Those roman numerals attached to the Central Section divisions can be misleading.
The main spotlight in the Central Section playoffs is not on Division I. Nor is it on Division II or III.
The bracket that the rest of the state is paying attention to in the Central Section is Division IV — and with very good reason.
CalHiSports.com has all four of the teams remaining in the Central Section Division IV bracket ranked in its CIF Southern California bowl polls:
* Top-seeded Mission Oak (11-0) is ranked No. 2 in the Division III South bowl poll.
* No. 2 Central Valley Christian (8-3) is ranked No. 4 in the Division IV South bowl poll.
* No. 3 Bakersfield Christian (9-2) is ranked No. 5 in the Division IV South bowl poll.
* No. 4 Wasco (9-2) was ranked No. 10 in last week’s Division IV South bowl poll.
What’s great about this particular “Final Four” is that the two semifinal games are both in Tulare County on Friday. Wasco visits Bob Mathias Stadium to take on Mission Oak, and Bakersfield Christian makes its second visit of the season to Visalia to take on CVC. Both games start at 7 p.m. Friday.
There may be some confusion on why Mission Oak and Wasco are in different state bowl brackets than CVC and Bakersfield Christian. The CIF Division IV state bowl is for schools with enrollments of 500 or less, and only section champions are eligible to play in the regional finals.
So, is the winner of the section’s Division IV bracket headed to the Southern California Regional Championships?
It’s not 100-percent guaranteed, but you have to like the chances — especially for Mission Oak, CVC and Bakersfield Christian.
Calhisports.com co-founder and publisher Mark Tennis discussed the Division IV situation in a phone interview on Monday. And while he made it clear that he doesn’t believe that the Central Section Division IV champion is guaranteed a spot in the regional finals, there are quite a few possibilities where the Division IV champion will advance.
Mission Oak seems to be in the best position. The Hawks have the higher state ranking, plus they don’t have any blemishes on their record.
Corona del Mar-Newport Beach (12-0), ranked No. 1 in the CIF Division III South bowl poll and No. 24 overall in the state by Calhisports, looks like a lock for one of the two spots in the regional title game if it wins the Southern Division (Division IX) of the Southern Section — and it expected to do so in convincing fashion.
What could spoil Mission Oak’s bid is the Northwest champion (Division X) from the Southern Section.
The team to watch is Oak Park-Agoura Hills (11-1). Oak Park is ranked No. 3 in the CIF Division III South bowl poll, and if it wins its semifinal game as projected on Friday, it will face the winner of the Nordhoff-Bishop Diego matchup. Nordhoff (11-1) is ranked No. 6 in the CIF Division III South bowl poll and Bishop Diego-Santa Barbara (10-2) is No. 2 in the CIF Division IV South bowl poll. In Calpreps.com‘s state computer rankings, Nordhoff is No. 118, Mission Oak is No. 133 and Oak Park is No. 134.
“Mission Oak is not that clear-cut of a choice (if it wins out), but I would probably vote for them,” Tennis said.
The door opens up quite a bit for CVC and Bakersfield Christian in the Division IV South bowl poll if Bishop Diego loses to Nordhoff on Friday or in the Northwest Division title game next week. Top-ranked Christian-El Cajon (10-1) is favored to win the Division III bracket of the San Diego Section and appears to be on track to gain a spot in the regionals if it wins out according to Tennis.
The team that CVC and Bakersfield Christian would have to leapfrog in the polls is Mission Prep (10-2). Mission Prep (10-2) will likely play Salesian-Los Angeles (9-2) in the Northeast Division final (Southern Section), and Salesian has spent much of the season ranked in the CIF Division III South bowl poll. What may hurt CVC is that twisted logic where CVC lost to Lindsay, which lost to Farmersville, which lost to Mission Prep (68-51).
Wasco (8-2) has the most catching-up to do because of its regular-season losses to Bakersfield (35-13) and Bakersfield Christian (47-20). If the Tigers were to beat Mission Oak on Friday and then avenge their loss against Bakersfield Christian in the Division IV final, they should move up quite a few spots from their No. 10 spot in the Division III South bowl rankings. But probably not enough to overtake Oak Park or Nordhoff, if one of those two teams wins the Northwest Division in the Southern Section.
What Tennis brought up in Monday’s interview that may have the biggest impact for the Central Section Division IV champion is what happened in last year’s meeting for the Southern California regionals — Wasco didn’t get in despite going 13-0.
And that’s a a good thing.
“[The section commissioners] all know Wasco from last year’s debate. [Wasco] just got beat out last year. I’m sure there are some [commissioners] who may not have voted for Wasco last year, may vote for Bakersfield Christian, CVC or Mission Oak if they win. … There’s that political aspect to it,” Tennis said.
Staying with “that political aspect” line of thinking, if the Division IV champion is the only Central Section champion with a realistic chance of earning a bid to the regionals, will that help?
“Yes, that has a tendency to help,” Tennis said.
The best-case scenario for the Central Section is if Mission Oak wins the Division IV title — which would put the Hawks at 13-0 — and is picked along side the winner of the Southern Section’s Southern Division winner (Corona del Mar or Garden Grove, which is 12-0 and No. 5 in the CIF Division III South bowl poll).
“Anytime you can have a game between two undefeated teams, it’s a good matchup. Any school administrator or section commissioner has to like a game that has a 13-0 team and a 14-0 team. If you can put two undefeated teams that are pretty legitimate undefeated teams in a regional game, that’s a good thing,” Tennis said.
A look at last week’s top developments:
Best win of the week: El Diamante, a 41-20 Division II quarterfinal win over San Joaquin Memorial. The top-seeded Miners were up 41-6 over No. 9 San Joaquin Memorial by the end of the third quarter, and they weren’t completely reliant on their power run game. Junior quarterback J.C. Robles passed for 160 yards and also had a 35-yard touchdown run. El Diamante has scored at least 35 points in every game Robles has thrown for at least 100 yards. Close second to Porterville with a 61-12 dismantling of Madera in the Division III quarterfinals.
Record Bookkeeping: Mission Oak set a single-game school record for points scored in its Division IV quarterfinal 68-18 win over Roosevelt. The 68 points broke the previous mark set in 2012 in a 67-0 win over Golden West. Mission Oak senior Elijah Porchia continues to make the best argument for the 2013 Bob Mathias Award as the most outstanding player in Tulare County. Porchia had five touchdowns in the win over Roosevelt, raising his season-total to a county-leading 34 touchdowns. He is 78 yards away from becoming the first Mission Oak player to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. He leads all Tulare County players with 1,922 yards rushing. Farmersville quarterback Sam Metcalf needs just two more touchdown passes to break the Central Section single-season record of 50 touchdown passes set by Tulare Union’s Emmanuel Lewis in 2005. Metcalf leads the Central Section with 49 touchdown passes, and he’s just one yard behind Bakersfield Christian’s Brandon Jones for the section lead in yards passing (Jones has 3,266 and Metcalf has 3,265).
Disappointing, but not surprising: Some may point to Tulare Western’s 21-7 loss to Independence as the upset of the week in the Central Section playoffs. The Mustangs are the lone No. 1 seed to be knocked out of the postseason. But Independence was no ordinary No. 9 seed. The Falcons played five games against Division I teams (all five were losses), and had a 5-1 record against teams outside of Division I. I had them as the preseason favorite to win the bracket. What hurt the Falcons the most in the seeding meeting was a 40-14 season-opening loss to defending Division III champion Ridgeview, the bracket’s No. 6 seed which defeated No. 3 Washington Union on Friday, 24-6.
He still has it: Former Mt. Whitney coach Charlie Casale has the Coast Union Broncos on the brink of winning the Southern Section 8-man Division I championship, and perhaps making the best argument of being the state’s top 8-man football team. The Cambria-based Broncos defeated Lucrene Valley in the semifinals. They will visit Faith Baptist-Canoga Park (8-4) on Saturday for the division championship. Fans from Mt. Whitney’s glory days (late 1970s) should appreciate that Coast Union (11-1) is known for smothering teams with their offense. The Broncos are averaging over 50 points per game.
Cream of the Crop
One view of the top five teams in Tulare County:
1. El Diamante (10-1): Miners’ semifinal date with No. 5 Sanger in Friday’s Division II semifinals is a matchup of the two Division II teams according to Calpreps.com.
2. Mission Oak (11-0): Hawks hosted Division IV semifinals in each of the previous two seasons, but lost both games (Wasco in 2011, Bakersfield Christian in 2012). A win over Wasco propels them to their first Central Section championship game in football.
3. Porterville (9-2): Panthers’ Wing-T offense has found its groove again. Panthers have scored 187 points over their last four games. They rushed for 425 yards in Friday’s 61-12 win over Madera in a Division III quarterfinal.
4. Redwood (8-3): Rangers are expected to challenge El Diamante for West Yosemite League and Tulare County supremacy once again in 2014.
5. Tulare Western (7-4): Mustangs will return a strong group of stalwarts in 2014. Key for them is finding a couple of new defensive playmakers.
Calpreps.com has vaulted El Diamante over Mission Oak in its latest rankings (win over San Joaquin Memorial helped the Miners’ strength-of-schedule ranking). Calpreps’ top five Tulare County teams starts with El Diamante at No. 1 followed by Mission Oak, Porterville, Dinuba and Redwood.
A look at this week’s top story lines:
Championship Drought is over: After three seasons without a section champion from Tulare County, the dry spell will come to an end Friday night with an all-Tulare County matchup in the Division VI final between No. 1 Farmersville and No. 2 Strathmore. The Aztecs and Spartans have faced off in each of the three previous postseasons (all semifinal games). Strathmore won in 2010, and Farmersville has won the last two playoff meetings, including last year’s 27-22 win.
The 10-1 Bracket: All four teams still alive in the Division V bracket sport 10-1 overall records, and they’re also the bracket’s top four seeds — No. 1 Liberty-Madera Ranchos (the defending champion), No. 2 Mendota (two-time Division VI champion), No. 3 Firebaugh and No. 4 Lindsay. Not much is expected from the Mendota-Firebaugh game in terms of dramatics. Mendota defeated Firebaugh 43-12 in the No. 8 regular-season finale. The other semifinal game between Liberty and Lindsay is a lot more intriguing. Both teams have balanced offensive attacks (Liberty is a bit more reliant on the run game, though) and are averaging over 30 points per game.
Live Blogging: Busy Friday, and we will be live blogging from four games — Sanger at El Diamante, Wasco at Mission Oak, Bakersfield Christian at CVC, and Strathmore at Farmersville — and we will have regular updates from Lindsay at Liberty-Madera Ranchos.