The road to a CIF Central Section Division Championship began Saturday when the Central Section office released the brackets for the high school football playoffs. 

Four out of the Orange Belt’s five teams made it to the postseason and three were seeded high enough to begin the tournament at home - Div. IV Porterville, Div. V Strathmore and Div. VI Lindsay. Div. VI Granite Hills will travel for its opening round game.

All opening round games are being played Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m.

DIVISION IV

No. 13 Hoover (4-6) at No. 4 Porterville (6-4)

Riding high after topping its crosstown rival Monache (2-8) 61-6 in Friday’s Granite Bowl, is Porterville (6-4), who earned a No. 4 seed for the playoffs and hosts the No. 13 Hoover Patriots (4-6) this Friday at Jacob Rankin Stadium

What’s been key for the Panthers this season, especially towards the end, is their defense. They’re explosive and quick, and they’ll surely give the Patriots trouble. 

The two team’s only common opponent this season was Monache, who Hoover lost to 40-14. 

The Patriots had problems stopping the Marauders’ run game, which could spell trouble for them once again against the Panthers. Hoover will have their hands full on the ground with PHS quarterback Hector Nava Jr. (481 yards, seven touchdowns) and running back Isaiah Ellis (570 yards, six TDs). 

And if they do manage to stop Porterville’s run, Nava Jr. leads the Valley in passing yards through eight games with 2,301 yards, and 21 touchdowns, and plenty of receivers to throw to — including Javier Benevidez (759 yards, six TDs), Ellis (731 yards, six TDs) and Jovanie Cardenas (543 yards, 5 TDs). Benevidez and Ellis have the division’s first and second most receiving yards, respectively.

If Porterville wins, it will host the winner of the opening round game between No. 5 Cesar Chavez (8-2) and No. 12 Morro Bay (3-7). 

DIVISION V

No. 13 Taft (4-6) at No. 4 Strathmore (9-1)

Back in the postseason for the fifth year in a row — but in a new division — is No. 4 Strathmore (9-1). After three-straight trips to the CIF State Championships in Div. VI, the Spartans were moved up to Div. V and begin the playoffs hosting the No. 13 Wildcats of Taft (4-6), who are on a three-game losing streak.

The two teams only common opponent is Div. VI Kern Valley (4-6), who Taft came back to beat 24-22. Strathmore beat Kern Valley 48-20.

Strathmore won the East Sequoia League title with a 5-1 record, but that one loss had to hurt as it came at the hands of rival, Div. VI Lindsay (7-3, 4-2 ESL). The Spartans lost 10-7, scoring their least amount of points since 2015. 

Strathmore has the tools to rebound well and should do so against Taft. The Spartans run game also continues to be one of their strengths with Carlos Moreno (1,056 yards, 11 TDs) hitting the 1,000-yard milestone against Lindsay and becoming Div. V’s leading rusher. Christian Onsurez also boasts 11 touchdowns, along with 416 rushing yards.

Outside of an interception against Lindsay, quarterback Trace Pugh is nearly 60 percent on completions with 1,109 yards and 16 touchdowns, half of which went to wide receiver Andre Bravo (398 yards, eight TDs).

If Strathmore wins, it will host the winner of the opening round game between No. 5 Shafter (6-4) and No. 12 Arvin (5-5).

DIVISION VI

No. 12 Parlier (4-6) at No. 5 Lindsay (7-3)

Lindsay’s victory over Strathmore (9-1) to win the Bell back in last Friday’s rivalry Bell Game was one for the story books, and it should give the fifth-seeded Cardinals (7-3) plenty of momentum when the No. 12 Parlier Panthers come to town. 

The two have three common opponents in Div. V Strathmore, Div. VI Farmersville (0-10) and Div. V Fowler (4-6). The Cardinals beat all three teams but the Panthers lost 45-6 to the Spartans. Parlier couldn’t stop Strathmore’s run, which could be where Lindsay dominates the game with the Valley’s No. 1 rusher, Daniel Trujillo. Trujillo has rushed for 1,636 yards and 16 touchdowns through the first nine games this season. Lindsay’s Mario Diaz has helped hold down the Cardinals’ passing game with 730 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Holding the Spartans’ offense to just seven points also speaks to what the Cardinals can do defensively and they should be successful against the Panthers as well. 

If Lindsay wins, it will face the winner of the opening round game between No. 4 Riverdale (7-3) and No. 13 Corcoran (4-6). Lindsay beat Corcoran 22-21 in East Sequoia League play.

No. 14 Granite Hills (3-7) at No. 3 Orosi (8-3)

The only team playing a team it faced earlier this season is No. 14 Granite Hills, who travels back to Orosi for an opening round game against the No. 3 Cardinals. Last time they met, the Grizzlies lost 48-21. 

In that game, the Grizzlies couldn’t stop OHS running back Dominic Martinez. The Cardinal rushed for 191 yards and a season-high six touchdowns, on 16 carries. Martinez is second in Div. VI in rushing yards with 1,410, but his 21 rushing touchdowns leads the division through nine games.

The Grizzlies main offensive weapons are wide receiver Max Jimenez, and running backs Carlos Corona and Manny Aguilar. Jimenez leads the division with 888 receiving yards, and also has six touchdowns. Corona has 386 yards and three touchdowns while Aguilar has 210 yards and one touchdown.

If Granite Hills wins, it will have to travel to the winner of No. 6 Mission Prep (5-5) and No. 11 Mira Monte (2-8).

All stats obtained from MaxPreps.com on Sunday morning.

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