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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
This is late notice, but if you're into high school volleyball, we'll be broadcasting one of the best matches of the regular season at 6:15 p.m. tonight, Liberty at Centennial. Both are 4-0 in the Southwest Yosemite League, which — believe it or not — is even better and deeper in volleyball than it is in football.
Log on to bakersfield.com to check it out.
The depth of the SWYL in football actually got a boost Friday night, with Stockdale routing Centennial and Frontier, now 0-2 in the league, pushing Liberty to the limit. But like in college football with the SEC on Saturday, the rash of surprises means the top teams don't look as good. That will be reflected in these rankings, though Bakersfield and Liberty still seem to be in good shape for a high seed.
In other news, anything outside the top 10 is a mess in these rankings. Check out some others (Fresno Bee, Nick Papagni) or try to come up with your own. You can justify a lot of different ways to look at teams. And things might just get more complicated from here.
1. Fresno-Edison (7-0, Division I, last week: 1) — As expected, the Tigers are having no trouble with the County-Metro Athletic Conference. After dispatching of Sanger in a tricky road game, Edison blew out Madera South behind a balanced offensive attack. There are two tricky games left, at San Joaquin Memorial and against Bullard in a big season finale. Win both, and it would be hard to deny a 10-0 Tigers team the No. 1 seed, even if the schedule doesn't match up with that of other D-I contenders.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Madera South, 48-7. THIS WEEK: vs. Madera
2. Bakersfield (5-2, Division I, last week: 2) — Speaking of offensive balance, seven different Drillers scored a touchdown each against Independence. A few weeks back, you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who didn't think Edison deserved No. 1, but the tide is starting to shift. The big blow in that discussion, of course, was the Drillers' 45-10 beatdown of Liberty, but BHS has three easy wins in a row now. This team is both explosive and consistent, which makes it very scary over the next seven weeks.
LAST WEEK: won at Independence, 49-7. THIS WEEK: at No. 14 Frontier
3. Clovis North (6-1, Division I, last week: 3) — Not that any game in the TRAC is easy, per se, but of the three league title contenders, the Broncos are the ones who got the preliminaries out of the way early. That changes the next two weeks with a visit to Central and a game against Clovis. Win those, and the defending champion Broncos are going to be a No. 3 seed at absolute worst. Lose one or both, and things get much more murky. Right now, however, for my money, this is the favorite in the league race.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Clovis East, 42-6. THIS WEEK: at No. 4 Fresno-Central
4. Fresno-Central (5-2, Division I, last week: 6) — The Grizzlies scored late on Thursday to beat Clovis in a dogfight of a TRAC game and now get the boost above Liberty, even though the Patriots own a head-to-head victory. For one thing, that game was in triple overtime, and for another, Central was missing star running back Nick Wilson. The Patriots still likely will be seeded ahead of Central, wherever they end up, but with two top-10 wins, the Grizzlies have done enough to earn this slot.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 4 Clovis, 13-9 (Thursday). THIS WEEK: vs. No. 3 Clovis North
5. Liberty (6-1, Division I, last week: 5) — If the Patriots end up having a special season, look to the fourth quarter of last week's game as a turning point. The previous seven quarters had been awful, to be frank, with a 45-10 loss against Bakersfield and a 30-14 deficit against Frontier. But two touchdowns, two 2-point conversions and an overtime victory later, Liberty is back in the driver's seat for a top-four seed in Division I. Now the challenge will be to keep it going against a surging Stockdale team.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 11 Frontier, 37-36 (OT). THIS WEEK: vs. No. 12 Stockdale
6. Clovis (5-2, Division I, last week: 4) — A team that has made a living the past few years on winning close, defensive games, the Cougars couldn't quite close out Central last week and now are on the outside looking in in the TRAC race. They'll need Clovis North to beat Central on Friday and then take out the Broncos next week to force a three-way tie. That would be a fine mess for the seeding committee to sort out. First though, Clovis must take care of winless Buchanan and stay healthy for the finishing stretch.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. No. 6 Fresno-Central, 13-9 (Thursday). THIS WEEK: vs. Clovis-Buchanan
7. Tulare-Mission Oak (7-0, Division IV, last week: 8) — As expected, the Hawks had no trouble with an out-manned Monache team last week, pitching their second shutout in three weeks. But the best news of the week for Mission Oak came from Bakersfield Christian, where Wasco took its first Division IV loss in two years. That makes the Hawks a clear No. 1 seed and favorite in D-IV (though I'd look out for BCHS, which beat Mission Oak in the playoffs last year and was mighty impressive Friday) — and it also lifted MO to No. 2 in Cal Hi Sports' Southern Cal Division III rankings. That means if the Hawks continue to win, they'll likely be playing for a state bowl berth in December.
LAST WEEK: won at Porterville-Monache, 39-0. THIS WEEK: at No. 19 Tulare Western
8. Visalia-El Diamante (6-1, Division II, last week: 9) — It's too bad we don't get an El Diamante-Mission Oak game to determine the best team in Tulare County. It would be a doozy, because the Miners just pitched their second shutout in a row and third of the season. In fact, El Diamante hasn't played a game closer than 21 points. Only problem is that they lost one of those, a 42-7 defeat against Central. Tough games the next two weeks against Redwood and Lemoore. A sweep means El D will be the WYL champion and the top seed in Division II.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Hanford West, 42-0. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 15 Visalia-Redwood
9. Clovis West (2-5, Division I, last week: 12) — It seems strange to put a 2-5 team this high, even with a win over Bullard. But the Golden Eagles have proven themselves a tough out. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see them throw a wrench into the TRAC race with a win against Central or Clovis in the final two weeks, but first Clovis West must take care of the league's other minnow. They pulled away from Buchanan in a game tied 7-7 at halftime.
LAST WEEK: won at Clovis-Buchanan, 23-7. THIS WEEK: vs. Clovis East
10. Fresno-Bullard (6-1, Division I, last week: 13) — Central's win over Clovis makes the Grizzlies a bona fide contender for the Division I title, so I'm making Bullard my designated sleeper™ team. The Knights slipped up against Clovis West, which is going to hurt their seed, but this is a team playing some good ball right now. Dejonte O'neal, Isaiah Justice and Trelani Johnson all ran for more than 130 yards in an impressive blowout of Memorial last week.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 17 Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial, 56-13. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 24 Sanger
11. Garces (5-2, Division II, last week: 15) — The farewell tour of the Southeast Yosemite League is going as planned for the Rams, who have outscored Highland and North 88-13 in their first two league games. That will probably continue the next two weeks. The offense, built around superstar RB Sheldon Croney, is finding a nice balance, too: QB Jake Pavletich has thrown eight TD passes the past two weeks, six of them to Jack Lundy. Up next is Garces' final road game of the regular season.
LAST WEEK: won at North, 41-7. THIS WEEK: at Foothill
12. Stockdale (4-3, Division I, last week: 20) — Whoa. That was some impressive stuff from the Mustangs. Anthony Wood tweeted before the game that he was tired of Stockdale being "underrated," and then his team went out and gave us a reason to rate them higher: A pasting of Centennial led by 151 yards and 2 TDs rushing from Wood, who is on the brink of 1,000 yards on the season. The opportunities have become very big now for Stockdale, which still has an unbeaten SWYL mark with Liberty, Frontier and Bakersfield left.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 10 Centennial, 32-7. THIS WEEK: at No. 5 Liberty
13. Centennial (4-3, Division I, last week: 10) — Momentum is a fleeting thing, and the Golden Hawks lost all of theirs Friday night in the form of three turnovers and a bad punt in the first quarter at Stockdale. As it is, this is a blip on the radar for a team that has still made a massive turnaround this season. But this week's game against Independence is basically a must-win; Centennial's school policy is that teams must be .500 to enter the playoffs, and the Hawks don't want to enter a finishing stretch at Bakersfield and home for Liberty needing another win to get there.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 20 Stockdale, 32-7. THIS WEEK: vs. Independence
14. Frontier (3-4, Division I, last week: 11) — The loss to Centennial is more of a head-scratcher this week than last, but one thing is clear: The Titans are a much better team with a healthy Colton Foster on both the offensive and defensive lines. He was a monster against Ridgeview and Lompoc early in the season, and his injury coincided with Frontier's slide. He came back next week and the Titans had one of the section's elite teams on the ropes. The collapse at the end hurts, and 0-3 in the SWYL is staring Frontier in the face, but don't forget about these guys.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 5 Liberty, 37-36 (OT). THIS WEEK: vs. No. 2 Bakersfield
15. Visalia-Redwood (6-1, Division II, last week: 18) — Here's a team that's quietly putting together a pretty nice resume. A 9-7 victory over Tulare Western back in Week 0 looks much better now than it did then, as does the loss to Centennial. Redwood was pushed by Hanford in its last game, though, and it'll have to play better to compete with a streaking El Diamante team this week. An upset could mean the No. 1 seed in Division II; a loss, and Redwood could drop all the way to a No. 4 or 5 seed.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 8 Visalia-El Diamante
16. Kingsburg (6-1, Division II, last week: 25)
17. Lemoore (6-2, Division II, last week: 19)
18. Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial (5-2, Division I, last week: 17)
19. Tulare Western (5-2, Division III, last week: NR)"
20. Bakersfield Christian (5-2, Division IV, last week: NR)
21. Wasco (5-2, Division IV, last week: 7)
22. Porterville (5-2, Division III, last week: 14)
23. Dinuba (6-2, Division III, last week: 16)
24. Sanger (4-3, Division II, last week: 21)
25. Visalia-Central Valley Christian (5-2, Division IV, last week: NR)
Dropped out: No. 22 Fresno-Sunnyside, No. 23 South, No. 24 Tehachapi