In Las Vegas, if they posted high school individual rushing duels on the sportsbooks boards, Romello Harris vs. Isaiah Jones on Friday night might be the most compelling over/under in the nation.
Over/under as in: How many total yards will Tulare’s Harris and Porterville’s Jones compile at Rankin Stadium on the campus of Granite Hills?
Where to begin: Over or under 500? Over or under 600? Over or under 700? And, seriously, a legitimate consideration – over or under 800?
It was only a year ago that the number soared to 747 as Harris rushed for 402 yards and five touchdowns and Jones 345 and four scores in Tulare’s 55-34 East Yosemite League win at Mathias Stadium.
As sophomores, it was Harris 285 yards and two touchdowns and Jones 185 and three in a 41-13 Porterville victory at Rankin.
Now for the rubber match in a duel unlike Porterville coach Carl Scudder has seen in a 23-year career: “You always remember the good kids and good teams. But, as far as running back ability, I’ve never seen two better kids on the field at the same time.”
This, coming from a coach who spent his first 10 years at Clovis West while seeing the likes of the Golden Eagles’ McKay Christensen, long considered one of the finest running backs in Central Section history.
Comparing Christensen to Jones, much bigger than the two at 6-feet-1, 205 pounds, Scudder says: “McKay was a different kind of running back, but I put Isaiah in the same caliber, absolutely every bit.”
Historically, gaudy offensive statistics have been the norm in the EYL.
No need to go back further than a week to find Jones and Harris as examples.
Jones rushed for a school-record 437 yards and five touchdowns, yet it still wasn’t good enough in the Panthers’ 45-42 loss to Tulare Western. The 437 is No. 5 for a single game in section annals, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Harris, meanwhile, went for 297 yards and three scores in the Redskins’ 42-0 rout of Delano.
Four-year starter Harris – unofficially, fifth nationally at 306.5 yards rushing per game – has 7,207 career yards rushing, needing 823 to unseat Mendota’s Edgar Seguar (8,029, 2011-13) as the section king.
Colorado State was among the first to offer. Washington State of the Pac-12 has pushed hard, making its desire known by sending more than 40 hand-written letters from the coaching staff. Fresno State has offered. So have the service academies (Air Force, Army and Navy), Utah and academic powerhouses Duke and Northwestern. And Florida is “getting close” to offering, says Tulare coach Darren Bennett.
Jones, brought up for two playoff games as a freshman, has 5,395 yards rushing and 66 TDs in his career, according to Barnett.
Jones has national interest, Scudder says, but will have to wait at least a year to play Division I because he’s not academically eligible. He’ll likely play next year at either Bakersfield College or College of the Sequoias.
Games of the week (all Friday)
No. 17 Memorial (6-1, 1-1) vs. No. 1 Bullard (6-1, 2-0) at Chukchansi Park: Built-in advantages of private schools are highly subjective, particularly in football. And that’s not to be confused with basketball, where two players can make a difference. Take this football game, matching D-III Memorial and its 560 students against D-I Bullard and its 2,640. Memorial, with a roster of 28, was overwhelmed by number disadvantages two weeks ago in a 19-7 loss to D-I Edison (2,310 students). This, likely, will be no different.
No. 6 Buchanan (5-2, 2-0) at No. 4 Clovis (6-1, 1-1): Third week of league play is when true separation begins in the section. And this is a classic case, to say nothing of last week’s 11-vs.-13 mismatch against the Cougars in their 21-20 loss to Central that has drawn national attention. Clovis has lost All-TRAC players Samir Allen (running back) and Clayton Alexander (tight end) to broken legs. Allen hasn’t played all season; Alexander was injured two weeks ago.
No. 5 Clovis North (4-2, 2-0) at No. 15 Central (2-5, 1-1): A good way for the Grizzlies to shift critical reviews of their victory over then-No. 1 Clovis would be to win this one.
No. 8 Centennial (5-2, 1-0) at No. 13 Bakersfield (4-3, 1-0): The Southwest Yosemite League could deliver the section’s D-I champion. And it begins with a team not even involved here, No. 2 Liberty-Bakersfield.
No. 10 Sanger (6-1, 2-0) at Madera (4-2, 0-2): Classic trap game for Sanger following an emotional 23-6 win at home against Edison and a week before a CMAC showdown with Bullard.
No. 12 Tulare (7-0, 2-0) at Porterville (2-5, 1-1): This is about Romello Harris vs. Isaiah Jones. And has the running back stage ever been more illuminated in the section?
No. 19 Fresno (6-1, 2-0) at Reedley (2-4, 2-0): First place in North Yosemite League on line in addition to a standard-bearing coaching matchup of the Warriors’ Ray Reyes and the Pirates’ Mike Vogt.
Liberty-Madera Ranchos (6-1, 2-0) at Washington (4-3, 2-0): D-IV seeding implications and probable North Sequoia League title on line in Easton.
Central Section Football: Week 8 Schedule
NORTH YOSEMITE LEAGUE
Hoover at Sunnyside, 7:30 p.m.
TRI-RIVER ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Buchanan at Clovis, 7 p.m.
Clovis North at Central, 7 p.m.
Clovis East vs. Clovis West (Veterans Memorial Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
COUNTY/METRO ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Madera South vs. Edison (McLane), 7 p.m.
Memorial vs. Bullard (Chukchansi Park), 7:30 p.m.
Sanger at Madera, 7:30 p.m.
NORTH YOSEMITE LEAGUE
Fresno at Reedley, 7:30 p.m.
McLane vs. Roosevelt (Sunnyside), 7:30 p.m.
WEST YOSEMITE LEAGUE
Hanford at Golden West, 7:30 p.m.
Mt. Whitney at Hanford, 7:30 p.m.
El Diamante at Redwood, 7:30 p.m.
EAST YOSEMITE LEAGUE
Monache at Delano, 7 p.m.
Tulare vs. Porterville (Granite Hills), 7 p.m.
Mission Oak vs. Tulare Western (Mathias Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
SOUTHEAST YOSEMITE LEAGUE
Foothill at South, 7:30 p.m.
Mira Monte at Highland, 7:30 p.m.
SOUTHWEST YOSEMITE LEAGUE
Centennial at Bakersfield, 7:30 p.m.
Frontier at Stockdale, 7:30 p.m.
Liberty-Bakersfield at Garces, 7:30 p.m.
SOUTH YOSEMITE LEAGUE
East at Ridgeview, 7:30 p.m.
Golden Valley at Tehachapi, 7:30 p.m.
West at Independence, 7:30 p.m.
NORTH SEQUOIA LEAGUE
Chowchilla at Yosemite, 7 p.m.
Kerman at Sierra, 7 p.m.
Liberty-Madera Ranchos at Washington, 7:30 p.m.
CENTRAL SEQUOIA LEAGUE
Dinuba at Selma, 7 p.m.
Kingsburg at Central Valley Christian, 7 p.m.
EAST SEQUOIA LEAGUE
Lindsay at Woodlake, 7:15 p.m.
Corcoran at Strathmore, 7:30 p.m.
SOUTH SEQUOIA LEAGUE
Bakersfield Christian at Arvin, 7:30 p.m.
Chavez at Kennedy, 7:30 p.m.
Taft at Wasco, 7:30 p.m.
WEST SEQUOIA LEAGUE
Caruthers at Riverdale, 7:30 p.m.
Fowler at Minarets, 7:30 p.m.
EAST SIERRA LEAGUE
Orange Cove at McFarland, 7:30 p.m.
Orosi at Laton, 7:30 p.m.
WEST SIERRA LEAGUE
Tranquillity at Dos Palos, 7 p.m.
Avenal at Mendota, 7:30 p.m.
Firebaugh at Coalinga, 7:30 p.m.
Excelsior at Frazier Mountain, 7 p.m.
EAST SEQUOIA LEAGUE
Granite Hills vs. Sierra Pacific (Neighbor Bowl), 7:15 p.m.
Farmersville vs. Immanuel (Reedley High), 7:30 p.m.
CENTRAL SIERRA LEAGUE (8 man)
Kings Christian at Faith Christian, 7 p.m.
INTERSECTIONAL (8 man)
Shandon at Alpaugh, 1 p.m.