Big Game Bonanza is about to be replaced by No. 1 Seed Bonanza.
Tulare County’s outlook for playoff success has never been any brighter.
After Week 4, there were four Tulare County teams ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions by Calpreps.com.
After Week 8, there are now five Tulare County teams holding No. 1 rankings in their respective divisions by Calpreps — El Diamante (Division II), Porterville (Division III), Mission Oak (Division IV), Lindsay (Division V) and Farmersville (Division VI).
Division III is looking like a Tulare County Block Party –Dinuba is No. 2 and Tulare Western is No. 3 according to Calpreps‘computer program.
But what are the most logical human observations of those same five division brackets?
It’s pretty close to what the Calpreps computer spit out this week.
Here’s a look at the chances of Tulare County having five No. 1 seeds after the Central Section playoff seeding committee convenes on Nov. 9:
El Diamante (Division II)
Overview: Miners (7-1) have sole possession of first place in the West Yosemite League, and are two wins away from securing the No. 1 seed without much of an argument. Cannot see El Diamante not being the No. 1 seed if it finishes 9-1.
Primary obstacle: Friday against Lemoore on the road. The Tigers pounded the Miners in last year’s meeting, and it’s quite possible that they could do it again if the Miners can’t start off the game in tip-top shape.
Prognosis: Miners have been waiting for this Lemoore game since the end of last year’s contest. Don’t see any more bruises on El Diamante’s résumé. El Diamante is in great shape to be the No. 1 seed.
Tulare Western (Division III)
Overview: Porterville is the No. 1 team according to Calpreps, but it is Tulare Western (5-3) that is in charge of this No. 1-seed race. If the Mustangs take care of business against Monache and Tulare Union, they will be the top seed in this bracket. Top Bakersfield-area team is defending champion Ridgeview, but the Wolf Pack is sporting a 4-5 record.
Primary obstacle: Tulare Union in the Nov. 8 Bell Game. The Mustangs haven’t defeated the Redskins since 2006. Tulare Union will play that game like it has nothing to lose.
Prognosis: Don’t see the Mustangs getting tripped up. Sound win over Porterville will be their ticket to the No. 1 seed.
Mission Oak (Division IV)
Overview: The Hawks (8-0) lead what is shaping up to be a very competitive field (the top four projected seeds) for the Division IV crown. Mission Oak is ranked No. 2 in this week’s CalHiSports.com‘s CIF Division III South bowl poll. Don’t see the playoff seeding committee making the Hawks road to a regional invite more formidable than it already is by making them take a bus trip to Bakersfield or Wasco.
Primary obstacle: Tulare Union. The Redskins will throw everything they have at the Hawks this Friday. Mission Oak can’t afford to be feeling too comfortable despite the Redskins’ on-field struggles this season.
Prognosis: The Hawks are quietly becoming the top story in the Central Section — they are the only section team with a more-than reasonable shot at garnering an invitation to a regional final. A 10-0 Mission Oak team will be the No. 1 seed, no doubt about it.
Lindsay (Division V)
Overview: What the Cardinals have going in their favor is their 30-27 win over Central Valley Christian and a 40-20 win over Shafter (5-3). No other Division V team can claim better wins than those two victories. But what is hurting the Cardinals’ chances for the No. 1 seed is a 45-35 loss to Farmersville. Liberty-Madera Ranchos, Lindsay’s top challenger for the No. 1 seed, defeated Farmersville 49-27.
Primary obstacle: Cardinals must win their last two games (Corcoran and Strathmore) to strengthen their argument over Liberty-Madera Ranchos.
Prognosis: Prospects for two sound Lindsay wins are good. It just comes down to how the committee views that loss to Farmersville. Just have a feeling that Liberty-Madera Ranchos will have the edge.
Farmersville (Division VI)
Overview: Aztecs (5-3) are a bigger lock than Mission Oak for the No. 1 seed.
Primary obstacle: Making sure quarterback Sam Metcalf stays healthy. As long as Metcalf is under center, the Aztecs should finish 7-3.
Prognosis: Aztecs should be hosting their first section title game on Nov. 29.
Busy Bob Mathias Stadium
Some may be wondering what would happen if both Mission Oak and Tulare Western are awarded No. 1 seeds. The Hawks and Mustangs both play at Bob Mathias Stadium. You can’t host two games on a Friday night, right? Right, but you can host two games on a Friday. Remember in 2004 when Tulare Union and Tulare Western both hosted Division II quarterfinal games on the day after Thanksgiving. Tulare Union played in the afternoon with Tulare Western hosting the nightcap. It would be a little more difficult this time around with the Hawks and Mustangs each potentially hosting three playoff games. For the week of the quarterfinals (Nov. 22), one team would host a Thursday game and the other on a Friday. For the week of the semifinals (Nov. 29), you could have that day-night doubleheader like the one that happened in 2004. For the week of the finals (Dec. 6), the most likely scenario is for one team hosting a championship game on the Friday with the other team hosting a title game on Saturday afternoon or Saturday night. So who gets first priority for Bob Mathias Stadium? Based on what happened in 2004, it should be Mission Oak given that it defeated Tulare Western.
Playoff Picture Focus
A look at how some of last week’s results changed the Central Section playoff picture:
Division I: Only major change is defending Division I champion Clovis North (6-2) going down a couple of spots after losing 30-14 to Central (6-2). Current projections of top four seeds: 1. Edison (8-0), No. 2 Bakersfield (6-2), No. 3 Liberty (7-1), No. 4 Central (6-2). Clovis North would be the No. 5 seed.
Division II: How much will the playoff seeding committee credit Kingsburg (7-1) for winning a very competitive and formidable Central Sequoia League? It shouldn’t be enough to overtake El Diamante or Garces for one of the top two seeds. But the Vikings should be given serious consideration for the No. 3 seed. Current projections of top four seeds: 1. El Diamante, No. 2 Garces, No. 3 San Joaquin Memorial, No. 4 Kingsburg. San Joaquin Memorial closes the season with Edison and Sanger. If the Panthers win both of those games, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them be given the No. 1 seed — especially given Edison’s current lofty status.
Division III: Tulare Western might have gone down in the computer pool with the loss to Mission Oak, but the Mustangs are still considered the No. 1 team to human observers. Current projections of top four seeds: 1. Tulare Western, 2. Porterville, 3. Dinuba, 4. Washington Union.
Division IV: Mission Oak is the clear-cut choice for the No. 1 seed following its win over Tulare Western. What will happen in the seeding meeting after the bracket’s No. 1 seed is another story. Bakersfield Christian (6-2) may have the inside track if it wins the South Sequoia League title outright — giving the Eagles the edge they will need over CVC. Current projected top four seeds are: 1. Mission Oak, 2. Bakersfield Christian, 3. Wasco, 4. CVC (Exeter is No. 5).
Division V: Washington Union’s 26-18 win over Liberty-Madera Ranchos has turned this bracket into a free-for-all for the No. 1 seed. There are four 7-1 teams (Lindsay, Liberty, Mendota and Kern Valley). Firebaugh is 8-0. But the only way Firebaugh will be included in the conversation for the No. 1 seed is with a 10-0 record (Firebaugh hosts Mendota on Nov. 8). Kern Valley has no shot of being the No. 1 seed based on its agreement with the Central Section in the High Desert League’s move from the Southern Section to the Central Section (no home playoff games for High Desert League teams for the next three years). Current projected top four seeds are: 1. Liberty-Madera Ranchos (The Hawks’ 49-27 win over Farmersville is the reason why), 2. Lindsay (Cardinals lost to Farmersville), 3. Mendota, 4. Firebaugh.
Division VI: Farmersville didn’t lose its grip on the No. 1 seed after a 68-51 loss to Mission Prep. Current projected top four seeds are: 1. Farmersville, 2. Strathmore, 3. Avenal, 4. Laton.
A look at last week’s top developments:
Best win of the week: El Diamante/Mission Oak. Both the Miners and Hawks took command of their respective league races with victories over their top challengers — El Diamante with a 29-14 decision over Redwood and Mission Oak fending off Tulare Western 21-14.
Special teams are special: Mission Oak received two huge plays from its special teams unit in its win over Tulare Western — an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by Elijah Porchia and a blocked field-goal attempt by Nick Lewis. El Diamante’s fine return team helped spark a couple of scoring drives against Redwood. The Miners started at their own 36-yard-line or better in five of its nine total possessions. Redwood started out at its own 20 or worse in six of its nine possessions.
Bob Mathias Award Watch: This space’s current ballot for Tulare County’s most outstanding player has Mission Oak senior Elijah Porchia at the top followed by Farmersville junior quarterback Sam Metcalf and Dinuba junior running back Michael Wright. Porchia’s hand in all three of the Hawks’ touchdowns against Tulare Western (one rushing, one passing, one punt return) will go down as one of the top moments in program lore. Metcalf has accounted for 40 touchdowns (36 passing, four rushing) and he leads the Central Section with 2,580 yards passing. Wright is among Central Section leaders with 1,474 yards rushing and 26 total touchdowns.
What a Rush: Tulare County’s presence in the Central Section rushing leaderboard remains strong. Tulare Union sophomore tailback Romello Harris leads all Tulare County players with 1,623 yards rushing (No. 3 in the section). The section’s No. 4 and No. 5 rushers are from Tulare County — Wright and Porchia (1,459 yards). Harris has a shot at breaking Dominique Dorsey’s Tulare County record for most yards rushing by a sophomore. Dorsey rushed for 2,159 yards in 1998.
Cream of the Crop
One view of the top five teams in Tulare County:
1. El Diamante (7-1): Miners have to be thrilled they’re back in Division II. If they were still in Division I (2010-11), they would be the projected No. 8 seed.
2. Mission Oak (8-0): Hawks are about to enter rarefied air. They are in position to become the fifth team from Tulare to post a perfect regular season since 2005 (Tulare Union did it in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009). No Tulare school had gone undefeated in the regular season from 1948-2004. The 1947 Tulare Union team, which featured future Olympic gold medalists Bob Mathias and Sim Iness, was the last Tulare team prior to 2005 that went undefeated in the regular season.
3. Redwood (6-2): Rangers’ Division II-seed stock will rise sharply if Lemoore knocks off El Diamante and they win their last two games in convincing fashion — could be a top-3 seed. Rangers won’t overlook Hanford West, but you could imagine they’re taking a little peek at their Nov. 8 Cowhide Game date with Mt. Whitney. Redwood hasn’t lost three straight Cowhide games since the 1970s (Mt. Whitney won five straight from 1974-78).
4. Tulare Western (5-3): Can’t punish the Mustangs after a hard-fought loss to Mission Oak. Mustangs must shore up their penalty problem before the playoffs, though — they were called for 18 penalties totaling 185 yards against Mission Oak.
5. Porterville (6-2): After being held to 22 combined points in losses to Mission Oak and Tulare Western, the Panthers bounced back with a 41-13 victory over Tulare Union. Still not the numbers they were used to throughout the first half of the season. Expect them to flirt with the 60-point mark over their next two games (Delano, Monache).
Another view: Calpreps’ rankings of the top five county teams has Mission Oak at the top spot followed by El Diamante, Porterville, Dinuba and Redwood, respectively.
A look at the story lines this week:
Visit to the Doctor office: El Diamante was embarrassed a bit in last year’s 43-14 loss to Lemoore — running clock over the final eight minutes of the game, Tiger running back Richard Doctor rushing for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Doctor is at it again this season. He is the unofficial state rushing leader with 2,026 yards to go with 28 rushing touchdowns.
Trap Door Alert?: Calpreps has Mission Oak and Tulare Western winning handily this week — Calpreps is predicting a 34-7 Hawk win over Tulare Union and a 31-7 Mustang win over Monache. Couple of things to note, Mission Oak came into last year’s meeting with Tulare Union as a favorite, only to have problems stopping Harris (204 yards) in what turned out to be a 27-14 Redskin win. Tulare Western only has one win against Monache over their last eight meetings, including a 47-19 loss to the Marauders last season.
Cardinals invade Corcoran: Lindsay and Corcoran are tied atop the East Sequoia League standings with 3-0 league records. All of the league’s other teams have at least two league losses. Winner will earn at least a share of the league title. Lindsay has scored at least 28 points in every game this season. Corcoran has topped the 28-point mark just two times.
Live Blogging: An all-Visalia matchup and an all-Tulare matchup highlight over coverage for Friday. We will be live blogging from the Golden West-Mt. Whitney and Tulare Union-Mission Oak games. There are also two key WYL games from Kings Counties that we will be attending — El Diamante at Lemoore and Redwood at Hanford West.