After three weeks (though some teams have only played twice), we're beginning the transition from "what do we think you're capable of" to "what have you actually done" in the Central Section football rankings. We haven't completed that shift yet, but we're beginning it. So keep that in mind as you peruse this new top 25.
1. Bakersfield (3-0, Division I, last week: 1) — Fret all you want about a scare with Garces (the Rams were actually ahead with five minutes left), but bottom line is the Drillers have played one of the toughest early schedules in the Central Section thus far, and they have three double-digit victories. They're not close to dropping from this spot, but many challenges still remain.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 5 Garces, 34-24. THIS WEEK: at Long Beach-Poly
2. Clovis North (3-0, Division I, last week: 2) — If Bakersfield's schedule has been impressive so far, Clovis North's isn't too far behind — and the Broncos have been even more convincing after an 18-point victory over Atwater-Buhach Colony. Now comes a visit from Frontier, which has been beaten down from its own schedule.
LAST WEEK: won at Atwater-Buhach Colony, 37-19. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 9 Frontier
3. Fresno-Central (3-0, Division I, last week: 3) — Nick Papagni of ESPN Radio in Fresno tweeted earlier this week that Palos Verdes players were taking swings at Grizzlies' all night long Saturday. Nick (who's a great guy) wears a pretty thick pair of Fresno-tinted glasses, but if his take is accurate, give Central a ton of credit for keeping composure and coming away with a close victory against a Southern Section team that will lend the Valley some credibility.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Palos Verdes Estates-Palos Verdes, 25-22. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 14 Visalia-El Diamante
4. Clovis (2-1, Division I, last week: 4) — Nice bounceback win against a sneaky good Centennial team for Clovis, but let it be said that the Cougars just don't seem to have the same killer instinct they did last year. Maybe that's premature; it's still early. I'll get a chance to see them up close and personal this week at Stockdale in the game we got robbed of last year when D.J. Martin was declared ineligible the morning of the game.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 22 Centennial, 28-17. THIS WEEK: at No. 11 Stockdale
5. Garces (2-1, Division II, last week: 5) — For a second, I thought about moving Liberty ahead of the Rams after its impressive performance at Tehachapi, but there's no reason to drop Garces. It gave everyone's unanimous section No. 1 fits for three and a half quarters and could have pulled off the stunner with a bit of luck. Instead, the Rams will settle for being prohibitive Division II favorites.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 1 Bakersfield, 34-24. THIS WEEK: vs. Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial (Saturday)
6. Liberty (2-1, Division I, last week: 6) — That performance on the mountaintop reminded me a lot of Frontier's big win there three years ago; that Titans team went on to finish runner-up in one of the toughest Division II fields in memory (Tehachapi, by the way, won Division III). The Patriots, meanwhile, have one of the section's most underrated quarterbacks in Josh Medina. He was 13-of-14 for 172 yards and three touchdowns. Another big one awaits this week.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 19 Tehachapi, 45-7. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 8 Clovis-Buchanan
7. Fresno-Edison (2-1, Division I, last week: 7) — A disappointing opening-week loss to Clovis has been forgotten with two quality performances against out-of-section teams, and now Khari McGee and the Tigers are ready for another challenge. A trip to L.A.-Crenshaw might be the toughest game on Edison's schedule — and provides the Central Section another quality chance for a feather in the cap, moreso even than Bakersfield's game at storied Long Beach-Poly.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Merced, 42-27. THIS WEEK: at L.A.-Crenshaw
8. Clovis-Buchanan (2-0, Division I, last week: 9) — The Bears slept-walked through a two-touchdown victory over Porterville after the big opening win against Bullard, but how good this team really can be might be decided in the next three weeks. A trip to Liberty will be followed by a visit from the big, bad Drillers and a road game at Stockdale. One win of three means Buchanan is a solid playoff team; two, and the Bears are a title contender in Division I.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Porterville, 28-14. THIS WEEK: at No. 6 Liberty
9. Frontier (1-2, Division I, last week: 8) — For all the talk about how difficult of a non-league schedule Paul Golla had put together at Bakersfield, Rich Cornford and Frontier probably did even more. Brutally tough games against Lompoc and Moorpark are now followed by a trip to Clovis North, which is approaching unanimous status as the Valley's No. 2 team.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. Moorpark, 17-7. THIS WEEK: at No. 2 Clovis North
10. Kingsburg (3-0, Division II, last week: 10) — In one of the annual games of the year among the Central Section's smaller schools, Kingsburg held off Washington Union, flipping last year's results. That's a bit disconcerting, actually, after the Panthers dropped their opener by 48 points to Atwater, but we'll give the Vikings a pass for now. It's been nearly a year since they lost.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 25 Fresno-Washington Union, 27-19. THIS WEEK: at Kerman
11. Stockdale (1-1, Division I, last week: 13) — Inglewood, Stockdale's victim last week, isn't all that good — they're a poor man's Ventura, which plays in the same division and which Bakersfield routed in Week 0 — but it was still good to see the Mustangs take care of business after a nail-biting loss at Stockton-St. Mary's. This is still a bit of a mystery team, but plenty will be unveiled against Clovis, Garces and Buchanan in the coming weeks.
LAST WEEK: won at Inglewood, 54-14. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 4 Clovis
12. Fresno-Bullard (1-1, Division I, last week: 11) — The Knights would like to avoid slipping too much after reaching the Division I title game for the second time in three years. To do that, they've got to show they have fewer problems than their next two opponents, struggling Clovis East and even more struggling Clovis West.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at Clovis East
13. Ridgeview (2-1, Division III, last week: 14) — After a turnover-plagued loss to Frontier to open the year, the Wolf Pack did what it needed to against Independence and Foothill. Now things get tougher again. Kamari Cotton-Moya, who has apparently flipped his last name, will have to be at his best for Ridgeview to beat a powerful Southern Section team this week.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Foothill, 43-7. THIS WEEK: vs. Newhall-Hart
14. Visalia-El Diamante (1-1, Division I, last week: 12) — A drop of two spots for the Miners, not because they didn't beat Monache convincingly in a ho-hum 27-7 victory, but because El D's signature win, against Tulare Union, doesn't look nearly as good after the Redskins suffered another double-digit loss. Remember, the Miners were 1-9 last year. They're better, but we don't know how much yet.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Porterville-Monache, 27-7. THIS WEEK: at No. 3 Fresno-Central
15. Wasco (2-0, Division IV, last week: 15) — The biggest development in Wasco's bye week is that the Tigers aren't as big of a shoo-in to go 10-0 as once thought. Both Arvin and Shafter are 3-0 and look like they could give the Tigers legitimate runs in the SSL's final two weeks (perhaps Bakersfield Christian, too, though it's too early to tell on the Eagles). Still, Wasco will be favored in every game in plays.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at Golden Valley
16. Dinuba (3-0, Division III, last week: 16)
17. Tulare-Mission Oak (2-0, Division IV, last week: 20)
18. Visalia-Mt. Whitney (3-0, Division III, last week: 21)
19. Centennial (1-2, Division I, last week: 22)
20. Clovis West (0-3, Division I, last week: 17)
21. Tehachapi (2-1, Division II, last week: 19)
22. Visalia-Redwood (2-1, Division II, last week: NR)
23. Fresno-Washington Union (0-2, Division III, last week: 25)
24. Mendota (3-0, Division VI, last week: NR)
25. Arvin (3-0, Division IV, last week: NR)
Dropped out: No. 18 Tulare Union, No. 23 Sanger, No. 24 Fresno-Sunnyside