Semifinal victory over Liberty is just out of reach for Buchanan
Buchanan High will not get a rematch against Central in the Central Section football championship.
The second-seeded Bears were denied that opportunity after falling to third-seeded Liberty-Bakersfield 24-23 in the Division I semifinals Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis.
Liberty kicker Brayden Blevins nailed a 27-yard field goal in the closing seconds to win the game and spoil Buchanan’s late rally.
The Bears (10-3) trailed at the end of each quarter, but managed to pull ahead 23-21 on a 36-yard field goal from Race Mahlum with 1 minute 44 seconds left.
That scoring drive was preceded by Buchanan making a critical fourth-down stop midway through the fourth quarter.
But considering the final score, the difference turned out to be a play from the opening quarter.
That’s when Buchanan scored first on a Kendall Milton 80-yard touchdown run, but the Bears missed the ensuing extra point and settled for a 6-0 lead.
Liberty (12-1), whose lone loss occurred to Buchanan 28-13 back in September, has won nine straight. And it’s been quite the playoff run given that Liberty eliminated Clovis North, Clovis and Buchanan along the way.
The Bears were hoping to get revenge on Central after Grizzlies defeated Buchanan 29-7 in last year’s Division I championship and again this season.
Instead, the Patriots will face the defending champions.
Liberty did not play top-seeded Central during the regular season. Central beat No. 4 Bakersfield 46-34 in Friday’s other semifinal matchup.