More shake-up in the rankings this week, as Clovis knocked off Central 15-12 (the most Clovis score ever, and I mean that as a compliment) in the first of three TRAC games that will decide the league race. The other two are the next two weeks, as No. 1 Clovis North plays first Central (this Thursday) and then Clovis in Week 9.
In the meantime, the section's other Division I league (Edison, Bullard and Tulare Union are the only D-I teams in the Valley not in either the TRAC or SWYL), the SWYL continues to beat up on itself. Liberty couldn't sustain success, following a monumental win at BHS with a 17-point loss at Frontier, and Bakersfield nearly got knocked off again, by Independence, of all teams. The TRAC has the top contenders for a No. 1 (and possibly No. 2) seed right now, but there's no question the bottom of the SWYL is better. I'll take Centennial, Independence and any of the other four over Buchanan, Clovis West and Clovis East all day long.
Anyway, perhaps my biggest moment of controversy in these rankings will be keeping Bakersfield at No. 3 despite another lackluster performance. Watch the video and then keep reading to find out why.
1. Clovis North (7-0, Division I, last week: 1) — The race for the No. 1 seed comes down to the next two weeks for the Broncos — against Central and Clovis — and to me, there's no reason to think CN won't be able to handle both. I could be wrong, obviously, because the three teams are evenly matched, but Clovis North has been really consistent and really good. Former South High standout Cory Hall has done a whale of a job in just two years up there.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Clovis East, 40-0. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 4 Fresno-Central (Thursday)
2. Clovis (6-1, Division I, last week: 6) — Pretty clear I've been underrating the Cougars, and I don't think I'm the only one. Clovis just wins. It's not always impressive, so when other teams are undefeated, it's easy to knock the Cougars down a peg, but then other teams start to lose and they just keep winning these defensive struggles. Case in point was last week, when Central had a 12-7 lead and twice drove deep into Clovis territory in the fourth quarter. The Cougars held strong and then scored the game-winner. Can they pull it off one more time, against Clovis North in a couple of weeks? Only loss is to Lake Forest-El Toro, a state top-10 caliber team.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 2 Fresno-Central, 15-12. THIS WEEK: at No. 20 Clovis-Buchanan
3. Bakersfield (6-1, Division I, last week: 3) — It had to be more than disconcerting for Drillers fans to see this team struggle so mightily with a Division III team a week after laying an egg against Liberty. I mean, two weeks ago, everyone from here to Fresno — and beyond — was SURE that Bakersfield was the best team in the section. Not so much anymore, though the body of work through seven games still is impressive, and Independence needed an onside kick and an immaculate reception to make that game as close as it was. We'll see what happens if and when Kenny Trueba and Jermaine Ervin return to the lineup.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 25 Independence, 31-28. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 6 Frontier
4. Fresno-Central (6-1, Division I, last week: 2) — The Grizzlies had flirted with a loss in a couple of other places before a lack of offense finally caught up with them at home against Clovis last week. I'll keep them here for now, though they'll have to figure out how to score some points to get by Clovis North. No question the defense is elite, though, particularly the back seven. Because of that, Central can stay in a game with anyone.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. No. 6 Clovis, 15-12. THIS WEEK: at No. 1 Clovis North (Thursday)
5. Garces (6-1, Division II, last week: 4) — A one-week dip to No. 5 probably won't last long, because if the Rams keep winning, the teams above them will beat each other up. And there's no reason to think that won't happen in games against Foothill and East the next two weeks. Then comes the big trip to Tehachapi. It also hurts Garces that Bakersfield, the only team to beat the Rams, has stumbled.
LAST WEEK: won vs. North, 42-0. THIS WEEK: vs. Foothill
6. Frontier (4-3, Division I, last week: 7) — All of the shuffling the last few weeks — Ridgeview beating Liberty, Liberty beating Bakersfield, Frontier beating Liberty and Clovis North rising to No. 1 — has the Titans smelling like a rose. Even without bowling ball Triton Douglas in the backfield for 2.5 quarters on Friday, Frontier dominated Liberty behind Justin Cash's running and a stout defense. A win at Griffith Field on Friday night means Frontier is suddenly in the running for a No. 2 seed in Division I.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 5 Liberty, 27-10. THIS WEEK: at No. 3 Bakersfield
7. Ridgeview (6-2, Division III, last week: 8) — After Ridgeview's SYL demolition of a pretty darn good South team, it's worth noting: If you take out a turnover-plagued loss to Frontier in Week 0, the Wolf Pack has as good an argument as anyone for No. 1 (maybe No. 2) in the section. The only other loss was to Newhall-Hart, a state top 25 team. But you can't take away Week 0, and so the Wolf Pack will settle for being a clear No. 1 in Division III.
LAST WEEK: won at South, 49-0. THIS WEEK: at West
8. Liberty (4-3, Division I, last week: 5) — I feel like I've been watching an intense ping-pong match after watching Liberty's past three results: Lose at home to D-III Ridgeview. Whip No. 1 Bakersfield on the road. Lay an egg at Frontier. The Patriots are giving Stockdale a run for its money as the section's most Jekyll and Hyde team. And, oh, look who's on the schedule next. Have fun predicting that one.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 7 Frontier, 27-10. THIS WEEK: at No. 11 Stockdale
9. Visalia-El Diamante (5-2, Division II, last week: 9) — Excellent timing for a late bye week followed by a Thursday walkover for the Miners, who can now get set for what looks like a West Yosemite League title game with Redwood — although hard-charging Lemoore also will play a role in an extremely balanced league. El Diamante and its explosive offense is the favorite, even though they have to play the Rangers and Tigers within six days.
LAST WEEK: won at Hanford West, 56-14 (Thursday). THIS WEEK: vs. No. 22 Visalia-Redwood
10. Wasco (7-0, Division IV, last week: 11) — After watching the Tigers quickly demolish a good Bakersfield Christian team, I'm convinced their the Division IV favorites; Mission Oak is very good, but this team is something else for that size of school. Could Wasco think state bowl game? It's possible, but Cal Hi Sports still has them buried at No. 7 in Southern California, and teams from five different playoff divisions are ahead of them, including Mission Oak. All Wasco can do is take care of business and hope for some upsets ahead of them. But chances don't look good unless Cal Hi gives them a well-deserved bump.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 24 Bakersfield Christian, 49-0. THIS WEEK: at Taft
11. Stockdale (4-3, Division I, last week: 13) — After righting the ship with two very impressive victories against Buchanan and Independence, Stockdale nearly gave away all of its momentum by blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead at Centennial. But the Golden Hawks' comeback came up one inch short on Regan Enger's fourth-and-goal scramble, and Stockdale continues its climb. The Mustangs are in the thick of the SWYL race, but you can look at it another way: They've got to win one more game to get to .500, the school's minimum benchmark for entering the playoffs, and the three games left are Liberty, Frontier and Bakersfield. Yikes.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 16 Centennial, 48-42. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 8 Liberty
12. Fresno-Edison (5-2, Division I, last week: 12) — Nice rebound from the Tigers, who lost to Sanger in their County-Metro Athletic Conference opener but then pounded winless Madera South. It remains to be seen how much damage that Sanger loss will do to Edison's seed in Division I, but truth is this still is a dangerous team. How loaded are the D-I playoffs going to be? For example's sake, let's use my rankings and say the top eight seeds all go through. Your quarterfinal weekend would be: (8) Edison at (1) Clovis North; (7) Stockdale at (2) Clovis; (6) Liberty at (3) Bakersfield; (5) Frontier at (4) Central. Wowww. Ever want to be four places at once?
LAST WEEK: won at Madera South, 44-19. THIS WEEK: at Madera
13. Visalia-Mt. Whitney (5-2, Division III, last week: 10) — Losing to El Diamante was one thing, but Mt. Whitney probably just lost its chance at the top seed in Division III — and any remaining chance at a West Yosemite League title — by dropping a game to Lemoore. The Pioneers' goal now will be re-grouping, running the table and holding on to a top-three seed in Division III.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. Lemoore, 21-7. THIS WEEK: vs. Hanford (Thursday)
14. Tulare-Mission Oak (6-1, Division IV, last week: 14) — Mt. Whitney's loss also hurts Mission Oak's stock, considering the Hawks lost to the Pioneers in OT three weeks ago. There's one more chance for Mission Oak to impress the seeding committee before that group has to make a call for the top seed in Division IV, and that's next week at Division I Tulare Union. This week will be a warm-up.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Porterville-Monache, 27-7 (Thursday). THIS WEEK: vs. Tulare Western
15. Sanger (6-1, Division II, last week: 15) — The Apaches avoided a hangover from their big win over Edison by coming back to beat Madera and move to 2-0 in the CMAC. The remaining schedule (Bullard, Edison, Memorial) is unkind, but it also offers Sanger a chance to boost its stock considerably. High risk, high reward.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Madera, 45-37. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 16 Fresno-Bullard
16. Fresno-Bullard (5-2, Division I, last week: 18)
17. Centennial (2-5, Division I, last week: 16)
18. Tehachapi (6-1, Division II, last week: 20)
19. Dinuba (7-1, Division III, last week: 22)
20. Clovis-Buchanan (3-4, Division I, last week: 23)
21. Clovis West (1-6, Division I, last week: 17)
22. Visalia-Redwood (6-1, Division II, last week: 21)
23. Lemoore (5-3, Division II, last week: NR)
24. Independence (4-3, Division III, last week: 25)
25. Liberty-Madera Ranchos (7-0, Division V, last week: NR)
Dropped out: No. 19 Kingsburg, No. 24 Bakersfield Christian