A personal note before we begin this week's predictions: As you might have seen on social media, I am leaving The Californian at the end of next week. I've taken a job as Night Sports Editor at The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La. It'll be a huge change for me and my family but also an exciting step for me in my career.
I'm going to miss almost everything about Bakersfield and about this job, especially BVarsity, which I have been in charge of since its infancy in 2012, and all the wonderful people I've met and had the privilege of working with. I'll even miss my love/hate relationship with 3,000-word prediction columns.
More on that later. I still have two of these bad boys to write, so here we go. Last week went a little more according to script than the season's first two weeks, though Frontier winning at Ridgeview was certainly a bit of a surprise, as was Tehachapi rebounding from an awful first game to beat Garces in overtime. Those results and more are discussed as get into Week 4 (already), beginning with an important Thursday matchup.
Thursday, Sept. 14
LIBERTY (1-1) at CLOVIS-BUCHANAN (3-0) — This is a huge game on a short turnaround for both teams. That's especially true for Liberty, which had to travel back from Fresno late Friday night after taking a beating from Central and then must drive back to Clovis tomorrow morning to take on another very good team. Buchanan has handled its three opponents with ease, but those opponents are two Division II teams and struggling Bullard. None are nearly as good as Liberty, which wasn't quite as bad against Central as the 30-3 scoreline indicates. The Patriots weren't good at finishing drives and had a couple of big turnovers, but they were able to move the ball between the 20s and kept Central's offense from going completely hog-wild. I also think this is a proud team that should circle the wagons and come up with its best performance of the season. Buchanan has the home-field edge, especially given the short week, but I'm siding with strength of schedule and last year's performance here when I pick Liberty.
Zach's pick: Liberty 28, Buchanan 20
Trevor's pick: Liberty 28, Buchanan 24
CALIFORNIA CITY (0-2) at LANCASTER (0-2) — Lancaster hasn't won since 2015. Cal City hasn't won this year, and that includes a loss to a bad Littlerock team. So which wins, the movable object or the resistible force? I'll go with the home team.
Zach's pick: Lancaster 24, California City 23
Trevor's pick: California City 20, Lancaster 14
Friday, Sept. 15
BAKERSFIELD (1-1) at WEST HILLS-CHAMINADE (2-1)
(Live broadcast on Bakersfield.com and BVarsity Live Facebook page)
This is the clash of a Central Section titan against a state titan in Chaminade, which carries a No. 4 state ranking and No. 9 national ranking by MaxPreps/Calpreps. The Eagles, led by Highland alumnus Ed Croson, came to Bakersfield last year and beat BHS, though had the Drillers not lost four fumbles there likely would have been a different outcome. Somehow, however, Chaminade lost its starting quarterback (Brevin White) and running back (T.J. Pledger) off that team to transfer and has emerged even better. Part of that is life as a private school with reinforcements ready and willing to come in, sure, but it's also progress on the part of returning coaches. Chaminade gave St. John Bosco all it wanted for three quarters in its one loss, and it has pulverized Oaks Christian and Mountain Pointe of Phoenix in its other two games. This is a true national power.
But forget, for a moment, the Drillers winning the game, even though in a perfect world they're certainly capable. This is more about how BHS responds two weeks after its worst defensive performance of the Paul Golla era. Bakersfield allowed 63 points and more than 600 yards to Orem two weeks ago. A bye week isn't going to solve all of those problems, but it's also possible the Drillers just had a really bad day. A really bad day in this game would result in an even worse loss, given the talent on the opposite sideline. A good day, with the defense cleaning up the mistakes and quarterback Cameron Williams on target, would result in a close game. BHS isn't into moral victories, but that would be a step in the right direction.
Zach's pick: Chaminade 38, Bakersfield 20
Trevor's pick: Chaminade 38, Bakersfield 21 (OK, Trevor this is getting creepy)
EAST (2-0) at HIGHLAND (2-0) — Two examples of east-side programs who have built things the right way, and coaches David Fanucchi and Michael Gutierrez deserve a lot of credit for that, as do their players and administrations. I doubted Highland last week, and the Scots showed me by taking control of Kennedy early and holding off the Thunderbirds late. East, meanwhile, rolled against another overmatched opponent. The defenses are the strengths of both of these teams, so the difference could be which offense gets going a little more consistently. I like the experience East has along the offensive line and the consistency at quarterback, where Richard Lara has the job to himself. Zeke Arambulo and Cade Sakamoto have had no issues splitting duty (it's been mostly Arambulo), but in a game like this, I'm not crazy about splitting snaps. This will be by far the toughest test for either team, and the winner has a legitimate shot at getting into the latter stages of the season undefeated. What a showcase for east-Bakersfield football, and in what should be a close game, I'll go with the flagship program on that side of town ... the East High Blades.
Zach's pick: East 25, Highland 21
Trevor's pick: Highland 21, East 20
BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN (2-1) at TEHACHAPI (1-1) — A fierce rivalry from the days both teams were in the South Sequoia League and played a number of close games, this one is intriguing even as a non-league game. For one thing, it'll be important for Division III seeding – and BCHS in particular doesn't have many chances to earn head-to-head victories against other D-III teams. Also, this one looks like a much better matchup than it did two weeks ago, when BCHS lost to CVC and Tehachapi was trounced at home by Burroughs in the only games involving local teams that weekend. They both bounced back in big fashion last Friday, with the Eagles routing Mission Oak and Tehachapi taking out rival Garces in overtime. The Warriors get to be back at home for this one (their third straight home game, with the next four coming on the road), and BCHS should have quarterback Braden Wingle at something close to 100 percent after a knee sprain has limited him the first three weeks. The advantage here goes to the Eagles, who should have the capability of more explosive plays assuming Wingle is indeed healthy. Tehachapi is a tough nut to crack, but the Warriors also don't have big plays at the ready like BCHS usually does.
Zach's pick: Bakersfield Christian 34, Tehachapi 23
Trevor's pick: Bakersfield Christian 35, Tehachapi 27
FRESNO-BULLARD (0-3) at CENTENNIAL (1-1) — It's still early in these teams' seasons, but you could see this being a game that they both need to be ensured of a decent playoff seed, or in Centennial's case, perhaps a playoff bid at all (the Golden Hawks have to be .500 to enter the playoffs by school rule and still have games with six more teams ranked in the BVarsity Top 25). Bullard was much better last week against Clovis after being bombarded by Central and Buchanan in the opening weeks. The Golden Hawks should really be 2-0 but lost their opener at Diamond Ranch because of bad luck and poor execution in the red zone. This is a pretty tough call, given that both teams showed significant signs of life last week, but I think quarterback Will Alexander is rounding into form along with Centennial's improving offensive line. The Golden Hawks get a big win at home.
Zach's pick: Centennial 24, Bullard 20
Trevor's pick: Centennial 34, Bullard 21
ATASCADERO (1-2) at FRONTIER (2-0) — Frontier's victory against Ridgeview was huge for more reasons than just a feather in the cap for Chris Bandy, the former longtime Wolf Pack assistant. The Titans have a good chance now at reaching 5-0 before opening Southwest Yosemite League play against Liberty and Bakersfield. That would mean their Week 9 game against Stockdale could very well be for the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in Division II. Atascadero provides a good early measuring stick between those teams, given that the Greyhounds just lost 28-0 to Stockdale last week. Can Frontier do something similar? Perhaps not defensively, but with Tye Johnson leading the way, this is a ground offense that's tough to stop, and the passing game makes enough big plays to keep defenses honest.
Zach's pick: Frontier 31, Atascadero 13
Trevor's pick: Frontier 28, Atascadero 14
STOCKDALE (1-1) at CLOVIS (2-1) — What a performance from Stockdale after the disappointing opener against Ridgeview; the Mustangs are one of the teams that really responded well to the impromptu week off. Linebacker Nick Maiden is turning into a star, and he's a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in the BVarsity area. Clovis, meanwhile, scuffled before putting away Bullard, and this after the Cougars lost 14-13 at home to Turlock the week before. The Cougars' offense hasn't been very good, and that could cause problems against Stockdale. Still, ultimately at home, I think Clovis will find a way to stifle Stockdale's offense just enough or force a couple of mistakes to win this game. I'm taking the more seasoned team at home.
Zach's pick: Clovis 17, Stockdale 12
Trevor's pick: Stockdale 20, Clovis 13
RIDGEVIEW (1-1) at FRESNO-CENTRAL (3-0) — Just like last year, it's hard to fathom how Ridgeview can stay in the game long-term against a Central team that has so many offensive weapons. The Wolf Pack has plenty of athletes who are capable of big plays, but it hasn't shown the ability to grind out consistent offense. Against Central, if you don't do that, you're going to get buried sooner or later. And with the way the Grizzlies have been, it's more likely to be sooner. Ridgeview absolutely must avoid early turnovers and try to get out to some kind of a lead. Even then, though, stopping this Central tidal wave seems like too tall of a task.
Zach's pick: Central 45, Ridgeview 14
Trevor's pick: Central 42, Ridgeview 7
INDEPENDENCE (1-1) at SOUTH (2-0) — Another really important Division III seeding clash here, and it precedes two really tough games against Tulare Union and Stockdale for the Falcons to end their non-conference schedule. Indy probably deserved better than a 24-10 loss to Arroyo Grande last week, but the Falcons turned the ball over too much and got snake-bitten by a capable team. Could that happen again here? Certainly, but I have a feeling Independence will bounce back. South has a good team again, but the Rebels also have feasted on Chavez and Arvin, neither of whom appears very strong this year. Chalk this one up as another vote for strength of schedule. I'm taking a leap of faith here, but I think Independence gets a signature win for its program.
Zach's pick: Independence 26, South 23
Trevor's pick: South 21, Independence 19
SHAFTER (2-0) at GOLDEN VALLEY (1-1) — Two of the better players in Kern County will go at it in this game in quarterbacks Alex Aguilar of Shafter (426 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INT passing; 184 yards, 3 TDs rushing in two games) and Carl Jones of Golden Valley (178 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT passing; 150 yards, 1 TD rushing; 1 KO return TD in two games) are stars in different ways, but they'll define this game. Again, however, I'm just not sure if Shafter can ramp up its level given that it's played Mira Monte and Foothill. Golden Valley, meanwhile, lost to Centennial last week in a game that should have it ready for anything the Generals can test the Bulldogs with. That doesn't mean GV will win automatically, of course, but I like the ability of Jones and Donovan Bravo to make a few more big plays than Aguilar and receivers Issac Enriquez and Jackson Sanchez in this one.
Zach's pick: Golden Valley 34, Shafter 28
Trevor's pick: Golden Valley 35, Shafter 33
WEST (1-0) at FOOTHILL (0-2) — What a first three weeks for West, which had to wait an eternity to finally play a regular-season game, then jumping all over Chavez in the first two and a half quarters, then holding on for dear life as the Titans came charging back. As it is, the Vikings are 1-0 for just the second time since 2013, and that's a good thing. Now for the real stunning statistic: West hasn't been 2-0 since 2003. That's the year I started college, and my daughter is closer to college than I am at this point. The Vikings have a shot to do it, too, given Foothill's struggles. West would love to see a complete game in this one; if it can do that, it'll have that 2-0 milestone under its belt.
Zach's pick: West 35, Foothill 21
Trevor's pick: West 28, Foothill 12
DELANO (0-1) at NORTH (1-1) — North's an interesting case early in the season, having a blowout loss to Independence and a blowout win against Wasco. Are Indy and Wasco that much different in quality? I'm not sure about that, so it's my guess that the Stars improved significantly between Weeks 1 and 3. That's a sign of good coaching from Norm Brown and his staff, and it's also a sign that perhaps some preseason jitters carried over. Now that those are out of the way, it's Delano that's in an awkward spot here, having played Week 1 but then getting two weeks off because of the heat cancellations and a scheduled bye. So the Tigers may not have their rhythm down yet, and in a close matchup on paper, that could cost them the game.
Zach's pick: North 30, Delano 21
Trevor's pick: North 21, Delano 13
MIRA MONTE (0-2) at ARVIN (0-2) — This one is the something's-gotta-give bowl, with two teams that haven't won much in the past three years. The Lions are 4-28 since the start of the 2014 season, and Arvin isn't much better at 5-27 (and one of Mira Monte's wins was against Arvin last year). The hope is that for one of these teams, a victory here could spark a couple more wins and a season that's a positive step in the right direction. I'll give this one to Arvin, which is looking to snap a 13-game losing streak dating to Oct. 30, 2015.
Zach's pick: Arvin 33, Mira Monte 30
Trevor's pick: Arvin 14, Mira Monte 7
KENNEDY (1-1) at KERMAN (2-1) — A disappointing first half torpedoed Kennedy's hopes in a big game against a Division III team in Highland last week, but the Thunderbirds still showed that they're certainly a team to watch in Division V. Now they take on a D-IV contender in Kerman, which owns quality wins against Madera South and Coalinga and a very close quality loss to Selma. If Kennedy can win, it'll be another marquee win for Dennis Moody. They've got a chance, but the Lions should take care of business here at home.
Zach's pick: Kerman 28, Kennedy 14
Trevor's pick: Kerman 28, Kennedy 21
KERN VALLEY (1-1) at McFARLAND (2-0) — Speaking of lower-division contenders, McFarland has positioned itself as a team to watch in Division VI with a couple of defense-first wins. Kern Valley has been competitive in D-V but was moved down to D-VI and should also be a team to look at there. That makes this a big seeding game and a tough one to call, given that KV has only played at home and McFarland hasn't played a solid opponent yet. I'm leaning Kern Valley on the road based on experience alone, but this should be a drag-down defensive affair, and it's a tough one to call.
Zach's pick: Kern Valley 14, McFarland 13
Trevor's pick: Kern Valley 21, McFarland 19
FRESNO-McLANE (0-2) at WASCO (0-2) — Well, so much for the idea that Wasco would get significantly better in its second game under Rick Stewart. The Tigers did double their offensive output, from one touchdown to two, but the defense gave up 40 to North and the game wasn't close. So what now? Well, McLane might offer some respite. The Highlanders have been outscored 95-14 in their first two games, and though Wasco might not be as good as Hanford West or Exeter, I think the Tigers – who I still believe will continue to grow – are good enough to get their first win under Stewart here.
Zach's pick: Wasco 28, McLane 13
Trevor's pick: Wasco 28, McLane 6
TAFT (0-2) at EXETER (3-0) — Things didn't get any better for Taft after the 55-0 opening loss to Golden Valley and a week off. Porterville beat the Wildcats 33-6 and made a long start to the season even longer for coach George Falgout and his players. Now comes a trip to Exeter, which is riding high at 3-0 after going 4-6 a year ago. That seems like the recipe for another really tough night for Taft.
Zach's pick: Exeter 42, Taft 7
Trevor's pick: Exeter 42, Taft 14
FRAZIER MOUNTAIN (0-2, 0-0 CSiL) at LEMOORE-KINGS CHRISTIAN (2-1, 0-0) — One good bit of news for Frazier Mountain is that the Falcons are actually scoring points this year. They have 28 in their first two games; last year, it took them four games to get up to 34. So that's a good thing, but Frazier has allowed 105 points in those games. That's um, a bad thing.
Zach's pick: Kings Christian 52, Frazier Mountain 13
Trevor's pick: Kings Christian 28, Frazier Mountain 20
PASADENA-BLAIR (1-1) at MARICOPA (0-1) — Speaking of teams that hadn't yet earned an 8-man win, Desert got its first out of the way last week against Maricopa. That doesn't speak good things for the Indians, but Blair also isn't very good. Eh, I'll go with the home team.
Zach's pick: Maricopa 28, Blair 27
Trevor's pick: Maricopa 35, Blair 28
Saturday, Sept. 16
GARCES (0-3) at FRESNO-SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL (3-0) — The downside of scheduling tough for Garces: After a close loss to Tehachapi last week and a close-ish loss to Bakersfield Christian in the opener, the Rams are 0-3 and staring at a very poor season, at least record-wise. Garces plays 0-3 Edison next week, so there might be an opportunity there, but the Tigers are a strong 0-3; there also could be chances for wins in Southwest Yosemite League play, though as we know that's not easy, either. So that leaves this game, and Memorial is a tough customer. Junior quarterback Alec Trujillo enters this Holy Bowl with some eye-popping stats through three games: 69.2 percent completion, 968 yards and 14 touchdowns (plus 4 interceptions). That's an average game of 323 yards, 5 touchdowns and a pick. Yeah, that'll do, especially when you consider the Panthers also have run the ball for an average of 295.3 yards per game. The Rams have shown they can be salty on defense at times, but that's a lot of firepower they're up against. On the other side of the ball, Isaiah Martin has been just fine for Garces, but defenses know he's gonna get the ball a lot, and so his 219 yards have come without a lot of big plays (none over 30 yards, and an average of 4.1 per carry). That puts more pressure on sophomore Joseph Campbell and the passing offense, and that seems like a bad thing when Memorial could turn this thing into a track meet.
Zach's pick: San Joaquin Memorial 44, Garces 31
Trevor's pick: San Joaquin Memorial 28, Garces 14
Zach last week: 11-7 (.611)
Zach this year: 29-17 (.630)
Zach all-time: 2,000-556 (.782)
Trevor last week: 10-8 (.556)
Trevor this year: 26-20 (.565)
Trevor all-time: 622-242 (.720)