October is here, and it's one of my favorite months of the year. Football season is in full swing, baseball playoffs roar all month, the weather changes, you break out the long sleeves and it all just sets up the holidays nicely.
From a football perspective, it's also a great table-setting month. Everything that happens in October will seem important — and some of it will be — but all fades into memory when the playoffs start in November. That's all we'll really remember. Anybody remember that Bakersfield was only a No. 4 seed when it won the section title in 2007? That Clovis North, the first regional bowl team from the Central Section's top division, wasn't the top seed last year? Seeding is important, sure, but only to a certain point.
But October is where everything really gets going. Seeding, yes, but also league races and teams attempting to get all of their ducks in a row before the playoffs begin. So here we go.
And you know what else is important? Good predictions! And I delivered on that last week, missing the game I attended (Garces-Stockdale) but going perfect everywhere else in Kern County. Now to repeat that in a week without a lot of big games and with fewer games overall (21, instead of the normal 24-26).
Last week's recap (24-1 overall)
The good: 96 percent of it was good, thank you very much. But especially nearly nailing the final score on Buchanan-Bakersfield and Golden Valley-North and hitting most of the toss-up games, like Arvin-Taft and Kern Valley-Big Bear.
The bad: The margin was off a few places. Centennial and Independence out-performed my expectations, and I was way off on Cal City-Gabrielino.
The ugly: I'm not sure it can be considered ugly, but it did keep me from a perfect week. Garces got two pick-sixes to turn a close game into a 41-26 victory over Stockdale. I had a close game going the other way.
Friday, Oct. 4
SOUTH (4-0) AT NORTH (1-3) — This appears to be a mismatch on paper, with the Rebels riding a wave of momentum from four lopsided wins to face a team that has lost 14 of its past 15 games. And in some ways, it is a lopsided matchup: South has the playmakers in Keith Evans, Asonte Johnson and Johnnie Dirden to run circles around most Division II and III teams, and North doesn't have guys who can defend well enough in space to combat that. But don't sell the Stars short. They've been competitive in every game and have two guys in quarterback Steven Twiss and running back David Reyes who are capable of carrying a big-time load in the running game. Plus, it's a rivalry game (the schools return to the same league next year), so you never know what can happen. If North can play keep-away from South's offense and get a couple of turnovers, this thing will stay interesting long into the night. But South's defense has been playing at a high level, too, and I think sooner or later the Rebels roll in this one and set up three big games against West, Ridgeview and Bakersfield Christian that could take the program to new heights.
Prediction: South 44, North 14
WEST (2-2) AT TEHACHAPI (2-2) — This might be the most intriguing local game of the weekend. Besides being a key battle between Division II mid-level contenders, it's a rematch of a playoff game from last year that began the Vikings' surprising run to the D-II semifinals. New year and new teams, of course, but it looks like Tehachapi might be doing the old Warriors' thing: Starting slow, creating some doubts, then quietly righting the ship and starting to play much better. This could be a statement game for mountain football. On the other hand, West has had its moments but has struggled against elite competition in Porterville and Frontier, particularly on the road. The Warriors aren't that good offensively, but they're getting better, and I'm not crazy about West's chances to shut that running game down all night. Give me Tehachapi at home in a game that's close for a half but turns the Warriors' way after that.
Prediction: Tehachapi 33, West 17
CENTENNIAL (2-2) AT TULARE UNION (1-3) — I'm ready to call Centennial the best of the rest in the Southwest Yosemite League, meaning the Golden Hawks are a clear fourth in the league's pecking order behind Bakersfield, Liberty and Frontier, and meaning they have the best chance to knock one of those teams off. The Golden Hawks really should be 3-1, and you could make the argument they could be 4-0 against a pretty good schedule. Some of that is growing pains for a young team with a new coach, so it's to be expected. Now that we're into the meat of the schedule, though, this team looks grown up. Noah Frazier and Brandon Robinson are a legit 1-2 punch at running back, and Andrew Hansen has looked like hard to handle as a dual-threat quarterback after a difficult first game. All that means that a road trip to Tulare shouldn't be a huge deal, even against a Redskins team that has shown signs of explosiveness against a difficult schedule.
Prediction: Centennial 37, Tulare Union 24
STOCKDALE (1-3) AT CLOVIS-BUCHANAN (0-4) — Buchanan takes on an SWYL opponent for the third straight week, but this time, the Bears don't have to tangle with the top echelon of the league. Still, Stockdale can be a formidable task for a team that can't stop the run, and Buchanan hasn't shown yet that it can. This is a huge opportunity for Stockdale to right the ship a bit and feel good about itself before heading into the SWYL, which begins with Independence, the seemingly easiest assignment. Plus, with a school rule in place that declares Stockdale teams must be .500 to enter the playoffs, this is essentially a must-win for the Mustangs. I think they answer that call with authority — and big games for all three running backs, Anthony Wood, Adarius Rowel and Xavier Chisholm.
Prediction: Stockdale 41, Buchanan 14
INDEPENDENCE (3-1) AT EAST (1-3) — There is life after Preston Hodges and after the transfers of Derek Check, Malcolm Johnson and Brandon Robinson. Independence has proven that with an explosive winning streak behind quarterback Jordan Wiley and a host of talented skill players around him. Whether that lasts into league play is another story, because the SWYL seems typically deep and loaded this year, maybe even moreso than in years past. In fact, even East will provide the Falcons a stiffer test than they've faced the past couple of weeks. The Blades didn't exactly put a scare in Wasco last week — they gave up 42 points in the second quarter, after all — but they did have their moments, with a Malik Nichols' kickoff return for a touchdown among them. Independence should handle East and go into league play needing just one victory for a respectable .500 season.
Prediction: Independence 45, East 24
RIDGEVIEW (2-3) AT FRESNO-WASHINGTON UNION (1-3) — Speaking of teams that need to right the ship, I present Ridgeview. No reasonable observer would have expected the Wolf Pack to beat Newhall-Hart or Liberty, but Ridgeview didn't exactly compete, either. Now it's back to a school from the same division, something Ridgeview should be able to handle. Washington Union isn't as good as Independence, which the Wolf Pack handled comfortably in Week 1. The question here is how much a young team's confidence has been shaken by back-to-back defeats of 56-7 and 55-7, and how much have those games taken a physical toll? It's reasonable to expect a slow start from Ridgeview here, but once Lawrence Wright, Jaccob Lopez and some of that young skill-position talent gets a chance to shine again, the Pack should pull away.
Prediction: Ridgeview 34, Washington Union 16
FOOTHILL (1-3) AT GOLDEN VALLEY (3-2) — A nice little rivalry game to end non-league play for these two teams. Golden Valley is one of the few teams in action this week that already has five games under its belt — the Bulldogs take their bye next week — and so we have a bit of extra information. It tells me that this is a different sort of GV team than Erich Smith's good ones from years past, but it's still a competitive one. The Bulldogs are finding ways to win games with running and defense, though sophomore quarterback Eric Waters had his best game yet last week against North. Foothill needs to win games the same way, so this has the potential to be a slugfest. Waters could be the difference, if he makes a few plays in the passing game, because the Trojans have really struggled to score. I'll take Golden Valley by a margin that's comfortable — but not too comfortable.
Prediction: Golden Valley 24, Foothill 13
MIRA MONTE (0-5) AT HIGHLAND (0-4) — It's time for the first somebody-will-be-happy bowl of the season. This fall has gone from bad to worse for the Lions, who started the year with some losses due to transfers and academics and now can't even seem to score a point. Both Foothill and Independence pitched shutouts against Mira Monte, and Highland's defense has been prety stingy, too, despite the Scots' record. Their problem, too, has been offense, but Highland at least has shown an idea of how to move the ball at times. That should be the difference in this one: At home, the Scots get a nice, comfortable victory that gives them a bit of momentum heading into SEYL play as they attempt to salvage the season. For the Lions, in an SYL that appears to be very tough, turning things around will be much tougher.
Prediction: Highland 27, Mira Monte 7
TAFT (3-2, 1-0 SSL) AT SHAFTER (3-2, 1-0) — Wasco and Bakersfield Christian are a clear 1-2 in the South Sequoia League pecking order right now, and it's fair to say that Kennedy is in the rear. In between, there's a big jumbled mess. And nearly every week, there will be one game used to try to figure it out. This is that game this week, with both teams coming off league-opening victories (Taft in last week's figure-it-out game against Arvin, and Shafter with a rout of Kennedy) and the winner will be 2-0 and feeling pretty darn good about itself either heading into a bye (Taft) or a showdown with BCHS (Shafter). Taft has proven it can win rough-and-tumble games, but Shafter airs it out, and one thing the Wildcats haven't done is score a lot of points. That's something Shafter can do. I'll go with the Generals at home here, but this is a true toss-up.
Prediction: Shafter 28, Taft 20
WASCO (3-1, 0-0 SSL) AT CHAVEZ (3-2, 0-1) — No one other than Bakersfield Christian can touch Wasco in the South Sequoia League, which is both the Tigers' blessing and their curse. They should cruise to another league title — at least if they can get past that date with the Eagles in two weeks — but the strength of schedule, and possibly Wasco's preparedness for the Division IV playoffs, which could be tougher than they've been in years, leaves much to be desired. Chavez will provide an interesting score comparison; the Titans, who went 3-1 in non-league play, lost 43-7 to Bakersfield Christian last week. Will Wasco come out with a statement that exceeds that made by the Eagles? Does it matter?
Prediction: Wasco 55, Chavez 7
BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN (2-2, 1-0 SSL) AT KENNEDY (2-3, 0-1) — Oy. Kennedy draws the short straw for the next two weeks, drawing first the Eagles and then a road date at Wasco next week. Frankly, the timing isn't great for the contending teams, either. BCHS is just hitting its stride, looking very sharp in wins against Exeter and Chavez the past two weeks, and a glorified scrimmage isn't exactly what the team needs heading into an important game with Shafter, the showdown with Wasco and then three straight road games to end the regular season. This is a name-your-score, name-your-stats opportunity for Jerald Pierucci and BCHS. Secure a victory and let the back-ups have some snaps.
Prediction: Bakersfield Christian 56, Kennedy 0
DELANO (3-1) AT DINUBA (4-1) — The Tigers have done a nice job rebounding from an inevitable thumping at the hands of Liberty in the season opener. They've defeated the teams put in front of them — and Chavez, North and Golden West, while not exactly a murderer's row, isn't a cupcake slate, either. Now the sledding gets tough again, with Dinuba and stars Marcus McMaryion and Michael Wright eager to put last week's shootout loss to Porterville behind them. Delano's defense is a legitimate strength, but this is a test that will rival the one Liberty provided. And even if the Tigers can slow down the Emperors from time to time, I don't think the Delano offense is advanced enough to keep up. The East Yosemite League is really deep this season, and this game will give us a gauge of whether the Tigers are a team that can finish in the top half of the league.
Prediction: Dinuba 38, Delano 20
McFARLAND (1-3) AT AVENAL (3-1) — McFarland's three home games are over for the season, as renovations now begin on the Cougars' stadium that will force them to play their entire October and November schedule away from home. In the preseason, coach Jim Fragoso said he'd like to think McFarland could take on the identity of road warriors and embrace the challenge of being on the road. Maybe he's onto something — the Cougars' only victory came in their only road game thus far, and there might be some wins left on the schedule, as all that's left are lower-end Division V and Division VI teams. This probably won't be a victory, though; Avenal has already defeated a couple of teams that seem better than McFarland, and the Buccaneers feature four running backs who have more than 200 yards on more than 5 yards per carry. Expect a big advantage in the ground game and an Avenal victory.
Prediction: Avenal 35, McFarland 9
ROSAMOND (0-5) AT YUCCA VALLEY (4-0) — As teams with new coaches tend to do, the Roadrunners showed some major signs of progress over the first month, scoring 20 points last week on Chadwick, the best team they'd played thus far. That said, Rosamond is making progress from a very low starting point, and they gave up 56 last week. Still, there's reason to believe Kris Krempien's first season won't be a total loss. That first win almost certainly won't come this week, though; Yucca Valley has already defeated two higher-division teams and looks to be among the favorites in the Southern Section's East Valley Division.
Prediction: Yucca Valley 59, Rosamond 13
RIVERDALE CHRISTIAN (0-2, 0-0 CSiL) AT NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN (2-2, 0-0) — For the defending Central Section 8-man champions Northwest Christian, finishing in the top two in the Central Sierra League (and therefore advancing to the 8-man championship) seems like a snap. The only question is whether the Guardians or their main competition in the CSiL, Kings Christian, finishes first and gets to host the title game. Those teams tangle in a couple of weeks in Lemoore; till then, Northwest Christian will try to cruise through this first league game and then take on Valley Christian Academy in a tough intersection game next week.
Prediction: Northwest Christian 48, Riverdale Christian 16
BURROUGHS (1-3, 0-0 DSL) AT ADELANTO (0-5, 0-3) — As a new team in the Desert Sky League, Adelanto has a strangely organized schedule; the Saints will play their final league game next week. Do they have a hope of winning either of the remaining two? Likely not, as Burroughs and Victorville-Silverado appear to be the best teams in the DSL. For the Burros, this one is about taking care of an underdog on the road, which isn't always the easiest thing to do. After that, Burroughs will be a clear favorite to finish in the top three in the league and make a return trip to the Southern Section Eastern Division playoffs. Against a tough schedule, Burroughs quarterback Ryan Sanford has completed 71 percent of his passes and thrown 7 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, but I'm sure coach Todd Mather would like to see his running game get going this week. Here's guessing it will.
Prediction: Burroughs 41, Adelanto 10
BORON (2-2, 1-0 DML) AT MAMMOTH (2-2, 1-1) — For the first time in a long time, Boron will actually have some business to attend to before assuming it's in the Southern Section playoffs. Both Silver Valley and Desert seem to be legitimate threats to take the Bobcats' seat atop the Desert Mountain League, and there are some other threats lurking (the top four in the eight-team league automatically reach the Northeast Division playoffs, while others would be eligible for wild cards). That means taking care of tricky road trips like this one is a must for Boron. What's in the Bobcats' favor? History, for one thing, and for another they have started giving the ball to Jadrian Wiser — last year's leading receiver in Kern County — as a running back. The results have been spectacular, with Wiser running for 330 yards on just 21 carries in Boron's last two games, both wins (he also caught five passes for 157 yards in last week's win over Vasquez. Kudos to first-year coach Tim Seaman for getting his best skill player the ball more.
Prediction: Boron 48, Mammoth 28
OJAI-THACHER (3-0) AT MOJAVE (5-0) — Mojave dropped from the top spot in CalPreps' state 8-man rankings because they didn't beat a hapless Lone Pine team badly enough (only 47-8? Come ON, guys). Still, this is a matchup of No. 2 Mojave vs. No. 4 Thacher, and seeing as Nos. 1 and 3 are both in the Southern Section's Division II, there's a good chance this is a preview of the Division I section title game, and de facto state title game. The last time the Mustangs tangled with a team of this caliber, it was state No. 3 Trinity Classical Academy. The game turned into a very non-8-man-like 13-6 slugfest. Same thing here? Probably not, considering Thacher has been involved in three shootouts thus far, but it's important to note Mojave has won in different types of games. Here's guessing the Mustangs' defense is better than any Thacher has seen. That should be enough for a tough home victory and a good feeling over the double-bye Mojave has coming up.
Prediction: Mojave 37, Thacher 31
SANTA MARIA-VALLEY CHRISTIAN (3-1) AT IMMANUEL CHRISTIAN (1-3) — There are possibilities for an upset here. Immanuel Christian hasn't looked great, but they've been playing mostly better teams than Valley Christian, and the Lions are making a long road trip out to Ridgecrest. Is that enough for the upset? Nah, I won't go there, not when the Crusaders have been giving up more than 40 points per game. But (and I'm going to repeat this as long as it's true, so prepare yourself) coach Aaron Gage's Missouri Tigers are still undefeated, so we've got that going for us.
Prediction: Valley Christian 45, Immanuel Christian 18
Saturday, Oct. 5
CALIFORNIA CITY (0-4) AT PANORAMA CITY-ST. GENEVIEVE (2-2) — Like fellow High Desert League bottom-feeder Rosamond, Cal City showed some serious signs of progress last week, making a real game of it with a pretty decent Gabrielino team that's now 3-1. The Ravens might finally be settling into some stability after the program changed head coaches twice during the offseason, and that comes just in time for league play. St. Genevieve is one of the better teams in the Northeast Division, however, and this isn't the place to call for Cal City's first win. It very well could come next week, in a rivalry game against Rosamond in which both teams will be desperate to get in the win column.
Prediction: St. Genevieve 40, California City 14
MARICOPA (1-2) AT ALPAUGH (1-1-1) — Yes, Alpaugh has a tie on its record, and if you thought that was impossible in high school football, try this on for size: The Buffaloes' draw was a 6-6 affair with Antelope Valley Christian, and while that was going on, Maricopa was beating Faith Christian ... get ready for it ... 86-0. Say what you want about running up the score (it's difficult to make that accusation unless you saw the game), but the game does represent a significant turnaround for the Indians, who had had been out-scored 100-28 in two opening defeats. Alpaugh is another Central Section minnow for Maricopa to feast on with that newly explosive offense.
Prediction: Maricopa 56, Alpaugh 6
Last week: 24-1 (.960)
This year: 100-20 (.833)
All-time: 1,180-333 (.780)