The top story lines of the regular season are drawing to a conclusion.
The two major stories that need some type of resolution will have their endings Friday night.
• The winner of the 50th annual Bell Game between Tulare Union and Tulare Western will earn at least a share of the East Yosemite League championship.
• The Milk Can Game between Hanford and Lemoore is of historic proportions. Not only will the winner claim the outright West Yosemite League championship, both teams enter the Milk Can Game with 9-0 records.
The only major mystery left to be solved is what in the world will happen during the CIF Central Section playoff seeding meeting Saturday morning in Porterville?
“We’ll be ready for sure,” CIF Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow said of Saturday’s meeting. “It’s going to be a busy week. The first step is to come up with the volleyball and water polo [playoff brackets]. We’re starting things Thursday. We’ll have everything ready. We should be fine. “
Here’s a look at the top issues for Saturday’s Central Section playoff seeding meeting:
• Does Bakersfield deserve the No. 1 seed in Division I?
This is a toss-up. Conventional wisdom points toward Edison (8-1) as the top seed over the defending CIF State Division I bowl champion Drillers (8-1) based on the Tigers’ 15-14 win over the Drillers on Sept. 5. But Edison lost 15-14 to Sanger on Oct. 17, and Bakersfield arguably has the section’s best chance to land a spot in a regional title game (ranked No. 9 in the latest Cal-Hi Sports’ poll for the CIF Southern California Division I bowl poll, plus the Drillers are the defending champions).
• Is Division II the most problematic bracket to draw up?
Yes, and I don’t think it’s close. It’s not because of the number of teams — don’t think there will be more than 11 teams — it’s that every slot in the bracket will be contested. There will be at least two or three teams that will have solid merits as the committee goes through each seed, starting at No. 1 with Ridgeview (8-1) and Lemoore (9-0). One game on Friday that should help determine the No. 3 or 4 seed is Sanger (6-3) at San Joaquin Memorial (7-2).
• Is the top of Division III bracket as straightforward as it looks?
Yes, it is. This should be the easiest bracket to decipher the first four seeds — Hanford, Madera, Tulare Western and Mission Oak.
Mission Oak may end the regular season with the bracket’s second-highest Calpreps’ computer rating, but you have to remember that Madera soundly defeated Tulare Western (52-28) and Tulare Western downed Mission Oak (25-18). There is expected to be no more than 11 teams in the bracket, which should result in first-round byes for Tulare Western and Mission Oak. It gets interesting for the quarterfinal rounds with the Hawks and Mustangs projected to be home for that round. Based on its win over Mission Oak, Tulare Western should have priority at Bob Mathias Stadium.
• No 1 Division IV seed: CVC or Liberty-Madera Ranchos?
It should be CVC. It’s going to be very hard to ignore a 10-0 record if Liberty-Madera Ranchos defeats Chowchilla on Friday. But the Cavaliers have a better overall résumé, and have a viable chance at earning a regional invite if they win the Division IV crown. Golden West (5-4) is sitting pretty as the No. 3 seed if it defeats El Diamante.
• Who’s the No. 1 seed in Division V?
Based on game results, Farmersville (8-1) should have a significant edge for this spot given its thrilling 45-42 win over Immanuel (7-2) on Oct. 24. Immanuel is ranked No. 1 in the Calpreps poll for the bracket, followed closely by Kern Valley (9-0). Kern Valley should probably be considered the favorite, but you have to remember that it cannot hold a playoff game against a non-High Desert League opponent for two more years. Commissioners can still award the No. 1 seed to Kern Valley, but don’t know if going on the road to possibly play Mendota (6-3) in the semifinals is an award. Most likely to see the commissioners try to set up a semifinal game in Reedley (Immanuel) or Fowler for Kern Valley.
Times-Delta/Advance-Register rankings: 1. Bakersfield (8-1), 2. Edison (8-1), 3. Clovis North (6-3), 4. Liberty (7-2).
Projected seeds: 1. Edison, 2. Bakersfield, 3. Liberty, 4. Clovis North.
Times-Delta/Advance-Register rankings: 1. Ridgeview (8-1), 2. Dinuba (8-1), 3. Lemoore (9-0), 4. Sanger (6-3).
Projected seeds: 1. Ridgeview, 2. Lemoore, 3. Sanger, 4. Dinuba.
Times-Delta/Advance-Register rankings: 1. Hanford (9-0), 2, Madera (6-3), 3. Tulare Western (7-2), 4. Mission Oak (7-2).
Projected seeds: 1. Hanford, 2. Madera, 3. Tulare Western, 4. Mission Oak.
Times-Delta/Advance-Register rankings: 1. CVC (8-1), 2. Liberty-Madera Ranchos (9-0), 3. Golden West (5-4), 4. Cesar Chavez (8-1).
Projected seeds: 1. CVC, 2. Liberty-Madera Ranchos, 3. Cesar Chavez, 4. Golden West
Times-Delta/Advance-Register rankings: 1.Kern Valley (9-0), 2. Farmersville (8-1), 3. Immanuel (7-2), 4. Fowler (7-2).
Projected seeds: 1. Farmersville, 2. Kern Valley, 3. Immanuel, 4. Fowler.
Times-Delta/Advance-Register rankings: 1. RFK (7-3), Avenal (7-2), 3. Sierra Pacific (7-2), California City (4-5).
Projected seeds: 1. RFK, 2. Avenal, 3. Sierra Pacific, 4. California City.
Bigger Bowling Lanes
The proposal that will expand the CIF State bowl system from five games to 13 games took a significant step forward last week after the state’s section commissioners met in Ontario. The proposal was approved for a full CIF state vote in January. If the proposal passes in January, it will go in effect for the 2015 season.
In the proposed bowl format, all of the state’s section champions will advance to the regional championships. The winners of the regional title games will move on to the CIF State bowl games (open division for large schools, open division for small schools, 1A, 1AA, 2A, 2AA, 3A, 3AA, 4A, 4AA, 5A, 5AA, 6).
“For the most part, [schools are] in favor for it. Some of the small schools are opposed, because if they do qualify, they’re going to be missing athletes for their winter sports for another week or two. Small schools do share a lot of athletes. That’s been the only [opposition],” Crichlow said.
Crichlow said that the prospects of the proposal passing are “fairly positive.”
One of the sticking points to the proposal was the placement of the Central Section champions. In order for the format to have an even number of teams in each region, the Central Section would need to send a few of its section champions to the North. Currently, the Central Section is in the Southern California region for all of the CIF’s state sports.
Crichlow said the issue has been resolved.
According to Crichlow, the Central Section Division I, III and V champions will advance to the Northern California regional championships. The Central Section Division II, IV and VI champions will remain in the Southern California regional.
Crichlow said that the Northern California region needed teams to fill its Division I, III and V brackets, and that’s why those three divisions were chosen to move to the North.
Some may wonder why the CIF bowl system is exploding from five games to 13 games.
It’s a good question.
The politically correct answer comes from CIF State associate executive director Ron Nocetti, who told the Riverside Press-Enterprise‘s David Zink, “The motivation came from the fact that it’s getting more and more difficult for us to select teams. We have teams every year that have done everything they can on the field, then gone on as undefeated section champions and didn’t get to move on (to state). Now all of our 51 section champions will advance to a regional game.”
The non-PC answer comes from the CIF’s bottom line.
The Record Searchlight (Redding) reported that the state bowl games netted a profit of $15,000 in 2009. The addition of the regional games in 2012 has been a godsend to the CIF’s coffers. The CIF recorded a profit of $100,000 from its bowl and regional games in 2013.
A look at last week’s top developments:
Best win of the week: Mission Oak. The Hawks’ 42-21 authoritative win over Tulare Union not only turned the EYL standings into a Tulare logjam at the top — all three Tulare schools are tied for first place with 3-1 league records — it demonstrated that the Hawks are a team to watch in the Central Section Division III playoff bracket.
Focus to East Sequoia League title picture: The idea that five teams could share the East Sequoia League championship was shattered with Friday’s games. There will be an outright league champion when Corcoran (6-3, 3-1) visits Sierra Pacific (7-2, 3-1) at Hanford’s Neighbor Bowl. Sierra Pacific blanked Woodlake 38-0 on Friday. Friday’s Corcoran-Lindsay game was stopped Friday night because of lightning with Lindsay leading 14-13 in the fourth quarter. They resumed the game Saturday, and Corcoran scored a pair of touchdowns to win 27-14.
Sad news: Michael Willeford, a longtime assistant coach at Redwood and COS, died on Friday. Willeford, 64, was a Redwood graduate, and taught at Redwood. Services were Monday.
Bob Mathias Award Watch (top performances):
Romello Harris, Tulare Union: Harris accounted for 228 of the Redskins’ 230 yards of total offense in the loss to Mission Oak. He finished with 283 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 36 carries. Harris leads the Central Section with 2,048 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns.
Le’Andre Jefferson, Mission Oak: Jefferson raised his touchdown total to 22 with two spectacular scores against Tulare Union. Jefferson opened up the second half with a 70-yard touchdown run that will surely catch the attention of college coaches, and he hauled in a 55-yard touchdown pass from Trey McJunkin. He is averaging 9.5 yards per touch on offense (rushing and receiving) and has 1,119 yards from scrimmage.
Jeremiah Johnson, Redwood: Rangers found their go-to running back in Week 10. Johnson rushed for 190 yards and four touchdowns on only nine carries in Redwood’s 53-26 win over Hanford West. He averaged over 21 yards per carry.
Isaiah Jones, Porterville: Jones reached the 300-yard mark for the third straight game in the Panthers’ 42-22 win over Delano. He rushed for 302 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Over his last three games, Jones has rushed for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Eric Sanchez and Sheldon White, Golden West: The Trailblazers’ run offense rushed for 322 yards and six touchdowns in a little over two quarters in a 41-7 win over Mt. Whitney that was stopped early in the third quarter because of lightning. Sanchez and White were at the forefront of the ground attack. Sanchez had three touchdowns and 145 yards rushing on just seven carries, including an 85-yard touchdown.. White had 132 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries, including a 92-yard touchdown.
Cream of the Crop
One view of the top five teams in Tulare County:
1. Dinuba (8-1): The Emperors should be a lock for the No. 3 seed in Division II after Sanger (6-3) fell 20-17 to Bullard last week, but expect the unexpected.
2. CVC (8-1): Cavaliers maintained their No. 3 ranking in the Maxpreps‘ CIF Southern California Division IV bowl poll that was released Monday. They are ranked No. 7 in Cal-Hi Sports’ poll (state’s top human poll).
3. Tulare Western (7-2): Mustangs will earn at least a share of their first East Yosemite League championship since 2004 if they defeat Tulare Union. Tulare Western won last year’s Bell Game, 14-6. The Mustangs haven’t won back-to-back Bell Games since winning four straight from 1991-94.
4. Mission Oak (7-2): I’ve seen the Hawks play three times this season (Bakersfield Christian, Mt. Whitney and Tulare Union), and in all three games, they played like a team that should be No. 1 on this list. If they can play at that level over the next five weeks, they could be celebrating the school’s first Central Section championship.
5. Golden West (5-4): Trailblazers will capture their first Sid Hosking Trophy (Visalia city championship amongst the West Yosemite League’s four Visalia schools) since 2001 with a win over El Diamante in Friday’s Battle for the Saddle.
In the picture: El Diamante (4-5). If the Miners play as well as they did against Lemoore on Thursday in this week’s Battle for the Saddle game, you have to like their chances to make it to the playoffs. Tulare Union (5-4).
A look at this week’s top story lines:
Central Section Stat Kings: There is a very high probability that Tulare County players will be atop the Central Section leaderboard for the four major individual offensive categories at the end of the regular season — passing, rushing, receiving and scoring. Harris leads in rushing and scoring. Farmersville’s Sam Metcalf leads the Central Section in passing with 2,888 yards (33 touchdown passes) and Farmersville’s Joseph De La Cruz leads in receptions (76), yards receiving (1,493) and touchdown receptions (19). He has a lead of over 500 yards in yards receiving.
Got tickets?: Tickets are available for the area’s top three rivalry games on Friday — Battle for the Saddle (El Diamante vs. Golden West), Bell Game (Tulare Union vs. Tulare Western) and Cowhide Game (Mt. Whitney vs. Redwood). Battle for the Saddle tickets are available at the Golden West finance center from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Thursday, and from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Friday. Tickets are available at the El Diamante finance center from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Thursday. Tickets are $6 for adults, and $3 for students and seniors. Bell Game tickets are available at the Bob Mathias Stadium West Ticket booth from noon to 6 p.m. today, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Cowhide Game tickets are available at the Mt. Whitney and Redwood finance centers (on each campus) from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today through Thursday. Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for students.
Seeds aren’t just for birds (top five games that will have an impact in Saturday’s playoff seeding meeting):
1. Tulare Union vs. Tulare Western: The winner of the 50th annual Bell Game captures at least a share of the EYL championship (they will win it outright if Delano upsets Mission Oak on Thursday). Things get interesting if Tulare Union pulls off a lopsided win — will the Redskins be seeded No. 5 in Division II? will the Mustangs be dropped below Mission Oak in Division III?
2. Golden West vs. El Diamante: The Trailblazers would love to add the Sid Hosking Trophy to the school’s trophy collection for the next 12 months. A win over the Miners should cement their status as the No. 3 seed in Division IV.
3. Redwood vs. Mt. Whitney: Winner goes to the Central Section playoffs with the loser staying home. Even with mediocre records (in Redwood’s case, it would be 5-5, 4-6 for Mt. Whitney), the winner of this game is likely to receive a top-8 seed in their respective divisions. Redwood is ranked No. 6 in Division II by Calpreps. Mt. Whitney is listed at No. 6 in Division III by Calpreps.
4. Immanuel at CVC: If the Cavaliers defeat the Eagles, who were ranked in the state’s CIF Southern California Division IV bowl polls before losing to Farmersville on Oct. 24, it should solidify their status as the favorite to be named the No. 1 seed in Division IV.
5. Exeter at Dinuba: If the Monarchs (4-5, 0-3) abide to the same .500 rule (overall or league) that most of the area’s school districts have adopted toward the Central Section playoffs, it makes Friday’s date in Dinuba a must-win for them — even though they are widely considered one of the top eight teams in Division IV. Dinuba could use another convincing win to end any argument that Sanger deserves a higher Division II seed than the Emperors.
Live blogging: We will be conducting three separate live blogs for Friday’s rivalry games on the Visalia Times-Delta Web site. We will have twitter updates for Thursday’s Mission Oak-Delano game from Bob Mathias Stadium.