With a limited local schedule on tap for Friday night, while several of the area’s teams enjoy a bye week, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a closer look at local high school football as we enter the midway point of the season.
Here are five takeaways from the first five weeks of the 2019 season:
The Southeast Yosemite League is much-improved
The SEYL has a combined 19-8 record, with South (3-1) and Mira Monte (1-3) the only teams in action this week. The Rebels play at West, while the Lions travel to Morro Bay. East, North and Highland are all 4-1, with Foothill sitting at 3-2. The Lions (1-3) are coming off their first win of the year. If you throw out the Lions’ 0-3 record against the South Sequoia League, the remaining five teams are 6-2 against the SSL and 8-1 in head-to-head matchups with South Yosemite League teams.
Don’t let the record full you
Despite a combined sub-.500 record, at least three schools should still be considered among the top teams in the area. The combination of a difficult preseason schedule and some key injuries have left Bakersfield High (2-2), Ridgeview (2-3) and Garces (1-3) in unfamiliar territory heading into Week 6 of the season. The Drillers lost to state-ranked Calabasas in their season opener, and then dropped a close game to SoCal power Paramount two weeks later. Now, following a bye week, BHS travels to play another perennial state power, Chatsworth-Sierra Canyon, on Friday for its final pre-league tuneup. The Wolf Pack played without starting quarterback Justin Hinzo (shoulder injury) last week and lost his backup Anthony Ramirez (head injury) on the last play of the first quarter in a road loss at 5-0 Clovis North. Ridgeview’s other two defeats are to BHS and Liberty. Playing without starting quarterback Joseph Campbell (Valley fever), the Rams failed to score a point in their first two games of the season. But with Campbell back at the helm for Week 4, Garces lost a close game at Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial before getting on track in a 63-0 win over Tehachapi last week. The Rams host Santa Maria-Pioneer Valley on Friday.
There are a lot of very athletic quarterbacks in Kern County
The term double-threat can be overused at times, but this season, I have to keep it 100, and call it like I see it, because these signal-callers can do it on the ground and through the air. That’s particularly true among the area’s small schools where Kennedy’s Jose Cota, Cameron Huerta from Chavez, McFarland’s Julian Avila and Kern Valley’s Kaden Preston have consistently put up video-game type numbers.
Cota showcased his abilities in a 78-13 victory over Taft last week, rushing for 192 yards and four touchdowns, and throwing for another 133 yards and a score in a little more than two quarters of work for the 5-0 Thunderbirds. Huerta has combined for more than 800 total yards and eight touchdowns. Avila rushed for 358 yards and three scores in a Week 4 victory over Kern Valley, and Preston had 397 yards and two TDs passing, and added another 154 yards rushing and a score in last week’s loss to Mira Monte.
Plenty of game-changing performances stand out
There have been several impressive performances in the past five weeks that have caught my attention. There are countless other impressive performances, but these are the ones that made me take a second look: Shamar Oliver had 305 yards and three touchdowns to lead Mira Monte to its first victory of the season last week. South’s Daniel Lomax also rushed for more than 300 yards and three scores in the Rebels’ 42-26 win at Fresno in Week 4. Bakersfield Christian tight end Ben Yurosek had nine catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in a road victory over Santa Maria-St. Joseph earlier this month. He also had three sacks as a defensive end. Liberty's Ramon Henderson has two special teams touchdowns this year, but his best individual performance may have been in a Week 2 victory over Ridgeview. He had five catches for 146 yards and two TDs, with all five receptions going for a first down. Then there was Bakersfield's Wesley Wilson, who had 141 of his 142 yards rushing in the second half to help the Drillers beat the Wolf Pack in Week 4. North senior defensive back Waltrevon Lenoir had three of his area-leading seven interceptions in the Stars’ 33-20 win over West in Week 5. In the opening week, Highland’s Shabazz Muhammad had 196 yards receiving and two TDs, and returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score. On defense, he had five tackles and an interception.
Liberty is top dog, but there's plenty of parity among top teams
With a string of solid performances, Liberty (4-1) has established itself as the obvious choice as the best team in the area. The Patriots had four road games to start its season, including games at Ridgeview, Clovis West and Clovis-Buchanan, and somehow survived virtually unscathed. But can they hold that position? With SWYL play starting next week, we’re about to find out. Bakersfield (2-2), which plays the Patriots the final night of the regular season, appears to have the best chance among league opponents, although an improving Garces (1-3) squad could be dangerous, and Frontier, Centennial and Stockdale are all 3-2 and have at least one victory each against a quality opponent this season. Bakersfield Christian (3-1) and Ridgeview figure to be the class of the SYL, with West (1-3) looking like the wild card. In the SSL, Kennedy looks primed to captured its first league title, but the Thunderbirds still have difficult matchups with Chavez (4-1) and Wasco (2-2) in the coming weeks.