Saturday, November 29, 2014

Semifinal highlights: Liberty-Bakersfield drills state powerhouse, advances to section championship game

Anthony Mariscal (left) and Krys Barnes are all smiles after their team - The Liberty-Bakersfield Patriots - routed rival and defending state champion Bakersfield High 41-10 on Friday, Nov. 28 (photo contributed).
According to Central Section historian Bob Barnett, no team had defeated proud Bakersfield High twice in one season on the football field - and that's in 111 years of Drillers football.

Liberty-Bakersfield just rewrote the Driller history books.

The Patriots used a hard-hitting defense and the exhilarating Anthony Mariscal to wear down the defending state champions in Division I, smashing Bakersfield 41-10 on Friday, Nov. 28, to clinch their spot in the Central Section DI title game and emerge as the first team to beat BHS twice in one season.

Liberty's previous victory over the Drillers came on Nov. 7 with a 21-14 decision.

In the semifinal rematch, the Patriot defense held BHS scoreless throughout the second half and were mainly led by 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker Krys Barnes, who helped neutralize the Drillers' outside running attack with his reaction and tackling.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Mariscal - who's a two-way warning for opponents as a speedy offensive option and ball hawking defensive back - rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns against an athletic Driller defense.

Liberty (10-2) now travels to Fresno to take on the section's No. 1 seed Edison-Fresno (11-1) on Friday, Dec. 5, at Sunnyside High School.


It was the wildest seven minutes that was ever witnessed by Edison-Fresno against upset-minded Clovis at Sunnyside High.

Down by 14 points and staring at a shocking exit in the DI semifinals, the top-seeded Tigers rallied with 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, punching their ticket to the DI final in the 21-14 victory over the Cougars in the Central Section playoffs.

Khai Williams - one of a handful of national recruits at running back on EHS - scored twice on runs of 6 and 2 yards, with his last touchdown breaking the 14-14 tie.

The momentum shifter, though, started with an unlikely playmaker on this Nov. 28 night: linebacker Chris Allison. With the Cougars driving and seeking to extend their lead to 21-6, Allison stripped the football out of the hands of Clovis workhorse running back Adam Prentice and pounced on the loose ball at the CHS 33-yard line. The big play occurred with 5:20 left in the contest.

The turnover led to quarterback Hunter Swearingen calling his own number and taking a 5-yard scoring run, cutting the EHS deficit to 14-12. Swearingen followed with a scoring lob to Fresno State commit A.J. Greeley for the 2-point conversion, tying the game at 14-14.

It's the first time Edison will play for a section championship since the 2009 season, when former Tigers Tevin McDonald, Rykeem Yates and Wesley Flowers led Edison to the DII championship. 


We've witnessed the renaissance of Hanford, Madera and Immanuel football in the 559; as all three teams are now playing for section championships next Friday night.

Here's their turnaround stories:

  • Hanford lost 16 of its last 21 games prior to this season, including a 1-9 finish in 2012. The Bullpups (11-1) knocked off defending section D IV champion Bakersfield Christian 40-21 behind quarterback Ryan Johnson's 13-of-14 passing for 175 yards and Joseph McDaniel's 125 rushing yards. It's the first time Hanford will play for a section championship since the 2008 season. The Bullpups have also never won a section football title in school history.
  •  Madera had seven consecutive losing seasons before starting this year 6-0, then sealing its spot against Hanford in the DIII championship. The Coyotes (9-3) got Evan Rios to boot a 32-yard field goal in the second overtime to eliminate Mission Oak-Tulare 31-28 in their semifinal contest. Madera's previous best season came in 2006, when the Coyotes finished 7-4.   
  • Immanuel-Reedley endured back-to-back winless campaigns in the Central Sequoia League and 1-9 marks in the 2010 and  '11 seasons; leaving former IHS head coach and current school superintendent Ryan Wood with the decision to get the Eagles out of the CSL and go independent. Since then, IHS has gone to the playoffs in the last three seasons under head coach Matt Armstrong and on Nov. 28, clinched its spot in the DV title game after a 29-14 home win over Fowler. Under Armstrong, the Eagles have won 21 of their last 36 games.


It's rare for college football coaches at the NCAA Division I level to travel to Paso Robles' War Memorial Stadium at Flamson Middle School for a football game. But there could be a good number of them for the CIF Southern Section Northern Division title battle.

Paso Robles (12-1) and Newbury Park (11-2) will have five CFB recruits on the field for the Dec. 5 showdown.

The Bearcats, a 28-21 winner against PAC 5 rival Arroyo Grande on Nov. 28, features three NCAA DI commits: athlete Bailey Gaither (San Jose State), tight end/outside linebacker Josh Oliver (SJSU) and TE/OLB Jonathan Baldwin (Northern Arizona).

Newbury Park - who escaped Atascadero 49-48 at home on Nov. 28 - will feature Darick and Darnay Holmes; two explosive offensive stars holding a combined 25 scholarship offers between them. Darick, the Class of 2015 recruit, committed to the University of Arizona of the PAC-12. Darnay is already one of the top 2017 prospects in the nation with 17 offers. Some of his pledges have come from Mississippi State, Ohio State, UCLA and USC.

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