The North Sequoia League took a beating in the second round of the 2104 Central Section playoffs.
Last week four of the six NSL schools were alive and well coming off wins or byes. Now only one remains - the No. 1 D-IV seed, the Liberty Hawks of the Madera Ranchos, moved into the semi-finals by dispatching league rival Kerman 41-21. It’s never easy to beat a division rival twice in one year.
Kerman (7-5) was not an easy out. The 11-0 Hawks overcame another slow start against the Lions. It was 14-14 midway through the second quarter. Per usual, the Hawks put on the afterburners and scored 28 straight points to pull away. Liberty now hosts No. 4 Golden West of Visalia. The Trailblazers cruised past No. 5 seed Chowchilla 31-7 at Visalia.
The Sierra High Chieftains, seeded No. 5 in D-V traveled to Mendota. The Aztecs (9-3) won their 7th straight home game getting by Sierra (8-4) 26-14. The Chieftains managed only 79 yards on the ground. Raul Rangel scored two touchdowns for Mendota - one on the ground and the other a key fumble return in the third quarter. Still, it was a huge turnaround season for Sierra and first year head coach Rich Jackson. Sierra was 5-5 last season in coach Rob Hastie’s final season.
Other programs the Yosemite Badgers faced this season also hit hard times. Roosevelt, No. 6 in D-IV, lost a close one to Caesar Chavez of Delano 13-7. Sierra Pacific,No. 3 in D-VI, was shut out by No. 2 seed Avenal. That was a surprise to me. Despite being D-VI, Sierra Pacific had the best backfield the Badgers faced all year.
Surprising Corcoran, No. 8 seed in D-IV, took out No. 1 seed Farmersville in the biggest upset of the playoffs to date. Farmersville won the D-VI playoffs last year and finished the season at 9-3. The Panthers now travel to face Mendota who seem to be on a mission.
Congratulations to former Badgers star and assistant football coach Bonner Cunnings. Cunnings, now head coach at Madera has yet another team in the playoffs. The 8-3 Coyotes who play in the tough County/Metro League earned a No. 3 seed in D-III and a first round bye. Last Friday the Coyotes hosted No. 6 seeded South High of Bakersfield. It wasn’t even close. Cunning’s squad bolted out to a 35-7 first quarter lead en route to a 56-28 win. It gets tough from here. Next up for Madera is a road game against No. 2 seed Mission Oak of Tulare (9-2). The Hawks made a statement by blanking North of Bakersfield 63-0. No matter what happens it was a turnaround season for Coach Cunnings. Last year the Coyotes were 4-8.
All Cunnings does is turn around programs and get them into the playoffs. Cunnings has taken Fresno Christian, Lemoore, and now Madera to playoff appearances in each of his head coaching stints. All the best to one of the greatest players to ever wear a Badger uniform.