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Central Section final 2023 football rankings — Clovis North finishes No. 1, state champion CVC moves up to No. 5

Despite season-ending loss, the Broncos' resume scattered with impressive triumphs, historic titles and best season in school history

It seems like just yesterday the Central Section kicked off the season in blazing temperatures. Now, at the end, a few teams started hot and ended even hotter.

It was the toughness and running ability of Clovis North that stood strong, racing to 13 straight wins and a Division 1 Central Section title before falling in the D1-A NorCal title game to storied De La Salle.

The Central Grizzlies defeated No. 2 Frontier and No. 3 Liberty-Bakersfield on the road to reach the D1 finals before falling to Clovis North 24-14 in a game they led 14-7 at half.

And how about Central Valley Christian and star running back Bryson Donelson, who turned in one of the greatest seasons in Central Section history. The Cavs won the Central Section D2 title and the CIF D2-A state title with a 45-42 win over Los Gatos with Donelson scoring four times.

Below are the final rankings for the Central Section. We already can’t wait for what 2024 has in store.

1. Clovis North (13-1)

Last ranking: 1

Final game: Lost to De La Salle 41-0 in CIF NorCal D1-A final

The Broncos were elevated to the top spot on Sept. 10 and never looked back, completing its best season in school history. They won their first 13 games including their first Central Section title since 2013 by defeating Central 24-14 before losing to De La Salle in the CIF D1-A NorCal Regional. The secret to their success was obvious; a massive offensive line creating holes for a team that averaged 278 yards on the ground with 53 touchdowns. The scary part is their top two running backs return next season for their senior year in Jackson Cinfel (1,904, 17 TDs) and McKay Madsen (995, 18 TDs). They’ll most likely begin No. 1 in 2024.

2. Central (10-3)

Last ranking: 4

Final game: Lost to Clovis North 24-14 in D1 Central Section final

The Grizzlies picked up steam when they inserted senior QB David Marquez as their starter on Oct. 5, reaching the D1 Central Section championship game after defeating Frontier and Liberty on the road. Senior WR/S Braylon Hall was named Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year after amassing 83 catches for 1,372 yards and 17 TDs. Sophomore Brandon Smith stood out at linebacker and running back, rushing for 790 yards and 9 TDs. There certainly won’t be a huge drop off for awhile as the freshman and sophomore classes are loaded.

3. Clovis East (9-3)

Last ranking: 5

Final game: Lost to Clovis North 34-28 in Central Section D1 semifinal

Despite losing 34-28 to eventual D1 champ Clovis North in the semifinals, the Timberwolves are primed for an excellent year in 2024. Returning for their senior seasons are QB Ty Miller (3,510, 43 TDs, 612 rushing, 5 TDs) and WR Harold Duvall (31 receptions, 936 yards, 13 TDs), no doubt the top QB to WR duo in the section. Their 17-14 playoff win over Sanger was their first playoff win since 2008. Senior Tommy Nix was a standout on both sides of the ball, making the game-saving tackle against Sanger and scoring 17 TDs with 1,313 receiving yards on the year.

4. Liberty-Bakersfield (10-2)

Last ranking: 3

Final game: Lost to Central 35-21 in D1 Central Section semifinal

The two-time defending D1 Central Section champs and D1-A CIF state champ was taken down by visiting Central 35-21 in the D1 semifinals. They lose a lot at the skill positions such as QB Cole O’Brien, RB/LB Mekhi Delouth and Fresno State commit TE Jace Nixon will graduate. They’ll return Clayton Turk at QB, who filled in for injured O’Brien for two games.

5. Central Valley Christian (15-1)

Last ranking: 9

Final game: Won the CIF D2-A state championship 45-42 over Los Gatos

An almost perfect season for the Cavaliers who won a D2 Central Section title by defeating Lemoore 27-26 and capturing the school’s first state title by Los Gatos 45-42 in the CIF State D2-A final. They were led by SBLive Player of the Year candidate and Fresno State commit Bryson Donelson’s 3,290 rushing yards and a state leading 58 TDs on the season, 48 on the ground. Senior QB Brent Kroeze was excellent all season, passing for 247 yards and 3 TDs in the state championship. The offensive line was stellar, led by league Lineman of the Year Tyler Hughes, the son of coach Mason Hughes.

6. Frontier (11-1)

Last ranking: 2

Final game: Lost to Central 36-32 in the Central Section D1 quarterfinal

Elevated from D2 to D1 this season, Frontier lost to Central 36-32 in the semifinals but had a signature 25-20 win over No. 3 Liberty, knocking the Patriots off and capturing a Southwest Yosemite River League title. Senior QB Malakhi Statler was amazing all season, passing for 2,734 yards and 33 TDs. While replacing Statler will be difficult next season, the Titans will return a pair of talented sophomores in Malcolm Watkins (639 receiving yards, 8 TDs) and two-way star Kobie Watson (626, 8 TDs).

7. Sanger (10-2)

Last ranking: 6

Final game: Lost to Clovis East 17-14 in the Central Section D1 quarterfinal

The Apaches went undefeated in the CMAC this season with a strong defense and potent rushing attack led by senior RB Isaiah Robles’ 1,758 yards and 24 TDS. The perennial D2 power was elevated to D1 this year and fell to Clovis East 17-14 in the second round after defeating Garces 35-0. However, they return standout sophomore DB Carlos Young and athlete Bryson Baker, who holds an offer from Fresno State.

8. Clovis (8-4)

Last ranking: 7

Final game: Lost to Liberty 33-30 in the Central Section D1 quarterfinal

The Cougars fought hard at two-time defending champ Liberty in the D1 playoffs before falling 33-30, but there are high hopes the next two years, namely because of sophomore QB Deagan Rose. Rose, who holds multiple D1 offers including Utah, passed for 2,894 yards and 24 TDs and ran for 14 more scores. It’ll be tough to replace the school’s all-time leading tackler Noah Luginbill who registered 114 this year at LB.

9. Clovis West (6-6)

Last ranking: 8

Final game: Lost to Clovis North 34-0 in the Central Section D1 quarterfinal

It was a bit of a disappointing year for the Golden Eagles, who boasted four future college D1 players and won the TRAC title in 2022, bowing out to Clovis North 34-0 in the second round of the playoffs and finishing 1-4 in league. However, wide receiver Landon Wright (Washington State commit, 1,406 yards, 17 TDs) and two-time league Defensive Player of the Year Tytus Kajavhi (Fresno State, LB) were outstanding. QB Tyler Patrick set a school record with 3,225 yards with 27 TDs.

10. Hanford (9-2)

Last ranking: 11

Final game: Lost to Clovis West 42-30 in the D1 Central Section quarterfinal

Despite the Bullpups going undefeated in league and a single loss to Frontier, they were sent on the road to play Clovis West, losing 42-30. However, next season promises to be a great as they return 84% of their offensive production in QB Daniel Gomez (2,885 yard, 33 TDs), RB Kourdey Glass (567 yards, 17 TDs), Albert Richardson (382, 12 TDs).

11. Lemoore (10-4)

Last ranking: 10

Final game: Lost to Central Valley Christian 27-26 in the Central Section D2 semifinal

Narrowly lost 27-26 to eventual state champion Central Valley Christian in the Central Section D2 title game, a game they led 26-21 with five minutes to go. They were led all season by two-way stars Kobe Green (506 receiving yards, 9 INT) and Elijah Daley.(690 rushing, 10 TDs). The team was senior-laden, so next year new guys will have to step up.

12. Tulare Union (8-5)

Last ranking: Not ranked

Final game: Lost to Central Valley Christian 43-42 in the D2 Central Section quarterfinal

The Tribe were scary this season, barely losing to Central Valley Christian in the section semifinals 43-42. The future is bright with three talented sophomores: QB Jordan Crisp, who led the section with 4,288 yards and 48 TD passes, and receivers Brayden Stevenson (1,236, 16 TDs) and Franklin Lockard (800, 10). And how about freshman Demaje Riley and his 1,019 yards and 15 TDs? Look out in 2024.

13. Mission Oak (10-6)

Last ranking: Not ranked

Final game: Lost to Pala 42-19 in the CIF D4-A final

Playing a whopping 16 games this season, the Hawks caught fire at the end of the season by winning the section’s D3 title and finishing runner-up in the CIF State D4-A title game. Four of their six losses on the season were to CVC, Lemoore, Tulare and Hanford. Senior QB Daniel Gonzalez was one of the best in the section with 3,216 yards and 33 TDs.

14. Kingsburg (9-3)

Last ranking: 12

Final game: Lost to Tulare 49-42 in the D2 Central Section quarterfinal

The Vikings had a strong season overall, with two of their three losses to Tulare and one to Central Valley Chrisitan. Senior QB Max Warkentin was stellar all season with 2,099 yards and a 25:4 TD to INT ratio and classmate Dennis Gagnon led the team with 813 rushing yards and 9 TDs.

15. Arroyo Grande (9-2)

Last ranking: Not ranked

Final game: Lost to Central 42-14 in the D1 Central Section opening round

The Eagles went undefeated (7-0) in the tough Mountain League and was placed in the Central Section D1 bracket, losing to Central 42-14. Their other loss was to Clovis East, who advanced to the semifinals.