The non-league part of the schedule is now over for most of the county, and almost all of the remaining non-leaguers will be played this week. That made this week's games particularly important from a momentum perspective. Many teams will want to go into a bye week feeling good about themselves and prepared to tackle league openers when the calendar rolls over into October. Keep that in mind as you take a look back with me at Week 4.
Ridgeview 26, Liberty 16: It was important in this contest that the Wolf Pack got out to a lead against the deeper Patriots by halftime, and two big plays right before the half basically ensured that lead would be big enough to withstand Liberty's inevitable rally: A 37-yard touchdown run from Brandon Tripp and a 24-yard TD pass from Kamari Cotton-Moya to Shaquan Baines. That made the score 20-3, and a Cotton-Moya TD run in the fourth quarter put it away. Two things stick out for Ridgeview: If the Wolf Pack can run the ball on a team that stymied Central, Tehachapi and Buchanan in the past three weeks, it can run the ball on anyone. And two, Ridgeview didn't turn the ball over like it did in previous losses to Frontier and Newhall-Hart. That makes a huge difference. Whether Liberty is as good as it we thought it was is a big question mark now, but if the Patriots are that good, Ridgeview has to be considered the favorite to win Division III.
Bakersfield 59, Clovis-Buchanan 18: There was a moment, however brief, when I announced the score of this game as Buchanan 10, Bakersfield 7 to the rest of the press box atop Sam Tobias Field at Garces. Eyebrows raised. Text messages were sent. The PA announcer made a note. Before he had a chance to announce it, though, I had another update: Bakersfield 14, Buchanan 10. Then another: 21-10. 28-10, 35-10 and 42-10 followed well before halftime. Simply put, this was a scary, scary performance by the Drillers, who rolled up 545 yards of offense on 9.7 yards a play before putting the brakes on midway through the third quarter. Junior QB Asauni Rufus turned his finest performance as a starter, going 7-of-10 passing for 199 yards, and a big-play running game that didn't disappoint. Think about this: Every other team in the SWYL now has at least two losses, except Independence, which is 3-1 but hasn't won an SWYL game in 10 tries. It's a tough league, but it's hard to envision anybody truly testing the Drillers.
Garces 41, Stockdale 6: I maintain my stance that Stockdale can be a dangerous team. Any offense that has the ability to make you look one way and then give the ball to a back like D.J. Martin as he heads the other way is a touchdown waiting to happen. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, mistakes seem to get in the way on offense, and poor pursuit and tackling does in their defense. Garces was way too solid to get caught up in any kind of a shootout, and they turned three 40-plus yard passing plays into touchdowns and a lopsided score. All due respect to Tehachapi, but with the Warriors down a bit this year, I don't see a team on Garces' schedule that stays within two touchdowns of the Rams, at least until the Division II championship — and maybe not even then.
Frontier 49, West 24: My note about momentum at the top is especially important to the Titans, who needed to feel good about themselves after losing three consecutive games to three really tough opponents. Frontier jumped to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and more or less cruised from there, though West did rack up quite a few yards in the final three quarters. Triton Douglas had 221 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and Evan Moore was 6-of-7 for 126 passing yards. The Titans might just be the best 2-3 team in the section, especiallly considering that opening win over Ridgeview looks a lot better now, too.
Independence 42, Mira Monte 21: After two years of blowouts, the Falcons aren't to be taken lightly in the SWYL race this year. Take a look at the highlights below for proof. Preston Hodges hit Christopher Ellis for an 80-yard touchdown and a 6-yard TD, then Derek Check for a 65-yard score and Derek Moore for 26 yards to paydirt — all in the first quarter! Hodges didn't throw another pass all night, and he didn't need to. Independence has the kind of explosiveness that can scare just about every team in the league — and certainly every team in Division III.
South 33, Foothill 7: Just as impressive as the Rebels' rocket-powered offense — Asonte Johnson ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and Tarrell Duke later scored on a 92-yard TD against a pretty solid defense — was South's defense. Brandon Fanning, who has run for bunches of yards in all three of the Trojans' previous games, was bottled up (18 carries for 45 yards). That's the kind of performance that will do South a lot of good down the road.
Elsewhere: Poor Centennial was on the cusp of an enormous road win with a young team at Santa Barbara when a late turnover gave the Dons the ball in the red zone. They punched it in for a 24-21 victory. The beat goes on for Centennial, but the Golden Hawks are going to get one sooner or later. ... Golden Valley's statistics weren't as good as usual, but the Bulldogs will take the result: A 49-21 victory over North that was GV's first win since Week 0. ... The Wasco train keeps rolling. The Tigers were the only SSL team that didn't begin league play, so they took it out on East, exploding for 42 points in the first half and winning 56-17. ... Speaking of SSL play, big wins for Bakersfield Christian (42-20 over Chavez), Shafter (45-0 over Kennedy behind 191 rushing yards from Derrick Barton) and Taft (23-9 over Arvin, the surprise of the night and the second straight win for the Wildcats).
Finally, here's a replay of our BVarsity Live show from Friday night, followed by next week's five biggest games. You can tune in at 11 p.m. every Friday at bakersfieldcalifornian.com/preps.
This week's big games:
Tulare Union (1-3) at Centennial (1-3): Won't be easy, but this is one the Golden Hawks really need headed into the SWYL.
Shafter (4-0) at Taft (2-3): Didn't look like much two weeks ago, but Taft has arrived since then. This is not an easy trip to 5-0 for the Generals.
Clovis-Buchanan (2-2) at Stockdale (1-3): Both teams took it on the chin last week. Neither wants the tailspin to head into league.
Tehachapi (3-1) at West (2-2): One of those interesting games that establish pecking order, particularly because both teams are in Division II.
Highland (1-3) at Mira Monte (2-3): Records aren't much, but it could be the most competitve game of the week