Buy Photo

Rod Thornburg / Special to The Californian

Frontier's Troy Banks avoids his opponent Brandon Bustamante of West.

We've just about reached the halfway pole of the 2013 high school football regular season — those teams that didn't reach it Friday night will do so next week — and so it's a good time to sit back and reflect. Here's a look at last week's games with one eye focused solely on the bigger picture.

Garces 41, Stockdale 26: The focus has been on Garces' big plays on defense — you're just not going to lose very often when you return two interceptions for touchdowns in one game — but the Rams really won this game because they dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half. After giving up 240 yards to Stockdale in the first half, Garces allowed a quick touchdown drive that ended with Adarius Rowel's 60-yard scoring jaunt for a 26-21 Stockdale lead. After that, the Rams allowed four yards. Not four yards on one play, or four yards on one drive. Four yards total, on 12 plays. The Mustangs' only first down in the final 22 minutes of the game came via penalty, and Garces' offense, while not as crisp as it was in the first half, had more than enough chances to put the game away. And David Grimm's pick-six was the nail in the coffin.

Big picture: Garces has a bye week and then four games it should cruise through in Southeast Yosemite League play before welcoming Tehachapi to town in a game that should be for a pretty high Division II seed. Stockdale plays at winless Buchanan in a game that's almost a must-win for playoff hopes; remember, the Mustangs (1-3) don't go to the playoffs unless they're .500 per school policy, and wins will be hard to come by in the Southwest Yosemite League.

Liberty 55, Ridgeview 7: This was a big-time statement for Liberty, which scored on three of its first five offensive plays and blitzed a pretty good Wolf Pack team, the only hiccup being a first-quarter drive in which Ridgeview scored in 19 plays and soaked up 10 minutes' worth of clock in the process. After that, it was all Patriots, as Josh Medina went 5 for 5 for 111 yards in the first half. And the Patriots' defense was just as effective as Garces — except Liberty allowed all of four yards over the final three quarters, plus scored a touchdown on an interception return. By the way, this was almost an identical score to Ridgeview's loss the week before, a 56-7 beatdown at the hands of Hart, which happens to be a top-10 team in the state. Is Liberty that good? Well, we'll certainly know more in a couple of weeks.

Big picture: Couldn't be prettier for Liberty, which is 5-0 in non-league play with four easy victories and a signature triple-OT win at Fresno-Central. Now the Patriots have set themselves up to play in one of the section's biggest games of the year: A home game against Bakersfield on Oct. 11.

Bakersfield 55, Clovis-Buchanan 7: A Bakersfield team upset with itself after a missed opportunity against Long Beach Poly and looking for redemption against a winless Buchanan team that seems way below TRAC standards. Yeah, this was a recipe for a blowout, and that's exactly how it materialized, with Bakersfield unloading big play after big play en route to a 48-0 lead just minutes after halftime. Asauni Rufus ran for 165 yards on just nine carries and threw for 149 more, and the Drillers rolled up 478 yards of offense despite having their feet squarely on the break for nearly the entire second half. In many ways, this is what the doctor ordered for BHS, a big confidence-boosting win sandwiched between the Poly loss, a bye week and another huge game on the horizon.

Big picture: For the Drillers, everything hinges on the Liberty game. Win there, and the Drillers will be favored in the remaining four games and should be in line for a No. 2 seed in the section playoffs at worst. Lose, and the Drillers would be 3-3 and likely  boxed out from the league title for a second straight year.

Centennial 38, Santa Barbara 7: A bye week did the Golden Hawks a lot of good, particularly because it allowed Gabe Arteaga to return at full strength. Arteaga returned a fumble 38 yards in the second quarter, part of an onslaught that took a close game early and turned it into a 17-0 game at halftime that continued to escalate. Noah Frazier had 145 yards on just 12 carries, part of a 314-yard ground attack for the Golden Hawks, who are clearly not the same team as the group that lost to Memorial in Week 0.

Big picture: Centennial hits the road again next week to face Tulare Union, but if the Golden Hawks have improved as much as I think, they'll cruise there and get to 3-2 before a huge league opener against Frontier. That will be the real litmus test for what Centennial's ceiling is this year.

Frontier 44, West 7: A nice bounceback for Frontier after disappointing performances against Moorpark and Clovis North had us questioning whether this was a top-10 team in the section. I think it is, especially when you consider it's a group without an apparent weakness and one that had the depth to deal handle the loss of starting running back Nick Santoro without breaking a sweat. Troy Banks stepped in and scored five touchdowns, reminiscent of the spark Justin Cash provided when he switched from defense to running back late last year because of Triton Douglas' suspension.

Big picture: It's a good time for a bye week for the banged-up Titans, who hope to have Santoro back when they face Centennial to open league play in a couple of weeks. Take care of business there, and Frontier can take its shot at Liberty and Bakersfield in the following weeks. Last year, a sweep of those games spring-boarded the Titans to an SWYL title.

Bakersfield Christian 43, Chavez 7; Shafter 62, Kennedy 0; Taft 14, Arvin 7: This is what Bakersfield Christian envisioned this season, with quarterback Brandon Jones, running back Matt Smith and wide receiver Hayden Kuchta forming one of the best skill-position cores in the area. That combo struck early and often to put away Chavez, while Shafter did the same in a road victory over Kennedy. Kyle Millwee threw for 190 yards on just six completions in that one, including a 91-yarder to Miguel Aguilar. Taft, though, might have gotten the most valuable win on the first weekend of league play, gritting out a victory against Arvin that will be important for the Wildcats in league positioning and reaching the .500 mark the school requires for playoff entry.

Big picture: Wasco had one more week of non-league play, and the Tigers' 69-26 win against East gave no indication that Wasco still isn't the favorite in the SSL. But Bakersfield Christian, which hosts Wasco in three weeks, looks like it has shaken off some early troubles and might pose a legitimate threat to the Tigers. After that, Taft and Shafter appear the most likely to make a run.

Golden Valley 27, North 20: In a game with plenty of offensive fireworks, Golden Valley sealed it with a defensive play when the Bulldogs intercepted a Steven Twiss pass in the final minute. GV got its first great passing game of the season, a 13-of-17 performance by sophomore Tyler Waters, who threw for 237 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 47 yards and the Bulldogs' other touchdown. Twiss, meanwhile, ran wild, going for 221 rushing yards and providing a second threat for the Stars, who had relied heavily on David Reyes in early weeks.

Big picture: Neither of these teams will enter their respective leagues as title contenders, but both appear to have improved drastically from down years in 2012. If the contenders in the SYL (Ridgeview, South) and SEYL (Garces, Tehachapi) aren't careful, these could be tricky opponents.

South 45, Foothill 3: Johnnie Dirden rushed for three touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a fourth TD as the Rebels absolutely cruised. South was perhaps even more impressive defensively; it gave just 58 yards to Foothill, which committed 135 yards in penalties. That's an ugly ratio for the Trojans, who had a terrific defensive performance last week but were overmatched against the Rebels.

Big picture: Foothill looks like it will continue to struggle against good teams for first-year coach Jason Oliver, who might look to South for a blueprint on how to revive a moribund program. The Rebels should be 6-0 when they face Ridgeview and Bakersfield Christian in back-to-back weeks; winning both of those will be tough, but if the Rebels can do it, they'll have an argument for a top-two seed in Division III.

Elsewhere... Isaiah Sharp and Terrence Grinner had a performance against East that would be unbelievable for anybody except Wasco's amazing duo. Sharp had 172 rushing yards and four touchdowns on nine carries, and Grinner ran for 154 yards and two TDs. Oh, and they both returned punts for touchdowns, too, in the Tigers' 69-26 win against East. ... Independence blasted Mira Monte 51-0 behind quarterback Jordan Wiley, who threw for 176 yards and four touchdowns. It was a nice bounceback for the Falcons after a sloppy win against Highland last week. East will provide a little more pushback before the Falcons enter the SWYL haunted house. ... Kern Valley earned an extremely valuable win at a difficult place to play when the Broncs beat Big Bear 21-16 on Saturday afternoon. The win places KV in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in Division V and might earn the Broncs a ranking in the Southern Cal D-IV regional bowl rankings this week. One problem for Kern Valley: Lindsay is a high-caliber D-IV team that's playing in D-V.

Here's a replay of Friday night's BVarsity Live (join us live at 11 p.m. every Friday on, followed by the five big games from what looks to be a slow Week 5. We didn't get on the air till 11:15 p.m. this week because of late games, so the first 15 minutes below are just a highlight loop from Frontier-West and Liberty-Ridgeview.

And Week 5's big ones:

South (4-0) at North (1-3): This is our live broadcast next week, and it's a trap game for South. Rebels don't want to get caught looking ahead with a feisty North team on tap in a rivalry game.
Taft (3-2) at Shafter (3-2): The Wildcats passed one mid-level SSL test last week; now they have to do it on the road
West (2-2) at Tehachapi (2-2): Interesting D-II battle here, and a rematch of a first-round playoff game won by West last year
Centennial (2-2) at Tulare Union (1-3): If the Golden Hawks keep it rolling here, look out, SWYL favorites
Independence (3-1) at East (1-3): The Falcons have been explosive lately, and East will be a decent test before SWYL play