High School Football

Prep football Week 9 rewind: Section playoff seeding gains focus

Senior running back/safety Josh Hokit, right, has helped lead Clovis to an 8-1 record and contention for the No. 1 seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs.
Senior running back/safety Josh Hokit, right, has helped lead Clovis to an 8-1 record and contention for the No. 1 seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Editor’s note: Fresno High’s last North Yosemite League football title came in 2007, when the Warriors went 4-0. An earlier version of this report listed it incorrectly as 2004.

The road to the Central Section’s six divisional football titles, and the accompanying automatic berths in the CIF state playoffs, will be set Nov. 7.

The job of section Commissioner Jim Crichlow and his seeding committee – also comprising assistant Jeff Cardoza and area supervisors Steve Raupp (North), Roger Hartman (Central) and Bill Ver Heul (South) – ranges from relatively easy (see Division II), to complicated (D-I) to everything in between (D-III through D-VI).

Here’s a look at where things stand with one week to go in the regular season.

Division I – A couple of questions scream regarding D-I seeding. And let’s get this out of the way up front:

▪ Will Crichlow’s committee consider comparative scores, injuries, who played, who didn’t and – how to forget – who played 11 vs. 13?

If so, it would be unprecedented; those factors are nowhere to be found among the committee’s tie-breaking criteria – and who knows if a tie-breaker will even be deemed necessary among the division’s top four.

Never has a three-loss team been top-seeded in D-I. But never has one experienced Liberty’s journey, either.

Clovis and Liberty-Bakersfield, the D-I front-running seeds, have compelling arguments in the department of unusual circumstance.

▪ Should they both win their regular-season finales, is it possible that a three-loss Liberty (6-3) will be seeded above a one-loss Clovis (9-1)?

Never has a three-loss team been top-seeded in D-I. But never has one experienced Liberty’s journey, either.

Consider: The Bee’s second-ranked Patriots, a year after losing 21-14 in the final minutes to top-seeded Edison for the D-I title in Fresno, have lost 27-14 to 10-0 and state eighth-ranked Mission Viejo; 29-14 without star quarterback Jordan Love to 9-0 and Central Section No. 3 Ridgeview; and 24-10 to 5-4 Cathedral Catholic-San Diego, which has played one of the most difficult schedules in the state.

Further, Liberty, on Friday night, coasted 49-0 against No. 8 Centennial, which lost 28-27 at home to Clovis five weeks earlier, and only after the Golden Hawks lost a fumble near the goal line in the final minutes.

But hold on for rival duels to close the regular season.

Liberty, 4-0 in the Southwest Yosemite League, will finish at home Friday against No. 13 and state standard-bearing Bakersfield (5-4, 3-1) while No. 4 Clovis (8-1, 3-1) will return to Lamonica Stadium to play No. 7 Clovis West (5-3, 2-2).

Clovis, meanwhile, has lost only 21-20 to Central in the TRAC two weeks ago.

That game began on a Thursday night and not only ended on a Saturday morning because of a lightning delay, it finished with the Cougars minus no fewer than four all-league caliber players – running back Samir Allen (broken leg), tight end Clayton Alexander (broken leg), running back/safety Josh Hokit (wrestling recruiting visit) and defensive end A.J. Nevills (wrestling recruiting visit).

In addition – a development that caught the national eye on video – Clovis was denied in a late, potential game-winning, six-play drive while executing its offense against a Central defense that fielded 13 players (two above legal limit) on five plays and 12 on the other.

And all that to be bantered about among Crichlow’s seeding committee? Not according to the general rule.

Then there’s top-ranked and D-I Bullard (7-2, 3-1), meanwhile, which lost 21-14 to D-II Sanger on Thursday night at McLane Stadium in a duel of 3-0 teams in the County/Metro Athletic Conference.

Bullard, no doubt losing its grip on a D-I top seed in that defeat, faces defending D-I champion Edison (4-5, 3-1) on Friday at Chukchansi Stadium.

Division II – With victories over four D-I programs, including 29-14 over Liberty on Sept. 4, Ridgeview (9-0) appears to be the clear-cut favorite for the No. 1 seed in a division that also includes heavyweights in Tulare (9-0), Lemoore (7-2) and Sanger (8-1).

The defending champion Wolf Pack, in fact, may well be the biggest lock for a top seed given their résumé, which also includes wins over Frontier, Stockdale and Bakersfield.

D-II Ridgeview’s last speed bump comes at home against Independence (5-4), the only team with a shot at catching the Wolf Pack for the South Yosemite League title.

Coaches Darren Bennett (Tulare) and Shannon Pulliam (Lemoore) have both said in recent weeks that Ridgeview, which beat Dinuba 16-14 in last season’s D-II final, will be seeded No. 1 should it complete an undefeated regular season.

The last speed bump comes at home against Independence (5-4), the only team with a shot at catching the Wolf Pack for the South Yosemite League title.

Seeding the next three teams is where Crichlow and Co. will have interesting decisions to make.

Do they seed section No. 12 Tulare second should the Redskins close with a victory over rival Tulare Western in the annual Bell Game? Tulare would be the only other 10-0 team in the division and owner of the outright East Yosemite League title.

Or does No. 9 Lemoore – which has a 15.1-7.9 edge over Tulare in MaxPreps-calculated strength of schedule, a section tiebreaking criteria – get the nod should it win at No. 11 Hanford (9-0) to wrap up a second straight West Yosemite League title?

Playing the comparative score game, also a tiebreaking criteria, the Tigers throttled Redwood 41-6 on Sept. 25. The Redskins had to rally in the second half to get past the Rangers 49-41 on Sept. 11.

Lemoore’s two losses came to D-I contenders in No. 4 Clovis (41-24 in a game the Tigers trailed 21-17 at halftime before losing quarterback Logan Ahlin to a concussion) and No. 6 Buchanan (24-0, without Ahlin and a couple of other key starters on offense).

And, what to make of Sanger, which can go to 9-1 and win the outright County/Metro Athletic Conference title with a win at home against No. 20 Memorial?

The Apaches have victories over D-I opponents in Clovis East (32-15), Edison (23-6) and Bullard. The Apaches beat Redwood 28-7.

But there is a rub.

Sanger lost 21-19 at Lemoore, which played without Ahlin, on Sept. 18.

With overall record also a tiebreaking factor, Tulare, Lemoore and Sanger could be seeded in any order with justification.

Division III – Hanford makes the choice for the top seed an easy one in D-III, if it can close the deal against Lemoore.

The defending champion Bullpups would cap the only 10-0 regular season among teams in the division, and own the outright WYL title, by defeating the rival Tigers in the annual Milk Can game at the Neighbor Bowl.

But should Hanford lose, seedings could get interesting.

Fresno High’s signature win came Oct. 16, a 40-34 OT thriller over Sunnyside that also sent the Warriors on their way to the school’s first North Yosemite League title since 2007.

Fresno, ranked second in D-III by The Bee, would match Hanford at 9-1 if the Warriors beat rival Roosevelt at Sunnyside in the annual Little Big Game.

The Warriors’ signature win came Oct. 16 in a 40-34 overtime thriller against Sunnyside. That sent Fresno on its way to the school’s first North Yosemite League title since 2007. The only loss came to D-IV Madera South 61-40 on Sept. 25.

Memorial (7-2), ranked 20th overall in the section, would add intrigue if it goes into Tom Flores Stadium on Friday and defeats Sanger.

The Panthers’ only losses would be to D-I schools Edison (19-7) and Bullard (63-14).

A year ago, Hanford lost to Lemoore in its regular-season finale, still received the No. 1 and went on to defeat Madera 35-14 for the school’s first section football title.

Divisional strength-of-schedule belongs to Memorial (15.7), followed by Hanford (7.4) and Fresno (-0.2).

Also in the mix for a top-four seed are South Yosemite League runner-up Tehachapi (6-2), South Sequoia champ Bakersfield Christian (6-3) and Madera (4-4).

Division IV – Head-to-head results should pare this division down to two choices for No. 1: Chavez (8-1) and Washington (6-3).

The Titans will have the better record should they beat Arvin (2-7) to close SSL play, where they will be no worse than the runner-up behind Bakersfield Christian. Chavez would share the title with the Eagles, who won their head-to-head meeting 20-17 on Oct. 19, if they lose at Taft (8-1).

Washington has clinched at least a tie for the North Sequoia League title and has head-to-head trump cards – with wins over Chowchilla (30-12) and defending division champion Liberty-Madera Ranchos (37-20) – that seemingly eliminate all non-Kern County schools from top seed consideration at the moment.

That’s because Chowchilla (7-2) has wins over D-IV contenders Madera South (51-28) and Central Valley Christian (27-6), which clinched at least a share of the Central Sequoia League title with a 26-24 defeat of Selma. And the Cavaliers (7-2) have beaten Exeter (6-3).

Key games involving D-IV teams include Madera South (4-5) at Madera, Chowchilla at Liberty (6-3) and CVC at Immanuel.

Division V – Without a loss to section opposition to date, Immanuel (7-1) is poised to snag homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Eagles, who lost 44-16 against Corcoran in the final last season, have wins over D-V contenders Dos Palos (31-18) and Mendota (31-21).

But should Immanuel falter against CVC, that could open the door for Woodlake (7-2), which has clinched at least a share of the East Sequoia League title heading into its finale at Granite Hills (3-6). The Tigers have won seven straight after opening the season with losses to CVC (35-6) and Exeter (26-13).

Immanuel has an edge on Woodlake in strength-of-schedule (-6.2 to -22.1) should it come to that.

Another dark-horse contender for No. 1 is Fowler (6-2), which would capture the West Sequoia League title with a win at Caruthers (6-3). The Blue Raiders –3-0, like Fowler, in the WSL – could jump into the mix for a top-four seed if they win.

Dos Palos (5-4) wins the West Sierra title outright by beating Avenal (6-3) in its finale.

Division VI – Defending champion Kennedy (7-3) will have to wait and see what impact consecutive losses to D-IV schools Chavez (60-14) and Taft (39-36) have on its quest for the top seed.

The Thunderbirds, whose only other loss came to D-III Bakersfield Christian (41-21), are idle in the regular season’s finale week.

Lining up behind Kennedy are Avenal, last season’s D-VI runner-up, Sierra Pacific (6-3) and California City (7-3). The Buccaneers would boost their résumé with a win against Dos Palos, which would force a tie between the two schools for the West Sierra League title.

Nick Giannandrea: 559-441-6103, @NickG_FB. Andy Boogaard: 559-441-6336, @beepreps

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