Central Section wrap: Who is Player of Year?

One of the state's most perplexing end-of-the-season debates may be in the Central Section. Should the Player of the Year be Edison's Clifton Smith or Clovis' Tyler Clutts? Both led their teams to section titles. Also, check here for Bob Barnett's final Central Section overall stat leaders.

Tyler Clutts and Clifton Smith both put the finishing touches on terrific all-around seasons last weekend in leading their team to CIF Central Section football championships.

Clutts completed 22 of 45 passes for 200 yards and scored himself on a three-yard run to lead Clovis past Clovis West, 17-10, for the Yosemite Division Large title. It marked the eighth section crown for the Cougars, but the first for current coach Larry Kellom.

Despite a 10-2 overall record coming into the game, Clovis was the favorite since Clovis West was only 6-5-1. That the Golden Eagles got this far was a testament to how well they played following a 2-5 start, as well as how sub-par the overall play was this year in the section.

Clutts ended the season with 2,323 yards passing and 20 TDs. He also proved he could run the ball effectively and at 6-3, 225 pounds proved he could knock people around on defense. In fact, Clutts will be tried primarily at defense when he gets to Fresno State next season.

But Clutts may not be the player of the year for the section this season. Perhaps that label instead should go to Fresno Edison's Clifton Smith.

In the Yosemite Division Small championship game, Smith was everywhere as the Tigers rolled over Centennial of Bakersfield, 28-7. The senior RB-DB carried 20 times for 138 yards, threw a 40-yard pass completion and added a pair of picks on defense.

Smith, who is mulling over several college offers, wound up with 1,281 yards and 26 TDs for the season. Two things that might prevent him from being player of the year are the selection of McLane running Michael Ware as the MVP in the same league Edison plays in plus backlash from Edison's four forfeit losses. The forfeits put the Tigers' official win-loss record for the season at 7-6 and there are those who think the forfeits also should have prevented them from being in the postseason at all.

Edison's section title was its first since 1975 and the team finished a dominant run through the playoffs.

Edison, Clovis plus Garces of Bakersfield would be involved in any debate about which team in the section was the top overall at the end of the season. Garces completed a 12-0 season with a 42-39 win over San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno in the Sequoia Div. Small title game.

Coach John Fanucchi's club capped its third unbeaten season and won the eighth section title in school history. It wasn't easy, though, as San Joaquin Memorial staged a spirited fourth quarter rally.

With Chris Joseph throwing touchdown pass after touchdown pass, the Panthers came back from a 35-11 deficit with 10:17 left and trailed by just 35-32. A Matt Oliver 51-yard touchdown run with 1:45 left pushed the lead back to 42-32, but SJM came back again on a four-yard scoring run by Mike Storelli. It wasn't until the ensuing onside kick rolled out-of-bounds that Garces could finally start to think about celebrating.

The two teams combined for a whopping 49 points in the fourth quarter and their combined total offense nearly reached 900 yards.

The closeness of that game, though, didn't make it easier for Garces supporters to claim that their team should be considered No. 1 overall for the section. Edison's impressive win and Clovis, well, being Clovis and the large division champ also make for equally strong arguments.

In the other two Central Section finals this year, Yosemite of Oakhurst downed Coalinga, 31-14, in the Sequoia Division Large title game and Immanuel of Reedley won the Sierra Division crown with a 22-15 victory over Caruthers.

Quint Brown rushed for 148 yards on 28 carries and scored twice to lead Yosemite, which won its first section title in 23 years. Teammate Becher Marr added 18 carries for 133 yards and one TD.

Immanuel ended an 11-2 season in which it avenged both of its losses in the playoffs. Against Caruthers, Neal Hubman threw for two TDs and had two interceptions on defense.

To complete our Central Section football coverage, here's correspondent Bob Barnett's final overall stat leaders:

Rushing

Le'Andre Matthews (East Bakersfield) 10-319 carries-2,036 yds

Quint Brown (Yosemite) 10-293 carries-1,924 yds

Scoring

Brandon McGill (Templeton) 30 TDs (95 carries for 1,191 yds)

Clifton Smith (Edison) 26 TDs (147 carries for 1,281 yds)

Michael Ware (McLane) 26 TDs (174 carries for 1,443 yds)

Bryan Iriye (Lindsay) 23 TDs (268 carries for 1,640 yds)

Passing

Michael Champion (Kerman) 12-319-153-2,552

James Altschuler (Hoover) 13-295-153-2,482

Tyler Clutts (Clovis) 13-294-173-2,323

Neal Hubman (Immanuel, Reedley) 13-219-120-2,104

Bradford Broderson (Redwood, Visalia) 11-270-127-2,083

DeJuan Jones (Mt. Whitney) 10-214-126-2,070

Chris Joseph (S.J. Memorial) 13-214-112-2,000

Receptions

Kevin Robinson (Hoover) 13-69-1,134

Brian Sagariballa (Kerman) 12-69-1,116

Daniel Dominguez (Hanford) 10-64-912

Jacob Wild (Immanuel) 13-60-1,193


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