Clovis West, under new coach Jim Hardigan, has the horses to be No. 1 in football for large schools to start the 2003 season. Fresno San Joaquin Memorial tabbed for the top among smaller schools.



(Listed with last year's record)

Yosemite Division

1. Clovis West (Fresno) 6-6-1

Lost by just one touchdown in last year's large school section final and almost the entire team is back. The Clovis Unified School District also hired a somebody (Jim Hartigan) to replace Ed Lombardi and not a nobody.

2. Sanger 10-2

Should be a hungry group of Apaches after dropping small school section semifinal in overtime to Centennial. Some think they should be No. 1 in the section overall, but we don't see that at all compared to Clovis West. Take a look at Clovis West's schedule, too.

3. Clovis 11-2

Tyler Clutts and most of the rest of last year's team is gone, but coach Larry Kellom has been running a very consistently-strong program so the Cougars won't drop off that much.

4. Bakersfield 5-6

Drillers have scored in 202 straight games and coach Jason Oliver seems to have things going in the right direction after a very taxing first few games of the 2002 season.

5. Redwood (Visalia) 6-5

Coach John Yavasile and his staff should have a slogan for the way they coach each year: Here we go again.

6. Edison (Fresno) 11-2

Defending small school section champs have a lot of talent, but will it be enough to replace those that are gone, especially all-everything Clifton Smith?

7. Centennial (Bakersfield) 10-3

We like this team's combination of returning strength in the line as well as in the backfield. The play of whoever becomes starting QB could be crucial.

8. Liberty (Bakersfield) 9-3

Line play last year was why this team only lost by four points in a game against Clovis. Line play will be terrific once again, but that speed factor (or lack of it) could keep the Patriots from once again winning a section title.

9. Central (Fresno) 9-2-1

Coach Wayne Koligian gets the best from his players and has the Grizzlies on the right track.

10. Hoover (Fresno) 7-5-1

Will QB James Altschuler still be effective with standout WR Kevin Robinson no longer streaking down the sideline?

Sequoia-Sierra Division

1. San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 11-2

Panthers barely lost in last year's Sequoia small final to what some were saying was the best Garces team ever. A number of key players are back, led by WR-DB Jordan Bucklew and QB-LB Hunter Teafatiller.

2. Taft 8-4

Wildcats were second in league behind Garces last year and have a solid core of returning players.

3. Yosemite (Oakhurst) 12-1

Badgers may not be as fast as last year's Sequoia large champs, but they're still going to be very good.

4. Dos Palos 6-5

Broncos can break a state record by winning their 19th straight league crown this season.

5. Tehachapi 7-4

RB Tanner Hutchinson could have a huge season for the Warriors.

6. Coalinga 10-3

Horned Toads have a chance for double-digit wins once again.

7. Garces (Bakersfield) 12-0

We can't ever remember a team losing so much from one season to the next when you look at graduated starters and even the head coach.

8. Immanuel (Reedley) 11-2

QB Neal Hubman and WR Jacob Wild are gone, so rebuilding is in order for this year's team.

9. Dinuba 4-7

This is my hunch as the team in the section that can turn it around more than any other this season. Lots of returning starters.

10. Caruthers 9-4

Should be quite capable of making a strong bid to unseat Immanuel as the Sierra Division champ.

Editor's Note: Bob Barnett is the historian for the CIF Central Section and his weekly rankings appear each week in the Bakersfield Californian, Visalia Times-Delta and other newspapers in the region. He has been a correspondent for Cal-Hi Sports for 15 years.

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