Two teams on similar trajectories will meet Friday night at Righetti's football field.

After all, it's hard for a team to end up in a divisional championship game on a downward spiral.

But when Righetti hosts Madera Liberty in the Central Section's Division 5 championship, they will both be carrying plenty of momentum into the matchup after early-season struggles. 

Liberty has 2-3 at one point this season and 3-5 at another, falling two games under .500 after a disappointing 20-19 loss to lowly Kerman (2-8).

But the Hawks have won four straight games, including two playoff shutouts, one of which was a 14-0 win over Reedley Immanuel, the division's top seed. 

Righetti is 4-8 after three straight playoff wins as they ended the season with just one win, a 20-6 victory against Pioneer Valley, which finished the regular season winless. 

Liberty has out-scored its opponents 276-164 on the season. Righetti has been out-scored 284-224. 

So what do I think of the match-up? It's a toss-up. Righetti is the No. 3 seed. Liberty is the No. 4 seed. 

No. 4 Madera Liberty (7-5) at No. 3 Righetti (4-8)

The Hawks have been playing incredibly well over the last four weeks. Righetti has been winning, but the Warriors haven't hit their peak yet. 

Is that a cause for concern? Twelve weeks into the season, yes, it probably is. But there is a chance that Righetti can still make the most of its talent this late in the season. 

Righetti needs to cut out the miscues if it wants to win this game. That means all the different types of miscues. Turnovers and penalties usually get the most attention, but blown assignments and missed coverages are just as hurtful. 

Righetti has to limit mistakes to win this game. One turnover can mean the difference between a CIF title and a runner-up finish. 

Liberty's Dominic Castaneda may be the best player on the field Friday. Righetti has to limit No. 23. He leads the Hawks in rushing, receiving and interceptions. 

Righetti counters Casteneda with a trio of athletes: Ryan Boivin, Elias Martinez and Cooper Bagby. If those three show up, Righetti should win this game. 

The Warriors also have a bunch of peripheral players that can make a difference in this game, including quarterback Abel McCormack, linebacker Brian Monighetti, running back Elijah Swanson, defensive back Elroy Perez and defensive lineman Hayden Baichtal.

I would expect both teams to have success running the ball, but Righetti probably has an advantage in the passing game, even with the backup McCormack starting. He's been able to hit timely throws throughout the postseason, linking up with Martinez and Bagby. 

I feel Righetti, though, is the stronger team. The Warriors have faced a gauntlet this year, playing in the Mountain League and against strong Southern Section teams like Lompoc and Santa Fe Springs St. Paul. That has prepared Righetti for this moment.

The Pick: Righetti 24, Liberty 21.

CalPreps projection: Righetti 22, Liberty 17.

CIF-CS Title games

Division 1

No. 4 Bakersfield Liberty (9-2) at No. 3 Fresno Central (9-1)

CalPreps projection: Central 35, Liberty 21.

Bakersfield Liberty pulled off the stunner of the playoffs by knocking off the top team in the section with the win over Clovis Buchanan in the semifinals. 

Central also pulled an upset in the semis, taking down No. 2 Fresno San Joaquin Memorial. (I called that one, by the way). Can Liberty score another shocking upset? I don't think so.

Central is the section's kingpin and the Grizzlies don't go down easily. This is a good matchup though. Fresno/Clovis has had the upper-hand against Bakersfield atop the football realm lately and there's more bragging rights on the line Friday.

The Pick: Central 43, Liberty 25.

Division 2

No. 2 Bakersfield (6-5) at No. 1 Bullard (8-4)

CalPreps projection: Bullard 35, Bakersfield 26

Bullard has been dominant since nearly losing to St. Joseph in the first round, routing Clovis West 70-42 and Kingsburg 49-21.

The Knights should roll past the Drillers.

The Pick: Bullard 49, Bakersfield 24.

Division 3

No. 7 Bakersfield Christian (10-3) at No. 1 Visalia Central Valley Christian (9-4)

CalPreps projection: CVC 21, Bakersfield Christian 20.

CVC edged BCHS 30-24 in the season opener, but Bakersfield Christian has really turned it on with eight straight wins. I think the Eagles pull off the upset.

The Pick: Bakersfield Christian 27, Central Valley Christian 24.

Division 4

No. 13 Mendota (8-3) at No. 6 Bakersfield Independence (7-6) 

CalPreps projection: Independence 31, Mendota 21.

Mendota has made a wild run to the title game as the No. 13 seed, taking down No. 4 Madera South, No. 5 Bakersfield Foothill and No. 8 Bakersfield Highland.

I say they keep it moving and buck all the projections.

The Pick: Mendota 28, Independence 25. 

Division 6

No. 2 Morro Bay (6-6) at No. 1 Taft (6-4)

CalPreps projection: Taft 28, Morro Bay 22

I have Righetti winning, so let's add on Morro Bay to give the coastal schools two CIF championships in this new playoff format.

The Pirates have plenty of talent with Nicky Johnson at QB and Ethan Lisman at receiver. Dylan Turner is also a reliable runner.

The Pick: Morro Bay 44, Taft 40.

0
0
0
0
0