The potent San Joaquin Memorial High football team hit a new high Friday night in punching its ticket back to the Central Section Division III championship game.
The Panthers (12-0), averaging 49.3 points per game, scored a season-high in their 68-34 semifinal win over visiting Mt. Whitney.
Memorial will play Bakersfield Christian next week in the final after the second-seeded Eagles eliminated No. 3 Kingsburg 28-7.
Memorial led 42-21 at halftime on the strength of three rushing touchdowns by Leonard Glass, including a 37-yard highlight-reel run down the sideline in the first quarter.
Panthers all-time leading passer Alec Trujillo had four touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown.
“Ultimately, it starts with the protection,” Trujillo said. “My offensive line was giving me tons of time to deliver to the athletes out there and those guys were making plays for me.”
Memorial tightened its defense in the second half. One of the Pioneers’ two TDs then came in mop-up time.
“I thought in the second half we played better,” Panthers coach Anthony Goston said of his defense. “We wanted to spy their quarterback so we put one of our best linebackers on him and said, ‘Wherever he goes, you go,’ and it really made it hard for him to run around and it limited some of their plays.”
Jacob Maran found Myran Randle twice for touchdowns as No. 2 Bakersfield Christian defeated No. 3 Kingsburg 28-7.
The Eagles advance to face top-seeded Memorial in an all-private school D-III championship. The teams met last year during the D-III semis with the Panthers prevailing 49-7.
Tulare Union (12-0) scored 22 points in the final quarter, including a touchdown run from David Dailey with 1:44 remaining as the top-seeded Tribe edged No. 4 Dinuba 44-37.
Friday was the latest chapter of highly contested games between the Tribe and Emperors. Last year, Tulare Union rallied from a halftime deficit to beat Dinuba 49-21 for the D-II title.
Tulare Union will now seek a repeat and will host No. 3 Righetti, which blanked No. 7 Stockdale 21-0.
Golden West never had won a football section championship until last year.
Now, the Trailblazers (7-5) are in position to win a second straight title.
Michael Wessel ran in two touchdowns as No. 4 Golden West defeated No. 8 Wasco 26-7.
Golden West could have its hands full in the championship.
No. 2 Central Valley Christian demolished No. 3 Monache 61-14 with the Cavaliers scoring all of their points during the first half.
CVC junior Jaalen Rening scored four touchdowns. Golden West and CVC, located on opposite sides of Visalia, did not play during the regular season but Golden West beat CVC 27-21 in overtime last year for the division title.
No. 1 Shafter got the best of No. 5 Woodlake 60-32. And No. 3 Kennedy eliminated No. 2 Caruthers 73-19, setting up an all-Kern County final.
Top-seeded and defending state champion Strathmore captured its third straight section title, defeating No. 6 Sierra Pacific 42-12. The Spartans’ outing was filled with big plays, including an 85-yard kick return by Fabian Alcantar. Armando Rodriguez also had an 77-yard interception return.
No. 2 Fresno Christian lost to No. 1 Mission Prep 60-20 in the championship.