Friday’s Central Section Division I football semifinals might get heated. These programs know each other.
On one side of the bracket, No. 1-seeded Central High hosts No. 4 Bakersfield. On the other, it’s No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield at No. 2 Buchanan.
Those games plus eight more division semifinals and two section finals all kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
Bakersfield at Central – The teams meet in the playoffs for the third straight year.
Central won last year’s meeting in the semifinals, 35-27, en route to the school’s first section title in 87 years. That came after Bakersfield won at Central 21-14 in the 2016 championship game.
Top-seeded Central (11-0) beat Edison 42-21 in its playoff opener last week at Deran Koligian Stadium.
Fourth-seeded Bakersfield (9-3) is humming on offense in the playoffs, beating Clovis East 55-31 and Bullard 51-25.
Quarterback Cameron Williams directs the Bakersfield option offense and is 56 of 99 for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns against three interceptions. Junior running back Wesley Wilson has 121 carries for 1,068 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“They’re a great football team,” Central coach Kyle Biggs said. “They have such a different offense that having just one week to prepare for it makes it difficult. ... It is very difficult to get your scout team to duplicate the way Bakersfield plays.”
Liberty-Bakersfield at Buchanan – These teams haven’t met in the playoffs since 2012, but they’ve had a regular-season series going since 2010.
Buchanan has won the last two meetings, 28-13 in Bakersfield this year (Buchanan running back Levi Willems had 14 carries for 133 yards and three touchdowns in the victory) and 34-28 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis last year. That’s where Friday’s game will be played.
Liberty had won seven straight against the Bears before last season.
Division II – No. 1 Tulare Union hosts No. 4 Dinuba in a rematch of last season’s section title game, won by Tulare Union 49-21.
No. 7 Stockdale, an upset winner over Tulare Western last week, travels to Santa Maria to face No. 3 Righetti in the other semifinal.
Division III – Top-seed and defending champion San Joaquin Memorial hosts No. 4 Mt. Whitney. The teams last met in 2011 won by Memorial 28-8.
No. 3 Kingsburg travels to No. 2 Bakersfield Christian. The teams met in the quarterfinals last season, won by BC, 48-9.
Division IV – No. 4 Golden West and No. 2 Central Valley Christian are each one win away from a championship rematch.
But first, the top-seeded Trailblazers have to get by No. 8 Wasco, while the Cavaliers host No. 3 Monache.
Golden West defeated CVC 27-21 last season.
Division V – No. 5 Woodlake visits No. 1 Shafter (11-0) and No. 3 Kennedy visits No. 2 Caruthers (12-0) in the only division featuring two unbeaten teams.
Caruthers is the defending division champion, beating Firebaugh 49-42 in last year’s title game. Shafter was the No. 2 seed (behind Caruthers) last year but lost to Firebaugh in the semifinals.
Division VI – Top-seed Strathmore hosts No. 6 Sierra Pacific for the championship. The Spartans, state champions last year, are eying a three-peat.
Strathmore and Sierra Pacific met on Oct. 5. The Spartans rolled to a 53-7 victory.
8-Man – No. 2 Fresno Christian (10-1) hopes to repeat as champion, but the Eagles will be on the road to face top-seed Mission Prep (11-0) in San Luis Obispo. The Royals handed the Eagles their only loss, 45-6 on Sept. 21.
Fresno Christian blanked Trona 28-0 in the championship last season. Mission Prep returned to the Central Section this season.