Buchanan advances to semifinals with big win over Arroyo Grande

Levin Willems receives a handoff from quarterback Carson Bailey before scoring on a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. COURTESY OF AN EYE FOR IT ALL PHOTOGRAPHY

November weather is football weather, and if you’re fortunate to still be playing in the chill of night it means one thing: a deep run in high school playoffs.

And that’s where second-seeded Buchanan sits, a team on a mission after falling short of a Valley championship last year at the hands of Central.

The Bears are loaded this year with playmakers, and after opening the Central Section Division I playoffs with a resounding 35-7 win over Clovis West in Round 1, they dismantled No. 7 Arroyo Grande 48-17 at Veterans Memorial Stadium behind their electrifying ground game and stellar defense.

“To me this is football weather,” Buchanan head coach Matt Giordano said. “It’s good to be cold in the football season because that means your going deep in the playoffs. The colder it gets, the happier I get.”

A happy coach is a happy team indeed, and the Bears (10-2) made an early statement by one of the most recruited running backs in the country in Kendall Milton.

Milton, with close to 40 Division I offers, imposed his will on Buchanan’s first possession of the game with three straight runs from the 25-yard line, culminating with a 21-yard touchdown run.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior would add two more touchdowns, bringing his season total to 26, on runs of nine and 62 yards.

“We go out there and all do our thing,” said Milton, who finished with 10 carries for 169 yards. “It’s fun.”

Of course it is. With big-time athletes like Jalen Cropper (90-yard touchdown catch) and Brock Jones (72-yard touchdown run), the Bears kept the pedal to the metal on their way to a 34-3 halftime lead.

Sophomore quarterback D.J. Stevenson, in addition to the 90-yard touchdown throw to Cropper (school record), tossed a 14-yard touchdown to Brandon Hernandez in the third quarter.

Levi Willems added a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to make the score 48-3.

“It was good to see the guys ready to play tonight,” Giordano said.

Arroyo Grande, one of two schools from the Central Coast added to the Central Section Division I playoffs this year, came in at 8-3 with over 3,000 rushing yards on the season in addition to senior quarterback Kadine Byrne’s 834 and 13 touchdowns.

Buchanan took on the challenge of a big Arroyo Grande offensive line but the Bears were on the ready with linemen Reece Bacon, Tydus Lo, Matthew Merritt, Chase Bibler and linebackers Steven Scheidt and Michael Martens.

The Bears’ defense, allowing 14 points per game, gave two late touchdowns during a fourth quarter running clock.

“Hats off to Arroyo Grande, we tried to tell our guys that they are big and physical and our guys got a taste of that,” Giordano said. “I was happy that we stuck with the game plan and luckily we came out on top.”

Jones, who doubles as a safety and plans to sign with Stanford for both baseball and football, is taking the approach one game at a time.

“Obviously it’s a big accomplishment because we are working for a Valley championship,” Jones says. “We keep inching forward and every step is a new stage.”

Buchanan will take on No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield, a team they beat 28-13 in Week 4, at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 16.