In the uncertain world of high school football, let it be known that one thing is for sure about this set of Central Section rankings: They're going to look much different next week, one way or the other.
Week 3 features a slew of big games around the section that will shape the rest of the season and the playoff seeding argument of many teams in November. Even teams not involved in these games will get swept up in the accomplishments or failures of their league-mates. That means a team like Centennial, which has Friday night off (a much-needed respite for the banged-up Golden Hawks, by the way), is rooting for Frontier, Stockdale and Liberty to represent the Southwest Yosemite League in matchups with Tri-River Athletic Conference schools.
And the entire section is rooting on Bakersfield and Edison in huge intersection matchups with Long Beach Poly and Crenshaw. A sweep by those two teams (and I don't find that result particularly likely) would do wonders for the section's Division I champ as far as receiving a regional bowl berth at season's end.
So keep all that in mind as we dive into a new top 25.
Last week's results certainly conspired to make the Bakersfield-Poly matchup as enticing as possible. As the Drillers took Garces to the woodshed, worse than what most of us thought was plausible, Poly was taking down the state's No. 2 team in Corona-Centennial. That makes this meeting of the state's most successful historical programs a must-watch. Lucky for you, the game will be webcast live on bakersfield.com.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 12 Garces, 56-7. THIS WEEK: vs. Long Beach Poly
2. Fresno-Edison (3-0, Division I, last week: 2) — The computers used to make the rankings at Calpreps and MaxPreps both like Edison better than Bakersfield. Quite a bit better, actually. There's certainly evidence to support that theory — the Tigers have cruised against three quality opponents — but Edison also historically hasn't had a lot of success against BHS in recent years. Here's thinking we might get to see these teams tangle in early December.
LAST WEEK: won at Merced, 45-0. THIS WEEK: vs. L.A.-Crenshaw
3. Liberty (3-0, Division I, last week: 3) — Liberty is on the brink of a non-conference season that will be solid gold in the seeding room. The Patriots only need to add a road victory against Buchanan to add to their road win vs. Central from a couple of weeks ago. There doesn't seem to be anything particularly flashy about Liberty — though junior running back Anthony Mariscal has that potential — but this is a balanced team that seems to strike when necessary.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Tehachapi, 38-0. THIS WEEK: at No. 22 Clovis-Buchanan
4. Clovis North (2-1, Division I, last week: 4) — Clovis North escaped with a win against Buhach Colony thanks to a late Trenton Barnes touchdown and a Michael Mechikoff interception. That's a team the Broncos should handle, but it's a good win considering Clovis North had to shake off a physical and mental hangover left from a beatdown at the hands of St. John Bosco the week before. Now it's back to the road for a difficult game against Frontier that means much more than any of Clovis North's three non-section games thus far.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Atwater-Buhach Colony, 40-38. THIS WEEK: at No. 7 Frontier
5. Fresno-Bullard (2-0, Division I, last week: 6) — The Knights' schedule is going to make it difficult to compare them with the other teams in the top 10. One thing they can hope for is that a 54-14 win over Buchanan a couple of weeks ago looks better as the season progresses. The young Bears put a scare into a ranked Porterville team, so that bolsters Bullard's résumé a bit. Now Buchanan plays three SWYL teams in a row. Bullard will be rooting them on while it goes through a three-game run of (bottom-half) TRAC opponents.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. Clovis East
6. Fresno-Central (1-2, Division I, last week: 7) — Running back Nick Wilson, an Arizona commit, returns from injury this week in time for a big matchup with El Diamante. My gut tells me the Grizzlies are still going to be a major factor in Division I despite early struggles, and Wilson's return can only help. After this week and a couple of big TRAC games down the road, though, Central is running out of regular-season chances to prove itself.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at No. 8 Visalia-El Diamante
7. Frontier (2-1, Division I, last week: 5) — Only a Troy Banks kickoff-return touchdown kept Frontier from being shut out at Moorpark. The Musketeers' are a solid Pac-5 Division team, so there's no shame in the loss, but it still surprised me after the Titans handled Lompoc the week before. Either way, this week is more important; the Titans finally get Clovis North at home. Their last scheduled home game with the Broncos in this marquee series, in 2011, was cancelled because of severe lightning.
LAST WEEK: lost 20-7 at Moorpark. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 4 Clovis North
8. Visalia-El Diamante (3-0, Division II, last week: 8) — It's a shame the Miners' home game with Central is an undercard on what is a huge weekend for Central Section football, because this has the potential to be a very good — and section-altering matchup. With a win, or even a good performance in a loss, El Diamante would cement its status as Division II favorite and cast doubt on Central's as a D-I contender. I like Central, but El D has been nothing but impressive thus far.
LAST WEEK: won at Porterville-Monache, 49-6 (Thursday). THIS WEEK: vs. No. 6 Freno-Central
9. Clovis (2-1, Division I, last week: 9) — One of the biggest benefits of having a successful program is that you produce players who understand how to play and win close games. Clovis, though it appears to be not as talented as the past couple of years, proved that again Friday at Centennial, coming through with a close victory when the teams appeared to be pretty even on the field. The Cougars have owned Stockdale the past couple of seasons; can they keep it rolling?
LAST WEEK: won at No. 22 Centennial, 28-21. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 14 Stockdale
10. Wasco (1-1, Division IV, last week: 10) — What the eyeball test told us last week was confirmed this week when Bakersfield drilled Garces: Wasco gave Bakersfield more problems than many higher-division teams would. This is a legitimate top-10 team in the section, and it says here that no one sticks within three touchdowns of the Tigers the rest of the regular season. Of course, the corollary to that statement is true, too: The rest of the schedule is very much bleh.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. Golden Valley
11. Dinuba (3-0, Division III, last week: 11) — One more tuneup for the Emperors before they get their first (and possibly only) test of the regular season. That would be against Porterville in one of next week's biggest games. Marcus McMaryion, with the spotlight squarely on him, has been fine at quarterback, throwing for 555 yards, four TDs and one interception in three games, but it's also worth noting his completion percentage has dropped from 60.8 percent as a junior to just 52.3 percent so far this season.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Hanford, 42-27. THIS WEEK: at Porterville-Monache (Thursday)
12. Porterville (3-0, Division III, last week: 13) — It says something about how well Porterville started that it actually seemed UNDERwhelming when the Panthers beat a Division I team in Buchanan last week. Yes, it was a one-score game, but I still think there's reason to believe this is actually the best team in Division III. We'll find out in Dinuba in a couple of weeks (defending champion Ridgeview has a claim, too, of course), but quarterback Dennis Chester is surrounded by a complete arsenal of weapons.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 21 Clovis-Buchanan, 33-27. THIS WEEK: vs. Hanford
13. Ridgeview (2-1, Division III, last week: 14) — Our third Division III team in a row have looked for real in the past couple of weeks. Now comes what likely will be Ridgeview's toughest task of the season, and that includes games against Frontier and Liberty. It's a trip to Newhall to take on Hart, ranked No. 21 in the state by Cal Hi Sports and No. 12 in the state by CalPreps. Dennis Manning said last year's tough early schedule played a big role in Ridgeview's run to the D-III title; this year's is even tougher.
LAST WEEK: won at Foothill, 33-0. THIS WEEK: at Newhall-Hart
14. Stockdale (1-1, Division I, last week: 15) — I mentioned this in the weekly recap Sunday, but last week's demolition of Inglewood might have been the perfectly executed gameplan for Mike Snow's rushing attack: Three backs went over 100 yards, the offense controlled the clock and the defense added a few big plays. The Mustangs' problem in recent years has been inconsistency, though, so that makes this week's trip to Clovis a huge opportunity to prove that's in the past.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Inglewood, 55-12. THIS WEEK: at No. 9 Clovis
15. Sanger (3-0, Division II, last week: 16) — An opening win against Sunnyside looks better and better, and the Apaches have rolled a couple of overmatched opponents since then. Time to welcome this team to the top 15. To stay there, Sanger will have to beat another top Division II contender in Lemoore, which has put a scare into Clovis and has its own pair of lopsided victories. This intriguing Thursday nighter is the perfect way to open up a great week of football in the Central Section.
LAST WEEK: won at Visalia-Mt. Whitney, 37-7. THIS WEEK: at No. 16 Lemoore
16. Lemoore (2-1, Division II, last week: 19)
17. Tulare-Mission Oak (2-0, Division IV, last week: 17)
18. Garces (1-2, Division II, last week: 12)
19. Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial (3-0, Division II, last week: 18)
20. Centennial (1-2, Division I, last week: 22)
21. Exeter (3-0, Division IV, last week: NR)
22. Clovis-Buchanan (0-2, Division I, last week: 21)
23. Fresno-Sunnyside (1-2, Division II, last week: 24)
24. Kingsburg (3-0, Division II, last week: 25)
25. Clovis West (0-2, Division I, last week: NR)
Dropped out: No. 20 Tulare Union, No. 23 Clovis East