Not a lot of time between baby-soothing and toddler-watching at home this week before help arrives, so we'll do this nice and quick.
First, the regular look back at last week:
The good: Picking Bakersfield to win big traveling south, Mission Viejo to win big traveling north, Garces to win (by a point, even!) traveling west and Frontier to outlast Ridgeview. Also picked a mild Arvin-over-Highland upset.
The bad: East-West was a tough one to call, and I went the wrong way. I also didn't see Kennedy's historic win coming (though who besides those in the Thunderbirds' locker room did?), and I thought Delano would stick closer to Liberty.
The ugly: A couple of SSL games. Picking Shafter to lose and Bakersfield Christian to win were, um, well, they were misguided picks. Let's just leave it at that and hope I do better this week.
Friday, Aug. 31
FRESNO-CENTRAL (1-0) AT LIBERTY (1-0) — Every year, we call these TRAC vs. SWYL matchups crucial to the Division I playoff seeding process, and that's certainly true here. I'd argue, though, that this one might be more important to the TRAC, simply because of the presence of Bakersfield. If the Drillers win the SWYL, as expected, a Liberty win here could help the rest of the league tremendously. A loss by Central, on the other hand, hurts more the higher the Grizzlies finish in the TRAC. And right now, by the way, that looks to be awfully high. Central has looked tremendous in a preseason scrimmage and then in a Week 0 pounding of a highly regarded Division III team in Hanford. Might the Grizzlies have finally harnessed all of that athleticism? Liberty takes an opposite approach, relying on Corbin Jountti's Energizer legs and a stout defense to suffocate opponents. Problem is, one or two big plays early can wreak havoc on that strategy. I don't think Central runs wild here, but I think the Grizzlies strike gold a couple of times, put the Patriots into a corner and come away with a huge road win.
Prediction: Central 24, Liberty 17
FRONTIER (1-0) AT LOMPOC (1-0) — The road trips made this weekend by Stockdale — up to Stockton to play traditional Sac-Joaquin Section power St. Mary's — and by Bakersfield, down to Encino to play Arizona D-III state runner-up Cactus of Glendale are grabbing the headlines, but no one in Kern County has a tougher game this week than Frontier. Lompoc won the Southern Section's Western Division (D-IV) last year and had a much better strength of schedule than Washington Union, which got the D-III state bowl bid anyway. Anyway, the Braves might be even better this season. Frontier (coached by Lompoc grad Rich Cornford by the way) will have no chance if it doesn't take better care of the ball after last week's four-turnover escape against Ridgeview. Still, win or lose, it will be interesting to see how Frontier's defense and Triton Douglas-led running game fare against the big, bad Braves.
Prediction: Lompoc 31, Frontier 13
STOCKDALE (0-0) AT STOCKTON-ST. MARY'S (1-0) — Most high school football fans in California will have heard of St. Mary's, but to get a grip on some out-of-section programs, I often go to Calpreps' Dynasty Ratings, one of many useful little gems you can find on the site. Over the past five years, St. Mary's has carried the No. 37 power rating in the state. That might not sound too impressive, but consider that Bakersfield is No. 44 over a time period that includes two D-I Valley titles and a runner-up. That's what Stockdale is up against. Of course, the Mustangs have a few things going for them, too. A double-wing offense that isn't the easiest thing to practice against, D.J. Martin running in it and a junior class that has never lost a game together. That could come to an end Friday, but something tells me it'll be a dogfight.
Prediction: St. Mary's 37, Stockdale 21
RIDGEVIEW (1-0) AT INDEPENDENCE (0-0) — Falcons coach Sean McKeown came to Independence after a stint as the offensive coordinator at Bakersfield High, which won the 2007 section title with his help. McKeown said from the get-go, in so many words, that he'd love to build BHS West at Independence. But in many ways, Independence might model Ridgeview this year, and that's not half-bad, either. The Falcons' best players are at skill positions, and they boast a speedster-turned-quarterback in Preston Hodges, their answer to Ridgeview's Kamari Moya-Cotton. Remember, Independence gave Ridgeview fits in last year's playoffs as a No. 15 seed before falling 28-21. I think this is a game to the final buzzer, but after a sloppy opener, chalk one up to Ridgeview's experience and desperation to get back in the win column with a harrowing September schedule coming up.
Prediction: Ridgeview 23, Independence 17
VISALIA-REDWOOD (1-0) AT CENTENNIAL (0-1) — This strikes me as one of the weekend's toughest games to call. The Golden Hawks didn't do a whole lot against Mission Viejo, but they didn't exactly get jack-hammered either, at least not right away. Redwood is a solid program coming off of an easy season-opening win against Tulare Western. It would be easy to say the Rangers win this one because of experience and returning personnel, but my gut is telling me to go with the Golden Hawks. Bryan Nixon and his staff do a first-class job of getting their guys ready to play, and Centennial has plenty of talent, though most of it still hasn't taken part in a varsity touchdown. At home, with a sense of desperation, the Hawks find a way to get to 1-1.
Prediction: Centennial 28, Redwood 24
GOLDEN VALLEY (1-0) AT GARCES (1-0) — While Garces was staging its more-publicized comeback at San Luis Obispo — three fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Cruise Adams, the winner with 1:13 left — Golden Valley enjoyed some drama, too. The Bulldogs were down 31-18 to Taft late in the first half and came back with 23 unanswered points to end the game. Quarterback Alex Soto threw for 360 yards, four touchdowns — and just one interception, key for a guy who was mistake-prone at times last year. The bigger revelation was the defense, which pitched a shutout in the second half after allowing Taft 31 points in the first. Garces, meanwhile, was shut out through three quarters at SLO. That won't be the case this time — the passing games might be a wash, GV doesn't have an answer up front and up the middle for the Rams' running game, which should be far more effective than it was last week.
Prediction: Garces 45, Golden Valley 20
SOUTH (0-0) AT HIGHLAND (0-1) — I sat in the Central Section playoff seeding meeting last November as the commissioners struggled to dissect the Division III playoff picture. Golden Valley had defeated Highland, which had defeated Foothill, which had defeated GV. This South-Highland matchup is the sort of game that will have repercussions that late in the year. Highland actually led Arvin in the fourth quarter last week, but the Scots' offense was virtually non-existent: They finished with 96 total yards, none through the air. Good news is, South's dynamic d-line duo of Jay Webber and Tyshon Hodges-Lee has graduated. Bad news is, the Rebels are still stout on defense, especially up the middle. That means Highland, a young team learning on the fly, must figure out how to attack South on the perimeter. I like the Rebels, which should get enough offense from dual-threat quarterback Keith Evans to win comfortably.
Prediction: South 24, Highland 7
ARVIN (1-0) AT FOOTHILL (0-0) — On the flip side from Highland, what a big fourth quarter it was for Arvin, which has its most experienced, deep team in years and had out-played Highland but risked losing until that rally. Turns out the Bears don't just have veteran back Orlando Perez in the backfield; fullback Juan Perez can also run a little bit, and he rumbled for a 90-yard TD that clinched it against Highland. Foothill has a bit more back than the Scots, but the Trojans are another team that Arvin should have covered in the experience department. How about another win? The Bears are already in rarified air; before last week, they hadn't beaten a Yosemite Division team since 2009; they haven't defeated two in one season since 2007. This is a toss-up, but I'll side with Arvin and the extra advantage it has of playing last week. Bears in another close, defensive battle.
Prediction: Arvin 20, Foothill 16
MIRA MONTE (0-1) AT NORTH (0-0) — Another season-opening matchup for one team that figures to be close. It's tough to learn much from Mira Monte's opener at Wasco, where the Lions were behind 45-7 early in the second half. Give them credit for not backing down, though; Mira Monte scored twice after that and amassed nearly 200 yards of passing offense against a good secondary. Now, against North, Mira Monte might be able to exploit the Stars' transition to a more balanced offense; if North struggles out of the gate throwing the ball, Mira Monte can stick around and steal this one. But the Stars are in Division II for a reason; they've been deep and talented enough to compete up there in recent seasons. No reason to believe they can't handle a middling D-IV team until proven otherwise.
Prediction: North 27, Mira Monte 18
PORTERVILLE (0-1) AT WEST (1-0) — Patrick Marzett's 75-yard fumble-return TD in the fourth quarter that sparked West's comeback might prove to be one of the Vikings' biggest plays of the season, if they can build on that big turnaround. But Porterville is a tough, tough test. The Panthers lost their opener, yes, but it was by two points to a Visalia-Mt. Whitney team that was ranked in the section's top 20 (and even higher, in some circles). Remember, Porterville is only two years removed from a team that went to the Division III section championship. West is already showing it'll be competitive under Mark Camps, and Stanley Dubard (124 yards last week) is going to put up some big rushing numbers, but the Vikings aren't ready to beat a team of this caliber just yet.
Prediction: Porterville 33, West 17
TEHACHAPI (1-0) AT BURROUGHS (0-1) — No rest for the road-weary Warriors, who after traveling a couple of hours to the northwest to beat Exeter last week must go northeast this time to Ridgecrest. Meanwhile, there's no rest for the downtrodden Burros, who took a 40-0 welt at Palmdale last week. They'll be boosted by a return home, sure, and I'll be really curious to see how Tehachapi's defense responds against a very talented Burroughs receiving corps. The Warriors gave up 236 yards through the air to Exeter last week and didn't take control of the game until the third quarter. That said, Tehachapi is among the best in the business at getting better week to week. They'll concede some yardage, but Burroughs won't keep up.
Prediction: Tehachapi 44, Burroughs 27
VISALIA-CENTRAL VALLEY CHRISTIAN (0-0) AT BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN (1-0) — The Californian's Louis Amestoy, who hails from the Southland, grew fond last week of calling BCHS' matchup with Ontario Christian the "Milk Bowl." Well, this is the real Milk Bowl, official title and all, and there's reason to believe the Eagles won't fall quite so flat in this one. CVC had trouble staying competitive in most games last year, and this year they travel to Bakersfield. The Eagles' schedule really lightens up, beginning with this one, but to get on a roll, they've got to take care of business here. BCHS will ride Matt Smith's legs and Jake Thompson's arms and get it done.
Prediction: Bakersfield Christian 28, CVC 14
PORTERVILLE-GRANITE HILLS (0-1) AT SHAFTER (1-0) — On the flip side of the SSL coin sits Shafter, which came into the season with low expectations (from everywhere but in the Generals' camp, anyway) and blew them away by whipping Strathmore, a 10-win team last year, on the road. Now coach Ricky Ishida's preseason declaration that 5-5 would be a disappointment seems about right. Win No. 2 should come in front of a home crowd fired up to see the town's first playoff contender in years, and it should come against a Granite Hills team that last week became the first victim in Kennedy history.
Prediction: Shafter 48, Granite Hills 13
CORCORAN (1-0) AT WASCO (1-0) — Wasco didn't disappoint its own fired-up home crowd last week, returning two kicks for touchdowns in storming to a big lead against Mira Monte. This one might be a bit tougher, but it's hard to imagine the Tigers losing to a Division V opponent at this point, even if Corcoran is a pretty good one. Last year, this contest in Corcoran was stopped just before halftime when tempers flared and a shoving match between the teams began. Wasco, comfortably ahead, was declared the winner. Keep it clean and calm this time, boys, and let's play the whole 48. If that happens, the Tigers should cruise again.
Prediction: Wasco 41, Corcoran 9
CHAVEZ (1-0) AT DELANO (0-1) — What a strange week in Delano. The Tigers, 8-3 and nearly a league champion last year, lost 56-7 while both Chavez and Kennedy, a combined 1-19 in 2011, both won. Of course, the level of competition was in no way similar, and Delano is heavily favored here against its crosstown rival. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers respond to the rout they suffered vs. Liberty and if Chavez is licking its chops after beating Roosevelt in its opener. The time for a Titans upset might be ripe, but I still don't see it happening.
Prediction: Delano 34, Chavez 14
TAFT (0-1) AT COALINGA (0-0) — Despite the loss to Golden Valley last week, there was a lot to like in Week 1 for the Wildcats under Jarudd Prosser. Vaughn Richardson threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns, which was about an entire season's passing output in previous Taft regimes. Steven Gee, by the way, is Kern County's early receiving leader: He caught 7 passes for 197 yards. Still, this is a brutal road trip against a Horned Toads team that was 9-3 last year, reached the Division IV quarterfinals AND has an awesome nickname. Taft will have its hands full.
Prediction: Coalinga 49, Taft 35
CALIFORNIA CITY (0-1) AT McFARLAND (0-0) — Jim Fragoso is back at McFarland, and he knows what it takes to win there, which is huge. Many coaches come in expecting one thing, and then because of personnel, or academics, or cross country team, or whatever, it doesn't work out. But Fragoso can have success here. This pick reminds me a bit of the Kennedy game last week: I think there's a chance the Cougars are much improved and could grab a win here, but I'm not believing it until I see it. We'll see if McFarland can come through like Kennedy did.
Prediction: California City 29, McFarland 19
MARICOPA (0-0) AT NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN (0-1) — Bakersfield's 8-man team put up a good fight against Mojave before losing 41-28. That's a good sign, because the Mustangs were a 10-win 11-man team last year. Maricopa was a one-win 8-man team, so this game shouldn't be such a challenge. Michael Pope ran for 243 yards last week for the Guardians; look for another big game in NW Christian's first victory.
Prediction: Northwest Christian 52, Maricopa 20
KERN VALLEY (0-1) AT MAMMOTH LAKES-MAMMOTH (0-1) — Tough gig in Week 0 for the Broncs, who replaced a lot of personnel and then had to deal with big, bad Boron. The result was predicatable — a 54-0 loss — but the rest of the season needn't be so dire. Kern Valley has a solid foundation in its program, and even if it isn't ready to challenge the best of the best most years, it can win games like this. The Broncs prove it again.
Prediction: Kern Valley 27, Mammoth 10
YUCCA VALLEY (1-0) AT ROSAMOND (0-0) — The Roadrunners are the sleeping giants of the High Desert League, or so everyone will tell you, but they certainly haven't awoken yet. I like the pieces that are returning and coming in new, like coach John Taylor, Jr., and transfer quarterback Darrell Johnson. There's a chance for significant improvement, but Rosamond has a long, long way to go. We'll start conservative with the picks.
Prediction: Yucca Valley 34, Rosamond 17
FRAZIER MOUNTAIN (1-0) AT ACTON-VASQUEZ (0-1) — What a rip-roaring debut for Russell Heasley in his first year at Frazier Mountain. The Falcons blitzed Sun Valley 42-0, with five different players scoring touchdowns. The star was Antonio Saenz, who had 129 rushing yards and a TD on just 10 carries and also caught a 20-yard touchdown pass. Now Frazier Mountain will have to take the show on the road, but this seems like a good place to get another win.
Prediction: Frazier Mountain 35, Vasquez 20
LYNWOOD-FIREBAUGH (0-0) AT BORON (1-0) — Scary to think what Boron did to Kern Valley last week despite the loss of some very good linemen; now the Bobcats take on a Firebaugh team that was nowhere close to as good as KV last year. D.J. Payne ran for 196 yards last week, and Drake Job and Jadrian Wiser each caught more than 100 yards worth of passes from Austyn Fink. They might not hit those totals this week — only because they might not be in the game for long.
Prediction: Boron 56, Firebaugh 0
Saturday, Sept. 1
BAKERSFIELD (1-0) VS. GLENDALE (ARIZ.)-CACTUS (1-0) (at Encino-Crespi) — What a way to kick off the month of September. After passing their first Southern Cal test with flying colors, the Drillers get a Cactus team that finished second in state in Arizona's Division III last year and opened this season with a 62-0 win. The Cobras are for real — but as we know, so are the Drillers. Chances are, the starters will have to stay in longer than a half, and Bakersfield might need Asauni Rufus and Kevin Hayes to contribute more on offense, but that's the thing. The Drillers have so, so many weapons that they left plenty in reserve last week and still looked incredible. They'll get pushed more here, but they'll come up with the goods.
Prediction: Bakersfield 42, Cactus 21
DESERT (1-0) AT LANCASTER-DESERT CHRISTIAN (1-0) — I was a bit surprised at how much trouble the Scorpions had with Vasquez last week, but it's tough to be too surprised by anything Desert does — there is so much roster turnover on an Air Force Base that you never really know who will show up or who will be good. But one thing is for sure: Desert Christian is typically significantly better than Vasquez, and this one is on the road. If Desert doesn't play much better, they're in trouble here.
Prediction: Desert Christian 37, Desert 19
IMMANUEL CHRISTIAN (0-0) AT LA VERNE-CALVARY BAPTIST (0-0) — It's also hard to predict 8-man teams, but one advantage the Crusaders have is that they're able to draw from home-schooled kids in Ridgecrest, which increases their numbers in a division where every little bit helps. That doesn't mean this team will necessarily be world-beaters, but Calvary Baptist was 1-7 last year, so we'll start with a win here.
Prediction: Immanuel Christian 43, Calvary Baptist 27
Last week: 16-4 (.800)
Last year: 226-51 (.818)