It's a new season for teams in the Central Section, with league play coming up this week, but these rankings are going to seem like they're ushering in any kind of a different era. That's because six of last week's top 10 had a bye week, as did many more teams in last week's top 25. But things will start to shake up quickly, starting primarily with Friday's huge Bakersfield-at-Liberty tilt. (We'll be broadcasting that one live on bakersfield.com, starting at 7 p.m.)
The only mover in the top 10 this week is Clovis West, which zoomed up to No. 9 after beating Bullard last week and deserves another bump after playing No. 1 Edison down to the wire. It's time to talk about the Golden Eagles, 1-4 though they might be, as a serious Division I contender. That's how impressive they've been the past two weeks.
1. Fresno-Edison (5-0, Division I, last week: 1) — The Tigers finally were tested this week, with a seemingly unlikely source doing the honors. But this Clovis West victory might end up being key in securing Edison the top seed in the D-I playoffs, especially if Liberty or Bakersfield runs the table in the SWYL and has an argument for the top spot. Anyway, there's not too much to be concerned about here, I don't think — Edison had a huge edge in total yardage, and that's usually a better indication of the true strength of the teams, anyway.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 9 Clovis West, 24-17. THIS WEEK: at No. 21 Sanger
2. Bakersfield (3-2, Division I, last week: 2) — What a difference a year makes. In 2012 at this time, the Drillers were 5-0 and on top of the world, having defeated five pretty darn good non-league opponents all by double digits and being ranked in the state's top 10. Then Bakersfield slipped, losing two league games and getting knocked out in the Central Section quarterfinals. This year, BHS hasn't been so successful against another (even more) tough non-league schedule, and there are serious questions about whether the Drillers should even be favored against Liberty this week. And you know what? Something tells me they're OK with that role.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at No. 4 Liberty
3. Clovis North (4-1, Division I, last week: 3) — When the Broncos last played, it looked like their next game would be a relatively simple TRAC opener against a moribund Clovis West program. In the 15 days since, the Golden Eagles have defeated Bullard and severely tested Edison. Surprise! Now the Clovis North-Clovis West game is one of the weekend's best, and it will shape the TRAC race one way or the other. It's hard to believe a team that lost 48-0 could be a section title contender, but then St. John Bosco might just be that good, because Clovis North has looked the part since.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 8 Clovis West
4. Liberty (5-0, Division I, last week: 4) — Like Bakersfield, the Patriots come into this year's SWYL-opening showdown in a different role. Last year, Liberty was a decided underdog; this time, they're expected to be competitive, and many are picking the Pats to beat the Drillers (my pick will come tomorrow). How Liberty handles that added pressure might play a huge role in determining who comes out on top. But realize that, starting with QB Josh Medina, this is not a team that has made many mistakes this season. If that continues, Liberty has a great chance to move to 6-0 and make us start thinking about 10-0 and a possible No. 1 seed.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 2 Bakersfield
5. Fresno-Central (3-2, Division I, last week: 5) — I posed a hypothetical question on Twitter today, asking that if Edison and Liberty both went 10-0, which would get the No. 1 seed in the D-I playoffs. It would certainly help the Patriots' cause if Central made a lot of noise in the TRAC, because Liberty owns that triple-overtime win against the Grizzlies. And Central is certainly capable. This might be a more talented roster than any of the Clovis schools; whether that translates into a championship run is a much tougher question.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at Clovis-Buchanan (Thursday)
6. Clovis (4-1, Division I, last week: 6) — The TRAC, which looked like a three-team race from the word go this season, is getting awfully crowded at the top. Clovis will look to take care of Clovis East in the first three quarters and get some starters out in preperation for a big one against Central next Thursday. The Cougars, remember, lost 43-6 to Edison back in Week 0, so this ranking is a bit in doubt at the moment with Clovis West's ascension.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. Clovis East
7. Frontier (3-2, Division I, last week: 7) — Here's your SWYL wild card, the team that can derail the dreams of whoever survives the Bakersfield-Liberty matchup this week. In fact, the Titans get those two teams back-to-back in the next two weeks, but they've got an increasingly difficult-looking game with Centennial up first. If the Titans are a title contender, this is the kind of game where they need to make a statement. If not, it could be a long three weeks.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 17 Centennial
8. Clovis West (1-4, Division I, last week: 9) — For all the good this team has done in the past two weeks, it's still the owner of a 1-4 record with games left against three top-six teams left. My hunch is the Golden Eagles will pull out at least one of those wins, but if they don't? You've got a 3-7 Clovis West that would be one of the best No. 8 or 9 seeds of all-time, rivaling Cody Kessler's junior-year Centennial team that reached the final. Maybe it's not much of a reward to be the No. 1 seed.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 1 Fresno-Edison, 24-17. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 3 Clovis North
9. Wasco (4-1, Division IV, last week: 8) — Bakersfield Christian is on the cusp of these rankings after three impressive performances in a row, and Wasco has been quietly going about its business. It's still my thought that the Tigers are clear favorites in the SSL and in Division IV — for the latter, it's instructive to realize Mission Oak has also looked very good in the first half, and for the former, well, we'll find out next week when Wasco invades Bakersfield Christian. Meanwhile, this week's Wasco game is one of the more lopsided high school matchups you'll ever see.
LAST WEEK: won at Chavez, 57-3. THIS WEEK: vs. Kennedy
10. Visalia-El Diamante (5-1, Division II, last week: 10) — Only four regular-season games left for the Miners, and only two real chances to find out who they are, exactly: That would be Weeks 8 and 9 against Redwood and Lemoore. Other than that, we've seen El Diamante beat up on opposition ranging from mediocre to decent, and then lose big against one big-time opponent in Central. Get all that? Point is, we know the Miners are good. If they can take care of Redwood and Lemoore and win the WYL, they'll be heavy D-II favorites.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Hanford, 38-0. THIS WEEK: BYE
11. Porterville (5-0, Division III, last week: 11) — Week 6 action provides a mouth-watering appetizer on Thursday night, as Porterville — already having established itself as Division III favorite with a win at Dinuba — hosts Mission Oak in a game that probably decides the East Yosemite League and could provide a boost to the Panthers into the top 10. The Panthers have slowed down from their breakneck pace early, but they still average a mind-bending 56.6 points per game.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 15 Tulare-Mission Oak
12. Fresno-Bullard (4-1, Division I, last week: 12) — I do wonder if I've punished the Knights too much for their loss to Clovis West; again, this was a top-seven team in the section before the surprising setback. But Bullard's non-league opponents are a combined 7-16, and I just can't find myself being impressed yet. If Bullard rolls through an early CMAC schedule that includes Memorial and Sanger, this ranking will go up before the season-ending showdown with Bullard. If not, I'll remain unconvinced.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Fresno-Hoover, 56-25. THIS WEEK: at Madera South
13. Dinuba (5-1, Division III, last week: 13) — The Central Sequoia League will provide one of the section's more entertaining races. The Emperors are clearly the favorites going in, but all four of the other teams have winning records. Kingsburg is unbeaten, CVC is 4-1 with a victory against Bakersfield Christian, and Exeter is 4-2 with a win at Tehachapi. So buckle up, because Dinuba isn't done with challenges.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Delano, 45-8. THIS WEEK: vs. Visalia-Central Valley Christian
14. Garces (3-2, Division II, last week: 14) — Next year, Garces won't have any issues like this, but the Rams' next four opponents all have 1-4 records, and none figure to provide any kind of opposition. How to stay sharp — or simply awake — against that schedule and then gear it back up for Tehachapi and SWYL play is the question that Jim Maples and staff must answer if this team is to make a run at another D-II title.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. Highland
15. Tulare-Mission Oak (5-0, Division IV, last week: 15) — There's another angle to take heading into Thursday's Mission Oak-Porterville showdown, and that's that it should give us a glimpse of how much the Hawks can challenge Wasco in Division IV. Last year, Mission Oak didn't even get a chance, falling to Bakersfield Christian in the semifinals. But a win over Porterville would be a loud reminder that this team should not be taken lightly, by the EYL or by the rest of the section's very deep Division IV.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Visalia-Mt. Whitney, 41-0 (Thursday). THIS WEEK: at No. 11 Porterville (Thursday)
16. Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial (4-1, Division II, last week: 16)
17. Centennial (3-2, Division I, last week: 18)
18. Visalia-Redwood (5-1, Division II, last week: 19)
19. Lemoore (4-2, Division II, last week: 21)
20. Stockdale (2-3, Division I, last week: 20)
21. Sanger (4-1, Division II, last week: 22)
22. Kingsburg (5-0, Division II, last week: NR)
23. Fresno-Sunnyside (2-3, Division II, last week: 23)
24. South (5-0, Division III, last week: 24)
25. Tehachapi (3-2, Division II, last week: NR)
Dropped out: No. 17 Ridgeview, No. 25 Lindsay