The biggest upset to date this season in Central Section football will require 40 hours to execute.
Central High, which arrived at Lamonica Stadium on Thursday night with a 1-5 record, had mounted a 21-12 lead over 6-0 and top-ranked Clovis when the Tri-River Athletic Conference game was suspended with 6 minutes, 6 seconds remaining because of lightning.
It will be resumed at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the same site, with Clovis in possession on first down at the Grizzlies 1-yard line. Admission will be free.
It was nearly 11 p.m. and in a downpour when officials from both schools conceded for the night. The game’s scheduled 7 p.m. start already had been delayed 1 hour, 15 minutes following the night’s first volley of bolts.
Game’s scheduled 7 p.m. start already had been delayed 1 hour, 15 minutes because of lightning
California Interscholastic Federation rules call for minimum delay of 30 minutes in outdoor events when lightning is deemed dangerously close.
Action was stopped at a soggy Lamonica at 10:32 p.m. And there was no guarantee when it could resume, hence the suspension, said Clovis athletic director Jesse Hardwick.
“We didn’t know how long we would be here,” he said at the stadium as the clock ticked toward midnight. “As it was, the game wasn’t going to restart until at least 11:35 or 11:45. And more lightning would interrupt the process and the (30-minute) clock would start over.”
For embattled Central, it surely will be worth the wait, should the Grizzlies preserve the lead.
The program already without its coach, Justin Garza (continued cancer treatment), had only beaten Buhach Colony-Atwater (38-15) this season.
Yet Central came into Thursday’s game ranked No. 19 in the Central Section by The Bee because of recent competitive losses to section-ranked opposition – 21-17 to No. 2 Bullard, 38-28 to No. 13 Frontier and 17-13 to No. 8 Buchanan.
Clovis, meanwhile, had gone top-ranked wire-to-wire, but not without hurdles.
The Cougars were threatened in four of their wins, by Paso Robles (27-24), Lemoore (41-24), Stockdale (49-42) and Centennial (28-27).
The Stockdale game, in particular, saw the Cougars survive despite losing four fumbles.
They’ll know about 11 a.m. Saturday if another survival was in the cards following similar ball-security disaster.
They have lost three fumbles – so far – in the game, including one after reaching the Central 3-yard line in the final minute of the first half, and another returned 30 yards for a touchdown by sophomore Diotry Brewer, giving the Grizzlies the 21-12 lead with 7:28 remaining.
The play, which began on the Central 46, had lineman Robert Bohanna sack quarterback Sean Kuenzinger, causing the fumble and a wild scramble for the ball that was batted backward several times before finally being secured by Brewer.
The Grizzlies, directed by what the school still labels an interim coach in Mark Hetherington, had taken a 10-6 lead as Dennis Laney followed a seal block from lineman Kirby Peine on a 10-yard run 37 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Laney, continually delivering positive first-down runs, has 85 yards on 17 carries.
The most prolific, yet frustrated, offensive player has been Kuenzinger.
363 yards on 27-of-38 passing and two touchdowns by Clovis’ Sean Kuenzinger
The senior has completed 27 of 38 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns, with four drops.
Kuenzinger, as usual, has concentrated on wide receivers Coltin Velasquez (11 receptions, 184 yards, two TDs) and J.J. Wills (10-117).
But, in addition to the fumbles, the Cougars have missed a 24-yard field goal and a conversion pass.