When Central Section football schedules came out this summer, there was one date most fans circled on their calendar — October 4th.
That would be the date when perennial Central Section powers Buchanan and Central High would face off under the lights of Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis. It promised to be a high-scoring affair full of future Division-I college talent.
Finally, Thursday night came, Buchanan and Central played each other, and the promise of offensive fireworks was fulfilled.
For Buchanan fans, the early promises of a win were quickly dashed.
It would be Central’s blazing receivers who dashed past Buchanan’s secondary most of the night, as the Grizzlies got out of an early 13-point deficit to score 35 unanswered points in a 41-20 win over the Buchanan Bears Thursday night.
Central was the first one to go on the scoreboard, with an opening drive capped off by a 4-yard touchdown plunge by Central’s No.2, Quali Conley.
The man wearing two in blue for Buchanan would do Conley one better.
After missing the last three games with a quad injury, Buchanan’s star running back Kendall Milton returned in Thursday’s game against Central and looked like he hadn’t missed a snap. He rushed for 77 yards in the game and two touchdowns, both of which came in the first half and helped give the Bears a 20-6 lead in the second quarter.
Another big part of Buchanan’s fast start was second-year starter D.J. Stevenson, who rushed for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Bears the lead in the first quarter. Unable to contain his speed, Stevenson overran the end zone and slipped on gravel, resulting in a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game.
His replacement, Ian Kirby, would struggle to find an offensive rhythm and this proved pivotal as Buchanan would be unable to match Central’s scoring once Milton scored his second touchdown.
Immediately following Milton’s touchdown came Central’s wide receiver Xavier Worthy scoring on a 19-yard run. Then, a 4-yard score by the Grizzlies’ Jekob Jones tied the game at 20 headed into halftime.
The second half was all Central.
Central pounced on an inexperienced Kirby with a 49-yard pick-six by senior defensive back Sean Haymon. Then to open the fourth quarter, Worthy took full advantage of a blown assignment to blow by the Bears secondary on an 80-yard touchdown catch-and-run, pushing the lead to 34-20.
Worthy would add his third touchdown of the game in the last minute to put the final score at 41-20 in favor of Central.
Despite the devastating loss – the Bears fifth straight to Central – Buchanan head coach Matt Giordano was able to see the game as a teachable moment for his team.
“Tonight was a tough learning lesson. On defense, we got to have poise and understand the situations of the game,” Giordano said. “You got to tip your hat to Central coach Kyle Biggs and his staff for coaching a great game.”
In what many fans considered the “game of the year” for the TRAC, Buchanan players and fans feel disappointed with their loss at home.
Yet, as Giordano stated postgame, Thursday was a lesson for the team, one they should remember in case they run into this dangerous Grizzlies team again during playoffs.
Buchanan (3-3) will host Clovis West next Friday, while Central (6-0) will travel to Lamonica Stadium next Friday to take on Clovis High.