgeview 20-10.
Common opponents: None
Next: Winner will play at noon Dec. 17 vs. South Division 2-A champ Los Angeles (11-3) or Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth (13-0) at Hornet Stadium.
Book on Serra: General public typically has trouble understanding that records/rankings are relevant to competition (specifically, strength of schedule). Hence, the Padres and their No. 25 state ranking by Cal-Hi Sports following an 0-4 start against state-ranked teams in No. 4 De La Salle (47-13), No. 7 Saint Mary’s-Stockton (63-35), No. 18 Pittsburg (48-25) and No. 21 Valley Christian-San Jose (35-28). Spotlight here is on three-year starting QB Sitaleki Nunn (1,354 yards, 14 TDs passing; 786 yards, 11 TDs rushing) against a defense that has given up an average of only 13.3 points per game.
Book on Sanger: When Serra scouts Sanger, the Padres will find 17 accomplished senior starters and, oh by the way, a sophomore running back/safety, Jalen Cropper, averaging 18.1 yards per carry rushing with 19 TDs. His 13 rushing TDs range from 11 to 61 yards, with eight of them 30-plus. Simply, he’s the future-is-now star of the program. But, potentially most imposing for Serra could be a pulsating Tom Flores Stadium crowd numbering at least 6,000. Meanwhile, among an Apaches senior class rarely associated with losing way back to youth football, Jacob Tijerina (957 yards, 13 TDs, two interceptions passing) has commanded the run-oriented option, Andrew Azua (1,171 yards, 20 TDs rushing) has developed into the go-to man and Miguel Garcia, Adrian Valencia, Josh Garza and Josiah Arreola have extended the program’s deeply rooted legacy at linebacker.
SOUTH DIVISION 6-A
HORIZON CHRISTIAN ACADEMY-SAN DIEGO (7-6) AT STRATHMORE (13-0)
How they got here: Panthers placed fourth in Coast League (2-3); in San Diego Section D-V playoffs, d. No. 5 Calipatria 49-36, d. No. 1 Classical Academy 48-34, d. No. 3 Tri-City Christian 40-18. Spartans won East Sequoia League (5-0); in section D-VI playoffs, d. No. 8 Orange Cove 28-0, d. No. 4 Riverdale 26-20, d. Sierra Pacific 46-20.
Common opponents: None
Next: Winner will play at home at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 against North Division 6-A champ Brookside Christian-Stockton (9-4) or St. Patrick-St. Vincent-Vallejo (11-3).
Book on Horizon Christian Academy: Clearly, it’s all been about competition level for the Panthers. This is a team that has averaged 44.8 points in a four-game winning streak after losing by scores of 75-28, 63-20 and 66-20 in the Coast League. How Strathmore ranks on this competition scale remains to be seen. Who’s featured offensively has been a week-to-week issue. Junior running back Diandre Daniels rushed for 172 yards and a TD in the section title game against Tri-City Christian-Vista. He had a 271-yard game earlier in the season.
Book on Strathmore: The Spartans’ mash-and-gash offense under former Fresno State walk-on fullback Jeromy Blackwell was in top form in the section final rout of Sierra Pacific. It was then that junior Joseph Garcia carried 31 times for 277 yards and scored five TDs – three on runs, one on an 85-yard kickoff return and the other on a screen. It was the third 200-plus rushing game of the season for the 5-10, 175-pounder, who has scored in all 12 games he has played and has a total of 37 TDs. In the one game he missed because of an injury, Strathmore escaped with a 12-11 East Sequoia League win over Granite Hills. Junior Nick Salas completed 7 of 8 passes for 144 yards and two scores against Sierra Pacific. He has completed 60 percent for the season.
CIF Regional Championships
SIX CENTRAL SECTION TEAMS IN ACTION FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
Tickets: $12 adults; $8 for high school students (with ID), seniors (65-plus) and children. Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.