Conference play begins this week for most area high school football leagues and that means the games take on extra meaning. There is no easing into league play for some teams, including Merced, which opens at home against undefeated Pitman.
With five of the seven teams in the Central California Conference at 2-2 or better, it should be a fun league to watch this season.
After a perfect two weeks, I missed two games last week. Mariposa has been a tough team to figure out. The Grizzlies have scored a lot of points, but they’ve also given up a bunch. I had Mariposa defeating Yosemite last week, but the Badgers pulled away from Mariposa in the second half for a 51-38 win.
My other blemish was Livingston. Mountain House defeated the Wolves 37-19 for its first win in school history. So after four weeks my record is 42-7.
Here we go with this week’s predictions.
Pitman (4-0) at Merced (3-1) – The Pride is ranked as the No. 1 large-school team in the Modesto Bee rankings. Pitman was picked behind Turlock and Merced in the coaches’ poll. Pitman has been impressive with quality wins against Napa, Lincoln and Downey, but I don’t think it’s seen a team with Merced’s speed yet.
The Bears have a lot of weapons with Ulonzo Gilliam, Paul Scoggins and Rayveon Slaton, and quarterback Dhameer Warren is starting to get comfortable. Prediction: Merced.
Golden Valley (4-0) at El Capitan (1-3) – The Gauchos will play their first CCC matchup this week and it’s the first time these two schools have met. El Capitan has played tough against teams such as Gregori and Fresno, but it hasn’t been able to pull out victories. Golden Valley is coming in confident after winning its first four games. Prediction: Golden Valley.
Buhach Colony (2-2) at Turlock (2-2) – You wonder if Buhach Colony saved any points for this week after a 69-54 win over Pacheco last week. Something tells me points won’t be as easy to come by against a formidable Turlock defense. After an 0-2 start, the Bulldogs have righted the ship, and you have to think playing their first game at Joe Debely Stadium this season after turf problems were fixed will fire up the Bulldogs. Prediction: Turlock.
Atwater (0-3) at Ceres (1-3) – The Falcons came out of last week’s loss to Beyer banged up after quarterback Sebastian Gomez injured an ankle and receiver Mason McRae left early with a rib injury. The Bulldogs like to attack through the air, and quarterback Chris Lubinsky has already thrown for 1,205 yards and 10 touchdowns. Prediction: Ceres.
Dos Palos (2-1) at Chowchilla (3-0) – The Dos Palos Broncos are coming off a tough, last-minute loss to Los Banos in the Westside War last week. The Redskins have been rolling early, including a 42-35 win over Central Valley Christian of Visalia last week. Ronnie Reyes ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns in the win for Chowchilla. Prediction: Chowchilla.
Hilmar (3-1) at Livingston (1-3) – This is a tough matchup for Livingston’s Wolves, especially coming after a loss to Mountain House. Hilmar may be looking for payback after suffering its first loss last week at Sonora. The Yellowjackets will get back on track this week. Prediction: Hilmar.
Le Grand (0-3) at Waterford (2-1) – Points have been hard to come by for the Le Grand Bulldogs so far this season. Le Grand is averaging just under six points per game. Waterford hasn’t exactly been blowing teams out, averaging a little more than 21 points per game. Sophomore Michael Vivo leads the Wildcats in rushing with 149 yards and three touchdowns. Prediction: Waterford.
Mariposa (1-2) at Delhi (3-0) – This game features two of the top small-school running backs in the Grizzlies’ Josh Land and Delhi’s Jesse Flores. Land has racked up 572 yards and six touchdowns. Flores has 397 yards and seven touchdowns. The defensive edge goes to the Hawks. Prediction: Delhi.
Denair (2-1) at Gustine (1-2) – The Denair Coyotes have just 16 players on the roster but have recorded wins over Delta and Brookside Christian. The Redskins upgraded their schedule and have taken their lumps the last two weeks with a 39-14 loss to Hilmar and a 41-9 loss to Modesto Christian. The Reds may see the benefits of scheduling up now that they begin Southern League play. Prediction: Gustine.
Stone Ridge Christian (3-0) at Brookside Christian (1-3) at Lincoln High in Stockton – Brookside Christian picked up its first win last week against Hiram Johnson of Sacramento, but Brookside was down to just 11 healthy players in the game. Stone Ridge Christian will have to shut down Brookside’s passing game. The tougher task will belong to the Brookside Christian defense, which will have to try to slow down Jonathan Collazo and the Stone Ridge Christian rushing attack. Prediction: Stone Ridge Christian.
Last Week: 11-2 (42-7 season).