Writing from home must have been good for my cognitive ability, because while I was on paternity leave last week, my predictions were almost all spot-on (an amazing 21-1 Friday followed by a buzz-killing 1-2 Saturday).
I'm going to immediately take this data to executive editor John Arthur and demand that he let me work from home from now on. Good predictions are good business, right? Right?
Speaking of business, let's get down to it.
The good: Um, almost everything Friday. I was particularly good in picking Central close, Arvin close and South not so close. There has to be some luck involved when all of the tight games that came down to the fourth quarter (Liberty-Central, Arvin-Foothill, West-Porterville, Frontier-Lompoc, Stockdale-St. Mary's) all go your way.
The bad: Some margins were certainly off — Frontier and Stockdale came closer to winning huge road games that I thought they would, and Centennial won much easier against Redwood than I predicted. The two Saturday misses were annoying but predictable: I'll be the first to admit I didn't know much about Desert and Immanuel Christian heading into Week 1.
The ugly: Picking Mira Monte to lose by nine and then seeing it beat North 39-0 was pretty humbling. That's a 48-point spread. I wonder if I've ever had a bigger miss, which is funny on a weekend when I was right about almost everything else.
Friday, Sept. 7
GARCES (2-0) AT BAKERSFIELD (2-0) — The big, big, big one. As far as regular-season games between two local teams with big fan bases, you're not going to find much better than this. Centennial-Bakersfield from a couple of years ago had more star power, maybe, but this has state bowl implications for both teams (Garces is ranked in the Southern Cal top 10 for Division II by Cal Hi Sports, and a win here would be a huge boost) and comes with Bakersfield riding as high as it has state-wide in years. It also comes with some intriguing on-field matchups. Both teams have explosive offenses, Bakersfield on the ground with its triple-option offense and Garces through the air with Cruise Adams, Jake Sweaney and Angus Bellue lighting it up over the first two weeks. Both had defensive issues last week that can be partly explained by the personnel missing (BHS had both Kenny Trueba and Kyle Pope out with injuries, and Garces had several defensive starters suspended for a minor disciplinary issue). All of those are expected back Friday, and both won by double digits last week anyway. There will be fireworks, and part of me dreams of a repeat of the Division I section quarterfinal last year when Centennial threw haymaker after haymaker, only to have Bakersfield get off the mat and find a way in the fourth quarter. That could happen, but I'm going to pick the Drillers with relative ease for a couple of reasons. (1) Scoring 77 points against anyone is impressive, but the truth is in Week 0, it took the Rams three quarters to find holes against San Luis Obispo. And Bakersfield has a dynamite pass rush and a secondary with at least two Division I prospects in Jermaine Ervin and Kevin Hayes. (2) Yes, Bakersfield looked shaky at times last week, but Cactus is a former Arizona state champion. The week before that, the Drillers pounded Ventura, a team similar in competition level to Garces, though maybe not as skilled. The Rams are a very good team, but Bakersfield simply plays at a higher, faster level than anything Garces has seen in some time. The Rams land their share of blows, but BHS keeps its distance and moves to 3-0.
Prediction: Bakersfield 48, Garces 28
LIBERTY (1-1) AT TEHACHAPI (2-0) — My head feels like Liberty is the stronger team here. The Patriots, by all rights, probably should have come back to beat Central last week. They boast a big-time running back in Corbin Jountti, a passing game good enough with Josh Medina and Kenny Davis to keep defenses honest, and a defense that just might be the area's best. Tehachapi, meanwhile, has survived two road tests at Exeter and Burroughs without playing its best ball. The Monarchs scored five TDs against the Warriors, and Burroughs led nearly the entire game before three Tehachapi scores in the final five minutes sent a wild finish the Warriors' way. So Liberty seems primed to go up there and take care of business. But two huge intangible factors point to Tehachapi: the home field — there is nothing quite like mountain football when there's a big game in town — and the letdown factor. The Patriots have to forget that they should have won last week and didn't. Tony Mills is a businesslike coach, so maybe that won't be a problem. And three years ago, when Tehachapi had a Division III championship team, it still was beaten badly at home by a Frontier team that was simply better. That's what I'm reminded of here. It'll be a battle, but I'm going with Liberty to bounce back.
Prediction: Liberty 28, Tehachapi 20
CENTENNIAL (1-1) AT CLOVIS (1-1) — The order was reversed, but both teams have soundly defeated an in-section opponent and lost handily to a state top 25 team. So now what? Well, Clovis' victory over Edison two weeks ago seems even better when the Tigers turned around and beat Carson last week, and I still believe the Cougars' defense is too good for most opponents in the Valley. This is a rematch of last year's Clovis victory in overtime, when a Hail Mary was answered to tie the game in the final minute. Centennial will want revenge. Centennial will play hard, as it always does. Reagan Enger and Andrew Daughtery will make their fair share of plays, and an underrated Golden Hawks defense will keep the team close. But I can't take Centennial on the road here. Too tough of an opponent and too young of a team facing its first road test. Even after a dismal performance against El Toro-Lake Forest in Mission Viejo last weekend, I believe Clovis is one of the section's best five teams.
Prediction: Clovis 26, Centennial 13
MOORPARK (1-0) AT FRONTIER (1-1) — There's fear of a hangover here, too, because there's got to be part of Frontier's psyche that says, "What if we had just played a better first half at Lompoc? We'd be the talk of the state right now?" Instead, the Titans only came close to coming back from 21-0 down against one of the state's best teams, and as we know, this ain't horseshoes. But I tend to think this might actually have the opposite effect from a hangover. Frontier immediately gets another chance to make noise against a really, really good Pac-5 Division team. They're at home. They played a whale of a second half on the coast, and if they can carry that over, this one could be close. And if the Titans have a lead, I'm still not convinced anyone can actually tackle Triton Douglas. Am I really talking myself into this? Yes, yes I am. I like Frontier's team, and this could be a breakout moment. Upset special.
Prediction: Frontier 28, Moorpark 27
STOCKDALE (0-1) AT INGLEWOOD (0-1) — Similarly to Frontier, Stockdale took a tough roadie and lost the game but learned something positive about itself in the process. I don't think last year's Mustangs put so much pressure on Stockton-St. Mary's at the end of the game, but this year's Mustangs did. Now comes another road trip, with a bit more of an unknown as the opponent. The Sentinels are a Southern Section Division IV team that made the playoffs but finished 5-6 last year; they were hammered, 35-13, by Manhattan Beach-Mira Costa last week. Frankly, with the experience they have and the running back they have, I'll bet Stockdale will be disappointed if they don't return home with a 1-1 record. There will be a hiccup or two, but this time it's Stockdale that holds on for victory.
Prediction: Stockdale 30, Inglewood 24
ARVIN (2-0) AT SOUTH (1-0) — Arvin hasn't exactly been dominating, but with age comes experience, and the Bears have two second-half comebacks and two close victories, the second more dramatic than the first, to show for it. One of those, however, was against Highland, which played Arvin close for most of the night. The same can't be said for the Scots against South, which pulled away with a whopping 31 points in the second quarter and rode quarterback Eddy Perez and a bevy of offensive and defensive skill players to a big night. The Rebels won't have such an easy time of it here, but I think if they can pop a couple of big plays and pad a lead, Arvin won't have the firepower to make a third — and even bigger — comeback.
Prediction: South 27, Arvin 17
EAST (0-1) AT MIRA MONTE (1-1) — The disjointed game-bye-game sequence of the first three weeks of East's season makes it hard to get an early read on the team, but Mira Monte isn't any better. The Lions lost to what we know to be a very good Wasco team and breezed past what might be a very inferior North team. So what of this one with East, which blew a late lead in a 13-12 loss to West in Week 0? Both teams have impressive skill position players, with Tevin Beasley for East and Josh Cantu of Mira Monte leading the charge. But the Lions might have a little more around those guys, and that will be the difference in this one.
Prediction: Mira Monte 28, East 14
FOOTHILL (0-1) AT RIDGEVIEW (1-1) — One of the breakout stars of Week 1, even if it was in a losing effort, was Brandon Fanning, the Foothill back whose 30-carry, 218-yard rushing performance nearly carried the Trojans past Arvin. Instead, they're staring 0-2 in the face with this tough road assignment up next. Ridgeview has faced two good defenses in the first two weeks; Foothill is no slouch on that sside of the ball, but this might be the first chance for Kamari Moya-Cotton, Brandon Tripp and company to really stretch their legs and show what they can do.
Prediction: Ridgeview 35, Foothill 13
WEST (1-1) AT NORTH (0-1) — These teams are no longer in the same league, but it didn't take long for new West coach Mark Camps to meet his old school, which let him go after four mostly successful seasons. It hasn't taken Camps long to get West, which was winless on the field last year, competitive again. But keep in mind the Vikings beat East and hung with Porterville in part because they have scored three defensive touchdowns. Turnovers are nice, and ones that lead to touchdowns are even nicer, but there's also an element of luck involved. Can the Vikings continue to be so opportunistic? This week, it might not matter much if North doesn't move the ball any better. The Stars had no hope once Mira Monte got out to a lead last week, and I think they'll struggle here, too.
Prediction: West 21, North 10
HIGHLAND (0-2) AT GOLDEN VALLEY (1-1) — It's funny to say that these teams lost by the same 43-point margin last week, but it's true. It's just that Golden Valley's 77-34 shootout loss at Garces probably leaves the Bulldogs feeling better than Highland's 50-7 rout at the hands of visiting South. Put another way: In two games combined, the Scots don't yet have 300 yards of offense; Golden Valley had that in the first half last week. If the Bulldogs get going at all, Highland can't match that sort of firepower.
Prediction: Golden Valley 48, Highland 14
INDEPENDENCE (0-1) AT FRESNO-McLANE (1-1) — Most Falcons fans would tell you that though their team lost a couple of games it probably shouldn't last year, that 2011 team was better than its 1-10 record would indicate. Part of the problem was Independence's non-league schedule. A slate that included Ridgeview, Clovis North and Atascadero, combined with the SWYL gantlet, was suicide for a program that still has growing to do. And so coach Sean McKeown has lessened the load a little bit. After opening with a competitive loss to Ridgeview, the Falcons have a chance to get on a roll, starting with this trip up north.
Prediction: Independence 38, McLane 17
SHAFTER (2-0) AT SELMA (1-1) — Shafter's reputation received two boosts last week, first when the Generals swatted away Granite Hills for the second easy win and then when Strathmore, which Shafter beat in Week 0, took out frustration on Kennedy. The Generals, remember, won two games all of last year. This is their toughest game of the season thus far and might be the toughest until they meet Bakersfield Christian and Arvin in back-to-back weeks in October. But Shafter has really exploded out of the gate, and I don't think a tougher test means a loss here. Last week, the Generals got the ball to Derrick Barton, by land or sea, 17 times, and he gained 185 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. This team is for real, folks. Put 'em in for 3-0.
Prediction: Shafter 35, Selma 24
TAFT (0-2) AT EXETER (1-1) — After a promising offensive performance in a respectable loss to Golden Valley, Taft fell flat at Coalinga last week, failing to produce much in a 44-7 loss. The Wildcats will need to score to win at Exeter, which has averaged 41.5 points in its two games, the first a 55-35 loss to Tehachapi. I do think quarterback Vaughn Richardson rebounds and throws it around a bit more this week, but I don't see Taft keeping pace for four quarters.
Prediction: Exeter 41, Taft 24
McFARLAND (0-1) AT KENNEDY (1-1) — Last year, this would have been the Downtrodden Bowl, between two teams who didn't have any place to go. That's not the case for Kennedy, which has its first win, and I'm not ready to give up on McFarland. I do think the Cougars still need more time to grow into new (and former, as it so happens) coach Jim Fragoso. The Thunderbirds are playing on campus for the first time in program history, and they'll be fired up. How about another landmark win for Kennedy?
Prediction: Kennedy 22, McFarland 8
STRATHMORE (1-1) AT CHAVEZ (1-1) — The Spartans are playing up two divisions, and that didn't work out so well against Shafter in Week 0, but they handled Kennedy easily last week and now make the return trip to Delano to play Chavez. The Titans, after a one-point win against Roosevelt, hung tough with Delano High last week before losing 15-0. They should be competitive here, too, but Strathmore is too used to winning games to give this one away late.
Prediction: Strathmore 27, Chavez 24
NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN (1-1) AT NEW CUYAMA-CUYAMA VALLEY (1-0) — After a season-opening loss at Mojave, Northwest Christian found the anecdote against Maricopa last week, nearly shutting the Indians out in a 38-2 whitewash. Now comes another Coast Valley League team, but Cuyama Valley happens to be the absolute cream of the crop.
Prediction: Cuyama Valley 42, Northwest Christian 21
DESERT (2-0) AT BORON (2-0) — The game of the week out in the desert portion of Kern County pits the Scorpions, who posted a surprising rout of Desert Christian on Saturday, against Boron, which posted two very unsurpising routs to open the season against Kern Valley and Lynwood-Firebaugh. Not sure what changed with Desert from Week 0 to Week 1, but the Scorps were much more impressive in their second game. They'll have to continue to improve at that rate, because Boron has been exquisite so far; the Bobcats have outscored opponents by a combined total of 117-0.
Prediction: Boron 49, Desert 17
MORRO BAY (1-1) AT KERN VALLEY (1-1) — In a 2011 full of pleasant surprises for Kern Valley, the biggest might have been a 28-21 victory over La Habra-Whittier Christian, which plays in a division seven legs higher on the Southern Section ladder. The task might get even tougher this week with Morro Bay, which plays all the way up in Division IV, nine legs higher than Kern Valley's D-XIII. The Pirates were only 1-9 last year and are beatable, but I don't think lightning will strike in Lake Isabella twice against a much bigger foe.
Prediction: Morro Bay 31, Kern Valley 13
CALIFORNIA CITY (1-1) AT YERMO-SILVER VALLEY (1-1) — It's tough to know what to think about Cal City. In Week 0, there didn't appear to be anything wrong with a tight loss to Desert Christian, but then Desert ripped DC the next week while Cal City was taking care of McFarland. Still, this one shouldn't be a problem. Silver Valley is better than its dreadful 2011 (the Trojans were 0-9), but that's not saying a whole lot.
Prediction: California City 39, Silver Valley 14
ROSAMOND (0-1) AT ACTON-VASQUEZ (0-2) — Most coaches refuse to even acknowledge the term "moral victory," but the Roadrunners have to be pleased with a five-point loss to Yucca Valley last week. It showed Rosamond can be competitive with solid teams. I'm smelling a breakthrough victory here for a program long known as a sleeping giant in the High Desert League.
Prediction: Rosamond 24, Vasquez 16
LANCASTER (0-1) AT BURROUGHS (0-2) — After being trounced by Palmdale in the opener two weeks ago, Burroughs looked much better against Tehachapi last week. Now the Burros face the weaker side of the Lancaster-Palmdale combo. The Eagles were just 1-9 a year ago and weren't competitive in their opener. If Burroughs plays anything close to the unit that gave Tehachapi fits last week, it'll come up with its first victory here with its toughest two pre-league games behind it.
Prediction: Burroughs 28, Lancaster 7
ORCUTT ACADEMY (0-2) AT MARICOPA (0-1) — Maricopa is a perennial 8-man playoff team that had a dismal 2011 and a dismal opener to 2012. Here's the Indians chance to show they haven't fallen all that far: A game against a first-year program that lost its first two contests by a combined 70 points. It's time for Maricopa to get back in the win column.
Prediction: Maricopa 37, Orcutt Academy 28
CHULA VISTA-LUTHERAN (0-1) AT MOJAVE (1-1) — I apologize, because I didn't see a game last week, Mojave at Carpinteria-Cate, that should have been on the predictions list. Not sure which way I would have gone, but I wouldn't have picked a 30-point loss for the Mustangs, who just dropped down to 8-man football. Mojave gave up 70, though, and now we need to reassess exactly what the Mustangs can do this season. This week won't tell us much — Chula Vista-Lutheran was winless last year — but it'll be interesting to see what Mojave does from here on out.
Prediction: Mojave 48, Chula Vista-Lutheran 12
IMMANUEL CHRISTIAN (0-1) AT VALENCIA-TRINITY CLASSICAL ACADEMY (1-0) — Turns out Immanuel Christian coach Aaron Gage and I have a Missouri connection — he's from the southwest part of the state, where I previously worked, we both follow Mizzou. So because I can't attend the Tigers' inaugural SEC game against Georgia this week, I'll just have to wish them good luck here; that should be a good battle between a powerful Missouri offense and one of the best defenses in the country. Unfortunately for coach Gage, his team doesn't have the horses to keep up with Trinity here. Immanuel lost a lopsided game to a weaker team last week, so that doesn't bode well.
Prediction: Trinity Classical Academy 51, Immanuel Christian 21
Saturday, Sept. 8
FRAZIER MOUNTAIN (2-0) AT LANCASTER-DESERT CHRISTIAN (1-1) — It's only been two weeks, obviously, but I'm starting to feel the Falcons as the third playoff team out of the High Desert League behind Bishop and Desert. Kern Valley, Cal City and even Rosamond will have something to say about that, but what Frazier Mountain has done in its first two weeks is impressive. Desert Christian, meanwhile, is making the High Desert rounds. After a close victory against Cal City, the Knights lost big at home to Desert. Let's slot Frazier Mountain right in the middle of those two and say the Falcons come up with a hardfought — and very impressive — victory.
Prediction: Frazier Mountain 27, Desert Christian 23
Last week: 22-3 (.880)
This year: 38-7 (.844)