A capsule look at Friday’s Central Section semifinal games involving Tulare County teams:
• No. 6 Tulare Western (9-3) at No. 2 San Joaquin Memorial (8-3)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, San Joaquin Memorial High School, Fresno
Tulare Western update: The East Yosemite League champion Mustangs advanced to the semifinals with their first road playoff win since 1986 with last week’s 15-8 victory over No. 3 Tehachapi. Tulare Western is 7-0 with Mission Oak transfer Andre Aguilar as its starting quarterback. Aguilar is averaging 175 yards of total offense per game to go with a 59.4 completion rate. Three players have over 500 yards rushing — sophomores David Alcantar (673 yards, 10 TDs) and Mason Bernardo (512 yards, 4 TDs), and Aguilar (503 yards, 5 TDs). Jesse Macias and Josh Portillo have combined for 64 receptions for 929 yards and 8 TDs. Sound defensive unit is led by defensive lineman Anthony Morgan (16 tackles for loss), and linebackers Elijah Alonzo (24 TFL) and Nick Lambert (15). Alonzo has recorded a team-high 6.5 sacks. Senior kicker Cameron Horsting is among Central Section leaders with 10 field goals and 32 touchbacks.
San Joaquin Memorial update: The Panthers finished fourth in the County/Metro Athletic Conference, but the league finish belies this team’s prowess. The County/Metro includes Division I powers Edison and Bullard, and conference champion Sanger is considered one of the top six overall teams in the section. SJM’s offense is the epitome of a balanced offensive attack. Panthers are averaging nearly 200 yards rushing and passing per game. Junior QB Michael Alvarez has a 57.1 completion rate to go with 16 TDs against 11 INTs. Top throwing targets are Chris Paz (47 catches, 874 yards, 5 TDs) and Gabriel Gavia (37 catches, 530 yards, 4 TDs). Top quality running backs in Joey Ruiz (973 yards rushing, 9.3 yards-per-carry average, 13 TDs) and Demarcus Wilson (577 yards rushing, 3 TDs), and Alvarez is a capable running threat (474 yards rushing, 8 TDs).
The skinny: Can Tulare Western make history again? A win against SJM would mark Tulare Western’s second road win of the postseason, something that hasn’t been accomplished in school history. A win also advances the Mustangs to their second Central Section championship game (they made it to the Division II final in 2004). Key for Tulare Western is disrupting the rhythm of the Panther offense. SJM’s offense has been sensational excluding its three most difficult games (Bullard, Edison, Sanger). Panthers are averaging 35 points per game over their eight wins. This is the first Central Section playoff meeting between the two teams. The Mustangs and Panthers did meet over the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons with the Panthers winning both contests. Calpreps.com is projecting a 28-19 SJM win.
• No. 4 Woodlake (9-2) at No. 1 Immanuel (8-2)
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Reedley High School
Woodlake update: Tigers have won nine straight games since opening the season 2-0. The East Sequoia League champion Tigers are enjoying one of their best offensive seasons in recent memory under head coach Jose Del Rio and freshman quarterback Robby Stevenson. Woodlake is averaging over 40 points per game during this nine-game winning streak, and has scored at least 31 points in five straight games. Noe Garcia rushed for a season-high 246 yards in last week’s 34-17 quarterfinal win over No. 5 Kern Valley.
Immanuel update: The Eagles opened the season considered by many as the Central Section’s top CIF state bowl hopeful. Immanuel is still considered legitimate CIF state bowl contender, but lost some of its shine with losses to Bishop Diego-Santa Barbara (43-2) and CVC (48-34). Still, this is a team that is expected to score 30-+ points against most of its foes. The Eagles have scored at least 31 points in eight of their 10 games. Immanuel advanced to the semifinals with a 44-14 win over Caruthers. Senior QB Caleb Paulson threw for 1,624 yards and 19 TDs in the regular season. Chris Rosedale had 23 receptions for 487 yards and 6 TDs.
The skinny: Can Woodlake continue lighting up the scoreboard against a talented Immanuel defense? Immanuel is giving up an average of 14.7 points per game against Central Section opponents. Woodlake will need to be at the top of its game offensively, because Immanuel is going to score some points. Calpreps.com’s prediction is a 38-21 Immanuel win.