BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
This set of rankings is dedicated to my son Thomas, born at 12:55 p.m. Saturday. He was 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches long — so maybe I'm wrong, maybe he will be a linebacker. He's a lot bigger than his sister was, anyway.
Mom and baby are happy and healthy, and that makes me happy and healthy.
On second thought, I'm so unsure of these rankings that I'm not sure I want my son associated with them. Hmm. The good news is that of the nine teams in my preseason top 10 that played, eight won, most rather easily. The exception was No. 2 Edison, which lost to No. 4 Clovis. Then again, teams 11, 12 and 13 all lost by double digits.
So here goes nothing. By the end of the year, these will represent some intelligent analysis of the Central Section. For now, they are still one man's guess.
1. Bakersfield (1-0, Division I, last week: 1) — If anything, the Drillers made themselves even more of a clear-cut No. 1 by blitzing Ventura (11-1 a year ago) on the road. Think about this: Kevin Hayes, perhaps Bakersfield's best returning offensive player, stuck mostly to defense and didn't catch a pass. Bakersfield still rolled to a 34-7 halftime lead.
LAST WEEK: won at Ventura, 48-14. THIS WEEK: Saturday vs. Glendale (Ariz.)-Cactus (at Encino-Crespi)
2. Clovis (1-0, Division I, last week: 4) — It was Centennial that put the biggest scare into Bakersfield during the playoffs last year, but it was Clovis who probably had the second-best season. The Cougars-Drillers semifinal was supposed to be the final until a late upset changed the seedings, and after Clovis' defense whipped on talented Edison in Week 0, it looks like these teams could meet in the final again. First, both have huge showcase games down south that could make or break their chances for a state bowl berth.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 2 Fresno-Edison, 27-10. THIS WEEK: Saturday vs. El Toro-Lake Forest (at Mission Viejo)
3. Clovis North (1-0, Division I, last week: 3) — With what Bakersfield and Clovis were doing in the north and south last week and what El Diamante was doing to Tulare Union in the middle, perhaps the weekend's underrated result was the Broncos' dismantling of a very good Atascadero team on the road. By the end of last season, when it won the D-II title, Clovis North had developed an offense to go with the defense. The offense is already caught up this year.
LAST WEEK: won at Atascadero, 41-21. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 12 Visalia-El Diamante
4. Fresno-Central (1-0, Division I, last week: 7) — The Grizzlies don't move up three spots on the strength of last week's whacking of Hanford alone, but I'm quite sure I had them too low to begin with. Now that another Central team has me seeing stars, though, we'll see if this one follows through come November and possibly December.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 25 Hanford, 44-3. THIS WEEK: at No. 7 Liberty
5. Fresno-Bullard (1-0, Division I, last week: 5) — A slow start didn't hurt the Knights in their opener — they stormed back to beat Paso Robles (3-6 last year) comfortably — but they don't want to get into that habit. Up next comes three straight games against TRAC competition — though none of the favorites listed above are on the schedule.
LAST WEEK: won at Paso Robles, 33-14. THIS WEEK: vs. Clovis-Buchanan
6. Garces (1-0, Division II, last week: 6) — Like Bullard, the Rams survived a slow start on the coast, though Garces' test came against a better team in San Luis Obispo and required much more drama. Cruise Adams threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, the last to Jack Anspach with 1:13 left, to nip SLO by a point. Adams finished with 344 passing yards, Jake Sweaney with 135 receiving yards and two of the TDs. This ain't your older brother's Garces.
LAST WEEK: won at San Luis Obispo, 21-20. THIS WEEK: vs. Golden Valley
7. Liberty (1-0, Division I, last week: 8) — So running game and defense might be flashy after all. Few in the section could match the stat line of Patriots running back Corbin Jountti, who went for 192 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters of action against Delano. Pretty fair chance that it won't get any easier for Liberty, though.
LAST WEEK: won at Delano, 56-7. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 4 Fresno-Central
8. Fresno-Edison (0-1, Division I, last week: 2) — There's no shame in losing to Clovis, but these top eight are tightly bunched, the way I see it, and none were less impressive than the Tigers. Whether new coach Ricky Manning and veteran quarterback Khari McGee can find a way to make it work will determine the path of this season.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 4 Clovis, 27-10. THIS WEEK: Saturday vs. Carson
9. Fresno-Washington Union (0-0, Division III, last week: 9) — I'm keeping the Panthers here for now because I think they've got enough depth left from last year's team to be the favorites in Division III. But there are precious few tests in North Sequoia League play, so impressing in a tough non-league slate unscathed is important.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: vs. Atwater
10. Frontier (1-0, Division I, last week: 14) — I'm guessing that if you told Titans coach Rich Cornford on Friday morning that his team would commit four turnovers, including one inside the 5-yard line, against Ridgeview, he'd mutter under his breath and start preparing himself for a loss. Instead, the Titans also forced four Wolf Pack giveaways and won by double digits. Huge win for Frontier, which has an even tougher test this week.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 12 Ridgeview, 17-6. THIS WEEK: at Lompoc
11. Kingsburg (1-0, Division II, last week: 10) — There's certainly nothing wrong with a 30-point win, but it's tough to be impressive against a Division VI team that had a losing record a year ago. We'll know much more in two weeks when the Vikings take on Washington Union in a rematch of a narrow 2011 loss.
LAST WEEK: won at Tranquillity, 47-17. THIS WEEK: at Visalia-Golden West
12. Visalia-El Diamante (1-0, Division I, last week: NR) — I finished my top 25 last week and half-wondered if I was making a mistake by not including the Miners, but it's hard to justify the inclusion of a team that was 1-9 last year. Not so now, after El Diamante handled county rival Tulare Union behind 260 rushing yards from junior DeAngalo Torres. Up next is Clovis North and a game that could really thrust El D into the spotlight.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 11 Tulare Union, 34-20. THIS WEEK: at No. 3 Clovis North
13. Stockdale (0-0, Division I, last week: 15) — One of the Central Section's biggest wild cards will head into its first game in Stockton as a decided underdog, but keep this in mind: The Mustangs, besides D.J. Martin, boast a junior class that has never lost a game together, through junior high, freshman and JV levels. We'll see if they can pull off a stunner against one of the Sac-Joaquin Section's most powerful programs.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at Stockton-St. Mary's
14. Ridgeview (0-1, Division III, last week: 12) — No shame in losing at Frontier, but the Wolf Pack could face a few problems if it doesn't handle business against a rising Independence team this week and Foothill next week. After that, games loom against Southern Section Northern Division power Newhall-Hart, Liberty and reigning D-III state bowl champ Washington Union. Ridgeview would rather not limp into South Yosemite League play, which means it had better start taking care of the ball.
LAST WEEK: lost at No. 14 Frontier, 17-6. THIS WEEK: at Independence
15. Wasco (1-0, Division IV, last week: 16) — A bit of a sloppy second half after Wasco was up 45-7 on Mira Monte, but the Tigers still looked explosive and plenty dangerous. Isaiah Sharp, just a sophomore, ran for 91 yards and two TDs on 10 carries and returned a punt 88 yards for a third score. He has star potential for the Tigers, who could easily enter the playoffs at 10-0.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Mira Monte, 52-20. THIS WEEK: vs. Corcoran
16. Dinuba (1-0, Division III, last week: 17)
17. Tulare Union (0-1, Division I, last week: 11)
18. Clovis West (0-1, Division I, last week: 13)
19. Tehachapi (1-0, Division II, last week: 18)
20. Tulare-Mission Oak (0-0, Division IV, last week: 20)
21. Visalia-Mt. Whitney (1-0, Division III, last week: 19)
22. Lemoore (1-0, Division II, last week: NR)
23. Mendota (1-0, Division VI, last week: 23)
24. Centennial (0-1, Division I, last week: 22)
25. Sanger (1-0, Division II, last week: NR)
DROPPED OUT: No. 21 Fresno-Memorial, No. 24 Fresno-Sunnyside, No. 25 Hanford