The last full week of the season comes our way this weekend, on a week with a full moon and Halloween. Something strange is going to happen, I can feel it.
But can I predict what? We'll see. First off, our traditional look back at the week that was.
The good: A nice rebound from a pitiful Week 8 saw me sweep the SWYL games. Also was very close on margin for Wasco over Arvin and toss-up winners Highland and Bakersfield Christian.
The bad: Too much faith in Shafter again. The Generals lost in double OT, so not too much shame in that.
The ugly: Dare I say — nothing? I wouldn't anger the predictions gods with such hubris, so how about picking Northwest Christian to win by 17. The Guardians lost, so ... ouch.
Thursday, Nov. 1
KERN VALLEY (6-3, 3-1 HDL) AT DESERT (6-3, 3-1) — Both of these High Desert League teams know they're safely in the Southern Section playoffs, so this is about seed and finishing second in the league. Kern Valley is thriving under sophomore quarterback Dalton Gallis, who has 15 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions and led the Broncs to the brink of a huge home win against Bishop last week. Desert, meanwhile, is riding a three-game winning streak but has struggled against the better teams on its schedule; the Scorpions are just 1-3 against teams with a winning record.
Prediction: Kern Valley 31, Desert 24
ROSAMOND (3-6, 0-4 HDL) AT BISHOP (7-2, 4-0) — Traditionally strong Bishop stumbled a bit out of the gate this year (against a tough schedule, granted) while traditional doormat Rosamond had its best non-league season in years. But in HDL play, the roles have become more regular, with Bishop aiming for another outright league title and Rosamond trying to avoid a winless campaign. Progress can be measured in small steps for the Roadrunners, and they've taken one this year even if they finish 3-7.
Prediction: Bishop 37, Rosamond 14
Friday, Nov. 2
GARCES (8-1, 4-0 SEYL) AT TEHACHAPI (8-1, 4-0) — Over the past 15 years or so, when these teams weren't in the same league, they played early in the season and used each other as a measuring stick. Now it's back to like the old SSL days: The whole season is a build-up to this rivalry game. This fall has certainly followed that script, with each team losing to a Division I opponent early and then proceeding to win six games in a row, most of them in convincing fashion, all while keeping half an eye on this one. Garces runs the spread now but can still defend its old wing-T offense, as evidenced by the Rams' 41-6 beatdown of Stockdale a month ago. Tehachapi has gotten better, certainly, but if the Warriors aren't clicking offensively on all cylinders, they won't keep up with the athlete-riddled Rams, who can give the ball to one of several speedsters — Croney, Frasch, Bellue, Sweaney, etc. — and hit a big play at any time. Stranger things have certainly happened on the mountain, but I think Garces has too much talent for the Warriors this year. A third straight playoff rematch could be in the offiing, but for now, go with Garces.
Prediction: Garces 42, Tehachapi 21
BAKERSFIELD (7-2, 2-2 SWYL) AT STOCKDALE (5-4, 3-1) — Stockdale has hinted at times this year that it's one of the Central Section's elite teams, particularly during a three-game winning streak against Independence, Centennial and Liberty (though the Patriots were pretty beat up that week). But the lopsided losses to Clovis and Garces early and an ugly second half against Frontier last week still say maybe the Mustangs are a notch below the title contenders. They could certainly change that perception this week, because Bakersfield looked like its old self in pummeling Centennial last week. The Drillers have traditionally played pretty well against Mike Snow's offense, so even if D.J. Martin hits a home run or two, BHS should eventually pull away.
Prediction: Bakersfield 48, Stockdale 27
FRONTIER (6-3, 4-0 SWYL) AT INDEPENDENCE (5-4, 1-3) — After a couple of huge victories in back-to-back games, you might expect a slight letdown from the Titans, but I don't get that feeling from this team. Plus, the chance at an outright league title should keep Frontier motivated, and the Titans just match up well with Independence. Preston Hodges and Jon Moore are special players, but I don't know that the Falcons can match up with Frontier's big, physical line for 48 minutes. Expect a game pretty similar to last week's: Independence will stick around with a couple of nice drives, but Justin Cash, Evan Moore and the Frontier running game will rule the second half.
Prediction: Frontier 41, Independence 17
CENTENNIAL (2-7, 0-4 SWYL) AT LIBERTY (5-4, 2-2) — This is the least meaningful Freedom Bowl I can remember, but that certainly doesn't mean rivals won't play hard in this one. It's obviously more important for Liberty, which can nail down a top-8 seed in the Division I playoffs and get itself further back on track after an injury-riddled stretch that included losses to Frontier and Stockdale. Stopping Reagan Enger will be the key for the Patriots, as it is for most teams who play the Golden Hawks. I think Liberty will manage this game well, control the clock and get enough stops to get to 6-4.
Prediction: Liberty 35, Centennial 22
ARVIN (6-3, 3-2 SSL) AT BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN (7-2, 4-1) — Interesting matchup here with quite a bit on the line. If BCHS wins, it's only a Shafter upset of Wasco away from splitting the SSL title (unlikely but possible) and probably earns the No. 3 seed in Division IV behind Wasco and Mission Oak. If Arvin wins, it further cements the Bears as a D-IV contender and could mean a top-four seed as well. The Eagles have been inconsistent offensively, particularly against physical teams, and Arvin fits that bill. Bears running back Orlando Perez has also found another gear, and Jordan Wood is one of the area's more underrated quarterbacks. I'm leaning Arvin here. The Bears continue their surge into the postseason.
Prediction: Arvin 35, Bakersfield Christian 31
SHAFTER (6-3, 2-3 SSL) AT WASCO (9-0, 5-0) — At one point this season, we thought this could be a showdown of 9-0 teams, but the Generals have lost three in a row and haven't looked the same since their bye week (my earlier information that Shafter lost some starters to academic ineligibility was incorrect, and my apologies to the Generals for that; fact is, the guys who were there seem to have just worn down). Still, this is a huge chance for redemption against a fierce rival. Even a competitive game would lift Shafter's spirits headed into a Division V playoff bracket that doesn't contain a team nearly this good. Shafter can't beat Wasco, but I think the Generals will account well for themselves for a half or so. They're scrappy, and they'll play that way before ultimately getting bowled over by the big, bad Tigers.
Prediction: Wasco 49, Shafter 15
GOLDEN VALLEY (3-6, 0-3 SYL) AT RIDGEVIEW (7-2, 3-0) — This has been a good series over the past few years, highlighted by the Bulldogs' big road win two years ago to force a three-way tie for the SYL title. Since then, however, the programs have gone two different ways, with the Wolf Pack reaching the D-III title game a year ago and a favorite to return. Golden Valley is still explosive at times, but with his 17 touchdown passes, Alex Soto has thrown 14 interceptions, and Ridgeview has as good of a ball-hawking secondary as anyone. This game will be further evidence that at least for now, Ridgeview's program has left Golden Valley's in the dust.
Prediction: Ridgeview 47, Golden Valley 13
MIRA MONTE (3-6, 1-2 SYL) AT SOUTH (6-3, 2-1) — There have been a couple of bad weeks, but all in all, I think you have to consider Mira Monte's first year under Brett Clark a success. The Lions have picked off three wins and been competitive almost every week. There's no question you consider South's season a success; the Rebels have lost only to Arvin, Ridgeview and Bakersfield Christian and should be in line for a good seed in Division III. I don't think the Lions have the defense to put up with South's plethora of weapons, so take the Rebels here to finish at 7-3.
Prediction: South 44, Mira Monte 21
WEST (4-5) AT SANTA MARIA-ST. JOSEPH (7-2) — An odd non-league game slipped into Week 10 for the Vikings, who were in the awkward position of not having a league game in the season's final week. (Boron is in the same boat in the Desert Mountain League and elected just to schedule a Week 10 bye). The upshot is that West will test itself against a playoff-bound team in the Southern Section's very good Northern Division. The Vikings have played Frontier, Tehachapi and Ridgeview, and it's still possible this is the best team they've faced. Stay healthy, and that sort of a test will get you ready for the Division II playoffs. But a road win probably is asking too much.
Prediction: St. Joseph 38, West 16
HIGHLAND (3-6, 1-3 SEYL) AT FOOTHILL (3-6, 2-2) — Good on the Scots for finding a way to win against North and keep the wheels from completely falling off after another winless team, East, had laid it on them the week before. Still, this is a tough assignment: Foothill has accounted well for itself, relatively speaking, even in blowout losses to Garces and Tehachapi, and the Trojans have told the Central Section they will only enter the Division III playoffs if they win this game. I think they do, using Brandon Fanning to soften up Highland's defense and Destin Penn to go over the top. And Foothill will find stopping Highland's young attack quite a bit easier than that of Garces and Tehachapi.
Prediction: Foothill 28, Highland 10
EAST (1-8, 1-3 SEYL) AT NORTH (0-9, 0-4) — It was easy to rave over Dave Thorp's coaching job at East after his first year, when he took a Blades team that had really struggled for three years and went 5-5 with a trip to the D-III playoffs. But even in an unlucky 2012, when East has lost a bunch of close games, you have to hand it to the coaching staff for keeping things together. Forget Garces and Tehachapi, who are almost playing in their own league; East has been competitive against Foothill, and it blitzed Highland. That should mean the Blades have no problem finishing their year with a second victory.
Prediction: East 33, North 14
TAFT (3-6, 2-3 SSL) AT KENNEDY (2-7, 0-5) — Here's where the opt-in, opt-out playoff process becomes tricky: You have teams like Clovis East (2-7 and lost all four league games by at least 20 points) getting into the playoffs and teams like Centennial and Taft, who don't have good records but have mostly been competitive, taking themselves out. What's the right move? Hard to say. If you can get in, maybe you should let yourself take a shot, but then teaching kids they have to earn their way in is nice, too. The upshot is that Taft lost its shot at the playoffs when the Wildcats' comeback fell short at Bakersfield Christian last week. That makes this a farewell for a solid team that was done in by a bad start. It's also one more chance for QB Vaughn Richardson and WR Steven Gee to put on a show.
Prediction: Taft 38, Kennedy 6
DELANO (4-5, 1-3 EYL) AT TULARE-MISSION OAK (7-2, 3-1) — There's a three-way ruckus atop the East Yosemite League standings, with Mission Oak, Tulare Union and Porterville all sitting at 3-1 and all 1-1 against one another. So all three will be looking to take care of business. A step below that level is Delano, which has lost three in a row and four of its past five, with only one of those games close. Given the right matchup, the Tigers can win a game in the D-III playoffs, but Mission Oak, especially an angry Mission Oak team that cost itself an outright league title last week by losing to Tulare Union, isn't the right matchup.
Prediction: Mission Oak 40, Delano 13
McFARLAND (2-7, 1-2 ESiL) AT ORANGE COVE (2-7, 0-3) — Orange Cove started the year 2-0 and has lost seven straight since, all of them by at least two touchdowns. That bodes well for the Cougars, who will only enter the Division VI playoffs with a win. After an 0-5 start, they have a chance to close the season 3-2 and on a bit of a role. Toss-up game here, but I'll go with the hotter team in McFarland.
Prediction: McFarland 28, Orange Cove 24
COALINGA-FAITH CHRISTIAN (1-7, 1-2 CSiL) AT NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN (7-2, 3-0) — After dropping an out-of-section game to Compton-Hope Centre, the Guardians return their attention towards finishing off a Central Sierra League championship. I'm unclear on whether 8-man football has playoffs in the Central Section this year or not — it's been an on-again, off-again affair — but Northwest would earn the No. 1 seed with a win here. And there's no reason not to expect that; Faith Christian's only win came against 1-8 Alpaugh.
Prediction: Northwest Christian 58, Faith Christian 19
CALIFORNIA CITY (3-6, 1-3 HDL) AT FRAZIER MOUNTAIN (5-4, 1-3) — Another first-year coach who has enjoyed modest success is Russell Heasley at Frazier Mountain, whose team won't reach the Southern Section playoffs this year (unless they get a wild card, which is unlikely) but has a chance to finish with an overall winning record if they win this one. The weather up on the mountain has a chance to turn a bit nasty, which seems to fit the Falcons' personality – and that of their coach. Give Frazier Mountain another big win in a season that's been a tremendous building block.
Prediction: Frazier Mountain 27, California City 12
BURROUGHS (5-4) AT HESPERIA-OAK HILLS (8-1) — The Burros got a big assist from Barstow last week; the Aztecs beat Victorville-Silverado, giving Burroughs the Desert Sky League lead and at least a share of the DSL title. Barstow and Silverado can join the Burros as co-champs if they win this week. All three will qualify for the Southern Section Division VIII playoffs. Meanwhile, Burroughs steps out of league to play Oak Hills, which will be one of the top seeds in D-VIII. This is a nice little preview of what Burroughs will see if it reaches the second round of the playoffs. It's also a level the Burros haven't been able to reach this season.
Prediction: Oak Hills 44, Burroughs 17
Saturday, Nov. 3
SOUTHERN SECTION 8-MAN DIVISION I PLAYOFFS
LANCASTER BAPTIST (7-2) AT MOJAVE (8-1) — The only one of three Southern Section 8-man teams in Kern County to make the playoffs was Mojave, which has had the type of season most expected when the Mustangs' mostly successful program moved down from 11-man ball. This is a doozy of a first-round playoff game; Lancaster Baptist only lost twice, once to Valencia-Trinity Classical Academy, one of the best teams in Division I. But you know who beat Trinity Classical? That's right, Mojave, which should be considered among the favorites to win the whole bracket. The Mustangs will scrape by in this one.
Prediction: Mojave 38, Lancaster Baptist 28
Last week: 20-2 (.909)
This year: 184-44 (.807)