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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're the sort of person who roots for chaos — I tend to do this for college football every year, because it just makes it more fun — then Week 6 was your kind of night. Bakersfield lost, Edison lost, Clovis North was down at halftime, and Shafter and Bakersfield Christian waged a see-saw war until past 11 p.m. It was really, really fun.
All of which makes these rankings less fun. Well, no, not less fun, but more confusing. More difficult, let's settle on that. Who's No. 1? The obvious choices are Clovis North and Central, the two remaining unbeatens in Division I. I'm going with the Broncos because while both teams have played tough opponents, they've been more decisive in running their record to 6-0.
And after that, the mess really begins. Bakersfield is still very much a threat to win it all, so don't count the Drillers out because of one bad night. They sill have one of the best three resumes in the Central Section, and so they're my No. 3 team. We'll take it step by step from there.
1. Clovis North (6-0, Division I, last week: 2) — The race for No. 1 at this point is really a matter of preference — and it's essentially moot, because the Broncos and Grizzlies play (in a Thursday nighter, no less) next week. Until then, I'll go with Clovis North, which didn't beat El Diamante as badly as Central did but also hasn't had any close calls. The Grizzlies needed to hang on against Palos Verdes and Liberty. No shame in either, but you've got to separate these two somehow.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 16 Clovis West, 53-29. THIS WEEK: vs. Clovis East
2. Fresno-Central (6-0, Division I, last week: 4) — A few weeks ago, a 28-point spanking of Buchanan would speak volumes about Central, but after three consecutive Kern County teams did the same to the Bears, it doesn't mean as much. No worries, though, Grizzlies fans: Plenty of opportunity to make a statement in the next two weeks.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 22 Clovis-Buchanan, 50-22. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 6 Clovis
3. Bakersfield (5-1, Division I, last week: 1) — I said all summer that it was more likely for the Drillers to slip up somewhere than not, but that doesn't mean Friday's result wasn't among the most shocking I've experienced in five seasons here. Ranks right up there with Liberty's win over Cody Kessler and Centennial a couple of years ago. But all's not lost for Bakersfield; seeding is hurt, and so is state ranking, but both section and state championships are still possibilities.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. No. 9 Liberty, 28-17. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 25 Independence
4. Garces (5-1, Division II, last week: 3) — The safest bet to finish the season without another loss rolled over Highland to open SEYL play. Playing in a re-vamped spread offense, quarterback Cruise Adams is going to set a bunch of school records by the end of the year. Judging by the rest of the league slate and the lack of depth in Division II, the Rams' season has three real games left: at Tehachapi to end the year, then the semifinals and final of the D-II playoffs.
LAST WEEK: won at Highland, 49-0. THIS WEEK: vs. North
5. Liberty (4-2, Division I, last week: 9) — This was the hardest call of the week, and I'm sure other Central Section rankers felt the same way. Which was more of an aberration, the Patriots' loss to Ridgeview, or their win over Bakersfield? And for the final spot in the top 5, do you give the nod to Clovis, which has one very quality loss, or Liberty, which has by far the best win of the pair? I'll go with the potential of the Patriots, which is very clearly Valley-title matierial if they're playing well.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 1 Bakersfield, 28-17. THIS WEEK: at No. 7 Frontier
6. Clovis (5-1, Division I, last week: 5) — The other half of that equation is Clovis, which still hasn't shown much offensively since starting quarterback R.J. Hartmann was lost for the season with a concussion. That said, the Cougars again have a for-real defense and have as good a shot at the No. 1 seed as any. Run the table in the TRAC, and it's yours. Oh, is that all...
LAST WEEK: won vs. Clovis East, 20-0. THIS WEEK: at No. 2 Fresno-Central
7. Frontier (3-3, Division I, last week: 7) — A necessary win for the Titans at Centennial last week, and now a big-time opportunity to catch Liberty basking in its big win at Griffith Field. Win here, and Frontier has its own trip to BHS with a SWYL title possibly on the line. Sound far-fetched? The Titans are an intriguing team, with offense, defense and special teams all showing flashes of brilliance at times this year. We'll see if they can put it all together in a crucial three-week stretch that ends with a visit from Stockdale.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 15 Centennial, 24-14. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 5 Liberty
8. Ridgeview (5-2, Division III, last week: 8) — It might appear from the outside that the Wolf Pack slept-walked its way through a win against SYL bottom-feeder Mira Monte this week, but that omits one important part of the equation: Do-everything quarterback Kamari Cotton-Moya missed the game beause of disciplinary reasons. He'll be back this week for an SYL showdown with 5-1 South. A win here, and Ridgeview should expect to win out go into the D-III playoffs as the top seed.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Mira Monte, 28-13. THIS WEEK: at South
9. Visalia-El Diamante (4-2, Division II, last week: 10) — The Miners picked a good year to successfully petition the Central Section for a move back down to Division II, because instead of being just another contender in D-I, El Diamante is among the cream of the D-II crop. If they can win big games against Redwood and Lemoore in the next three weeks, the Miners should be the No. 2 seed behind only Garces.
LAST WEEK: BYE. THIS WEEK: at Hanford West (Thursday)
10. Visalia-Mt. Whitney (5-1, Division III, last week: 13) — Stock rising here because a 49-17 pasting of Sanger from a few weeks ago is looking pretty darn good right now after the Apaches beat Edison. If the Pioneers can keep it going, they'll have a good argument for the No. 1 seed in Division III. Ridgeview's win over Liberty looks great, but Mt. Whitney would have fewer losses and several good wins of its own. Though, it's worth noting: The Pioneers have left the friendly confines of Visalia just twice, and they won't again. Amazing scheduling break there.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Hanford West, 35-8. THIS WEEK: vs. Lemoore
11. Wasco (6-0, Division IV, last week: 11) — After another patsy pasting, the preliminaries are finally over for the Tigers. Wasco has outscored its first six opponents 332-61 — but those teams also have a 12-27 record, and none are above Division III. So this ranking still is purely speculatory. We find out more when Bakersfield Christian, which survived a shootout at Shafter and entered the top 25 this week, comes to town.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Kennedy, 56-0. THIS WEEK: vs. No. 24 Bakersfield Christian
12. Fresno-Edison (4-2, Division I, last week: 6) — Completely overshadowed by the Liberty upset of Bakersfield was Edison losing to Sanger. A week after the death of Marquis Sutton and an emotional win over Clovis West, it's understandable that the Tigers didn't have much left in the tank. Still, at this stage, there's precious little margin for error; Edison just cost itself big-time in the CMAC race and in Division I seeding.
LAST WEEK: lost vs. No. 25 Sanger, 35-29. THIS WEEK: at Madera South
13. Stockdale (3-3, Division I, last week: 17) — No team has yo-yoed up and down the rankings more this season than the Mustangs, who are suddenly No. 1 on the list of teams you don't want to play. They're giving the ball more and more to D.J. Martin (about time, I say) and the results have been tremendous. He has almost 700 rushing yards in the past two weeks and now gets a Centennial team that hasn't always looked great on defense. Stockdale seems determined to make itself a factor in the Division I race after all.
LAST WEEK: won vs. No. 24 Independence, 68-34. THIS WEEK: at No. 16 Centennial
14. Tulare-Mission Oak (5-1, Division IV, last week: 14) — Kevin Palma's fourth-quarter rushing touchdown helped the Hawks avoid what would have been a disastrous loss to Porterville. At 9-1, Mission Oak still has a pretty good argument for a potential No. 1 seed in Division IV, because its schedule is so much tougher than Wasco's, but another slip-up could tilt the balance in the Tigers' favor, should they finish 10-0 as expected. Up next is Monache, which has hung tough with good teams at times this season.
LAST WEEK: won vs. Porterville, 20-14. THIS WEEK: vs. Porterville-Monache
15. Sanger (5-1, Division II, last week: 25) — The mover and shaker of the week in the bottom half of the rankings is Sanger, which came away with a huge road win at Edison. There's no shame in a loss to Mt. Whitney, either, so the potential for a continued climb is there. Madera, Bullard and Memorial all await in the final four weeks.
LAST WEEK: won at No. 6 Fresno-Edison, 35-29. THIS WEEK: vs. Madera
16. Centennial (2-4, Division I, last week: 15)
17. Clovis West (1-5, Division I, last week: 16)
18. Fresno-Bullard (4-2, Division I, last week: 18)
19. Kingsburg (5-1, Division II, last week: 12)
20. Tehachapi (5-1, Division II, last week: 20)
21. Visalia-Redwood (6-1, Division II, last week: 19)
22. Dinuba (6-1, Division III, last week: 21)
23. Clovis-Buchanan (2-4, Division I, last week: 22)
24. Bakersfield Christian (5-1, Division IV, last week: NR)
25. Independence (4-2, Division III, last week: 24)
Dropped out: No. 23 Mendota