There’s no easing into conference play for the Buhach Colony High football team. The undefeated Thunder (4-0) square off with Patterson (3-1) on Friday night in a Central California Conference showdown.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Patterson.
Tough CCC openers are nothing new for Buhach Colony. The Thunder have opened with Pitman and Turlock in recent years before Patterson joined the CCC last year.
“We’re definitely going to see what we’re made of early,” said Thunder coach Kevin Navarra.
Hilmar (4-0) is in a similar situation with its Trans-Valley League opener against Ripon (4-0) on Friday night. The Yellowjackets have the tough task of facing Ripon and Escalon (4-0) in back-to-back weeks.
Navarra says one benefit to a big league game early on is health.
“We’re as healthy as we’re going to be,” Navarra said. “If you play week eight, nine in a typical football season you’re body is going to be worn down. We’re fresh now.”
The Thunder are a little more rested than most teams because most of their starters we’re pulled in the first half during last week’s 71-14 win over Weston Ranch.
The Tigers are going to be a tough test.
Patterson is led by running back Obadiah Godbolt and Jordan Imada, who have combined for 722 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Outside of Weston Ranch, Buhach Colony has played a tough schedule with a Tracy team featuring two Division I recruits and Edison, which features sophomore running back Raleek Brown, who is being recruited nationally by big-time college programs.
“It’s hard to gauge because we’ve had big type of players to prepare for each week,” Navarra said. “I am impressed with how good (Patterson) is up front. They have a lot of the same guys back from last year.”
The Thunder counter with a balanced rushing attack that churns out 261.8 yards per game and 18 touchdowns on the ground in four games this season.
Buhach Colony also has a quick-strike weapon on senior Youlas Dickson who has five combined kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns already this season.
Ripon (4-0) at Hilmar (4-0)
The Yellowjackets have known all summer what awaits them at the start of TVL play with back-to-back games against Ripon and Escalon.
“I like it,” said Hilmar coach Frank Marques. “I’m pretty excited to play a game that means so much so early. Hopefully we’re ready. There’s no breather after because we have Escalon next week. That’s two juggernauts in a row.”
The Yellowjackets haven’t been challenged in their first four games, outscoring their opponents 174 to 26.
Cole Bailey and Steven Silva have given Hilmar a pair of big-play backs and receiver Aidan Azevedo has already hauled in seven touchdowns.
The Indians defense hasn’t surrendered more than 19 points in a game so far this season.
“I think they have a solid defense,” Marques said. “They have a really good defensive scheme and defensive players. They have a quarterback who can throw really well and a good receiver that they do a good job of getting the ball to. They are a really well balanced team.”
Ripon quarterback Nico Ilardi has thrown from 580 yards and nine touchdowns with Dorian Dougherty hauling in six catches for 245 yards and three scores.
Buhach Colony at Patterson
El Capitan at Atwater
Central Valley at Merced
Beyer at Los Banos
Pacheco at Johansen
Livingston at Hughson
Ripon at Hilmar
Le Grand at Denair
Orestimba at Mariposa
Gustine at Delhi
Stone Ridge Christian at Hill
Chowchilla at Dos Palos