To win a Central Section football title in 2018 you must first pass through a gauntlet of four straight Fridays ending in victory.
And for the second-seeded Buchanan Bears, who lost in last year’s title game to Central, they certainly understand the process and what it takes to call yourself a Valley champion.
“It’s going to take humility and execution on every detail,” Buchanan coach Matt Giordano says.
Well, Round 1 is in the books as the Bears (9-2) beat No. 15 Clovis West (2-9) 31-0 behind a stout defense and a balanced offensive attack led by two touchdowns each by quarterback D.J. Stevenson and junior running back Kendall Milton.
In addition to his two touchdown throws, Stevenson, a rising sophomore who played varsity basketball last year as a freshman, completed nine of 13 passes for 144 yards and no turnovers.
“It’s feels good,” Stevenson said after the game. “I’m ready for the next game and the next opponent.”
Clovis West was coming off an emotional 38-35 win over Clovis in the final regular season game, three days after coach George Petrissans announced he would be stepping down after the season ends after five years.
The Golden Eagles had to adjust their offense after they lost star quarterback Dante Chachere to a broken wrist three weeks ago.
“The way George can piece together a puzzle and beat Clovis High last week is incredible,” said Buchanan coach Matt Giordano, an eight-year NFL vet and a Super Bowl champ with the Indianapolis Colts. “He’s a great coach and a great man. We are going to miss him.”
However, playoffs are playoffs and Buchanan certainly knows how difficult it is to advance.
“Every playoff win is a difficult one,” Giordano said. “It’s the playoffs so you always have to play your ‘A’ game.”
Buchanan finished 4-1 in league, its only two losses on the year to state No. 3 De La Salle and TRAC champion Central (10-0, 5-0), ranked No. 9 in the state.
Central is the No. 1 seed and the only team to receive a first-round bye.
The Bears came out firing on their first possession, capping off a 75-yard drive with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Stevenson to Brock Jones, the Stanford football and baseball commit who would recover a Clovis West fumble on the next possession from his safety slot position.
Milton, part of a ground game that ran for 234 yards on 38 total carries, scored on a 19-yard run with 1:28 left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead, a score that would stand until half.
After a Race Mahlum 32-yard field goal, Stevenson found Jalen Cropper on a deep slant in the end zone for an 18-yard score.
“We are confident with D.J.,” said Giordano, in his third year as head coach. “The more playoff reps he gets under his belt, the better he gets. It’s one play at a time with him as with our entire team.”
Milton added a nine-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and Hayden Peterson picked off two passes in the second half.
The Bears take on Arroyo Grande, a 59-10 winner over Sanger, at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 9.