The anticipated hot spot of the Central Section football seedings Saturday proved to be true as Clovis High edged Liberty-Bakersfield for the Division I top seed on a tiebreaker.
“Being able to play at home is obviously a huge advantage,” said coach Rich Hammond, whose 9-1 Cougars have a bye next week before playing eighth-seeded Edison (4-6) or No. 9 Bakersfield (5-5) in a Nov. 20 quarterfinal at Lamonica Stadium.
Hammond noted that, in his first six years with the Cougars, the D-I titles were all won by Nos. 1 and 2 seeds on their home fields.
Tri-River Athletic Conference co-champion Clovis and Southwest Yosemite League outright winner Liberty-Bakersfield (6-3), however, have an usual playoff history.
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The Cougars, as a No. 1 seed at home, saw No. 8 Liberty return two fourth-quarter fumbles for touchdowns in a 25-23 quarterfinal loss to the Patriots in 2012.
A year later, No. 2 Liberty lost 20-17 at home to No. 7 Clovis.
Additional top seeds, as announced by section Commissioner Jim Crichlow’s five-man commitee, were Ridgeview (D-II), Hanford (D-III), Central Valley Christian (D-IV), Immanuel (D-V) and Kennedy (D-VI).
Defending champions are Edison (D-I), Ridgeview (D-II), Hanford (D-III), Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-IV), Corcoran (D-V) and Kennedy (D-VI). Corcoran decided not to participate in the playoffs following a 1-8 season.
Playoffs will begin next week, ending with the D-VI championship Nov. 27 and the remaining five finals on Dec. 4.
Then, as part of an expanded state bowl format, each section champion will advance to regionals – D-I, III and V in Northern California and D-II, IV and VI to Southern California.
Being seeded No. 1 is a special thing. Now the big job is to play like our life depends on it, like the season depends on it, because it does.
Clovis coach Rich Hammond
The Saturday shocker had Crichlow’s staff complete the process in only 2 hours.
“And that’s about 3 hours less than normal,” he said.
The difference, he said, was a new format that, basically, was dictated by coaches, who ranked their own divisions.
Occasionally, when the coaches’ rankings didn’t determine a consensus, the committee then turned to records and strength of schedule, Crichlow said.
And, when that didn’t prove sufficient, a three-prong tiebreaker was implemented – head-to-head results, record against common opponents and rankings by MaxPreps.com and CalPreps.com, which use the same computer formula.
If head-to-head results proved applicable, the process stopped there.
It didn’t with Clovis and Liberty.
And it didn’t with results against common opponents, either, because that was a push – Clovis beating Stockdale (49-42) and Buchanan (34-13) and Liberty defeating the pair 42-7 and 27-6.
Not only was the tiebreaker needed to split the Cougars and Patriots, Crichlow said, the committee had to dig to the third prong because Clovis had the better record, Liberty the better strength of schedule.
It came down to better ranking by MaxPreps.com and CalPreps.com, which the Cougars won, 45.4 to 43.2.
Clovis down the stretch was dominant in wins over Buchanan and Clovis North before rallying to beat Clovis West in the regular-season finale.
Clovis had been top-ranked by The Bee all season before losing 21-20 at home to Central three weeks ago in a game that began late on a Thursday because of a lightning delay, was suspended that night because of another volley of lightning and ended on a Saturday morning when the Cougars missed a potential game-winning field goal to close a six-play drive executed against 13 Grizzlies on five of the plays and 12 on the other. But the overload went undetected by officials.
Since, Clovis has been dominant in wins over Buchanan and Clovis North (41-28) before rallying from a 12-0 first-quarter deficit against Clovis West.
“Our coaches said we can’t do anything about (the Central loss), to move forward and I think we’ve done a good job of that,” said Cougars linebacker Jared Hill, who played exceptionally against the Golden Eagles.
“I’m proud the way our kids finished the (regular) season,” Hammond said, “and being seeded No. 1 is a special thing. Now the big job is to play like our life depends on it, like the season depends on it, because it does.”
Tigers roar into D-II – A year after being clipped 30-22 by No. 3 Dinuba as an 11-0 second seed, Lemoore marches into the D-II bracket with No. 2 billing again, and after outscoring West Yosemite League opposition 258-26 while going 6-0.
“All the kids back from last year have been talking about unfinished business,” coach Shannon Pulliam said of his 8-2 Tigers. “We’re pretty much back in the same position again, and the kids are very hungry.”
Lemoore will open at home in a Nov. 20 quarterfinal against No. 7 El Diamante (5-5), which the Tigers defeated 35-0 a week ago. Win that one and they’ll likely play No. 3 Sanger (9-1), the County/Metro Athletic Conference champion that Lemoore, without regular quarterback Logan Ahlin (concussion), beat 21-19 on Sept. 18.
Ridgeview (10-0), returning as the D-II top seed, defeated D-I opposition Frontier (36-30), Liberty-Bakersfield (29-14), Stockdale (43-22) and Bakersfield (27-10) before coasting through the South Yosemite League.
Fresno not flattered – Fresno, after going 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the North Yosemite League, was stuck with a No. 5 seed in D-III behind Hanford (9-1), Memorial (7-3), Tehachapi (7-2) and Bakersfield Christian (7-3).
“My Dad (the late Raymond Reyes Sr.) taught me if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” Warriors coach Ray Reyes said. “So I’m going to honor that request.”
Fresno will open for the second year in a row against No. 12 Golden Valley (4-6), this time at McLane Stadium Friday. The Warriors, as a No. 9 seed, won 20-14 on the No. 8 Bulldogs’ field last year.
CENTRAL SECTION FOOTBALL SEEDINGS
Division I: 1. Clovis, 2. Liberty-Bakersfield, 3. Bullard, 4. Buchanan, 5. Clovis North, 6. Clovis West, 7. Centennial, 8. Edison, 9. Bakersfield, 10. Central, 11. Frontier, 12. Clovis East.
Division II: 1. Ridgeview, 2. Lemoore, 3. Sanger, 4. Tulare, 5. Sunnyside, 6. Garces, 7. El Diamante, 8. Independence, 9. West.
Division III: 1. Hanford, 2. Memorial, 3. Tehachapi, 4. Bakersfield Christian, 5. Fresno, 6. Tulare Western, 7. South, 8. Kingsburg, 9. Madera, 10. Reedley, 11. North, 12. Golden Valley, 13. Highland.
Division IV: 1. Central Valley Christian, 2. Chavez, 3. Washington, 4. Chowchilla, 5. Madera South, 6. Selma, 7. Exeter, 8. Taft, 9. Kerman, 10. Liberty-Madera Ranchos, 11. McLane.
Division V: 1. Immanuel, 2. Fowler, 3. Dos Palos, 4. Woodlake, 5. Kern Valley, 6. Firebaugh, 7. Mendota, 8. Caruthers, 9. Lindsay, 10. Bishop.
Division VI: 1. Kennedy, 2. Avenal, 3. Sierra Pacific, 4. California City, 5. Tranquillity, 6. Orange Cove, 7. McFarland, 8. Strathmore, 9. Riverdale.