STATE GAMES OF THE WEEK

Corona Centennial vs. Clovis West, an interesting Southern Section vs. Central Section matchup, tops this week's picks of top football games to watch. Also included is the state's oldest rivalry and a few showdowns involving small schools.

1. No. 5 in the state Centennial of Corona vs. No. 19 in the state Clovis West of Fresno, Friday at Buchanan High Stadium. It's quite a road trip for the Huskies and they better not think the same will happen as last year when Clovis West got spanked, 42-13. Sure, Terrell Jackson, Centennial's All-American candidate, should get his share of yards and touchdowns. After all, he did have 32 carries for 330 yards and six TDs against the Golden Eagles a year ago. Jackson also already has eight TDs so far this year. But this is a much better Clovis West team. The defense only gave up one score to super-quick Fresno Edison last week, although the offense will need to improve for Clovis West to pull off the upset. If Centennial wins this game, the path looks pretty clear for a 10-0 regular season and a No. 1 or No. 2 seeding for the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs.

2. No. 14 in the state St. Francis of Mountain View at No. 1 in the state De La Salle of Concord, Friday. The Spartans play the second of four straight teams that could be capable of shocking them, provided they give up a touchdown off a defensive turnover or something similar happens. Like Palma last week, St. Francis (3-0) just isn't strong enough to beat De La Salle straight-up. A number of breaks would have to go the Lancers' way. The Spartans, despite wins of 47-0 and 35-0 to start the season, haven't been sharp yet on offense. They've won easily because the defense keeps giving the offense outstanding field position. Jackie Bates got in a few carries last week and showed signs his sore foot might not be as sore anymore. If that's the case, he could break out with a big game against St. Francis. The Lancers only lost to De La Salle 14-0 last year in Mountain View, but that was one week after the Spartans played on a Saturday night in Hawaii and was one week before they played Long Beach Poly.

3. No. 7 in the state Westlake of Westlake Village vs. No. 12 in the state Hart of Newhall at College of the Canyons, Thursday. Many of you may already know the score of this game by the time you're reading this feature, but we had to put it on the list anyway. Hart comes in at 0-2 after tough losses to Los Alamitos and St. Bonaventure and Westlake is certainly good enough to make that 0-3. The Warriors come in after blasting Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, 31-7. But they were tied in that game, 7-7, at halftime and Notre Dame contributed to its own demise by turning the ball over. If Hart holds on to the ball and still has a lot of confidence for what this season can be, it would not surprise anyone to see the Indians take this one.

4. St. Ignatius (San Francisco) vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) at Kezar Stadium, Friday.This one may not be close as St. Ignatius has impressed the last two weeks in wins over Marin Catholic (35-13) and San Lorenzo Valley (27-0) while Sacred Heart Cathedral has struggled with losses to Bishop O'Dowd and Petaluma and a close win over San Francisco Lowell. But we just have to give special attention to this game. It's the oldest rivalry in the state, dating back to 1892, and it's one of the oldest in America. St. Ignatius takes a 47-23-2 edge into this weekend's game. The two schools began with a rugby game and played in consecutive years until 1919. Games were played from 1922 to 1932, then again from 1935 to 1966. Following a three-year break that ended with the 1970 game, SI vs. Sacred Heart has been an SF tradition every year since. Note: The state's longest continuous current rivalries are the three in the Imperial Valley -- Central of El Centro vs. Brawley, Central vs. Calexico and Brawley vs. Calexico -- which have been ongoing every year since 1921.

5. Mater Dei of Santa Ana vs. No. 4 in the state J.W. North of Riverside, Friday at Riverside City College. The North-Mater Dei game is a little like the Centennial-Clovis West game in that if the Riverside County team wins there's a good chance of that team going 10-0 for the regular season. Mater Dei was simply outclassed athletically in its opener against Orange Lutheran and last week against Mission Viejo the Monarchs had trouble scoring once they moved the ball into the other team's zone. Trying to slow down a speed team may be even more of a problem for Mater Dei this week. Damon Morton, Dion Morton, Josh Barnett and friends have scored quickly in each of the Huskies' first two games and if they start fast once again, it will be another long night for the Monarchs. Mater Dei started the season at No. 5 in the state overall top 20. Even if it loses again this week, many of the team's goals would still remain intact because almost all of other teams in Division I of the CIF Southern Section have been struggling, too.

6. No. 8 in the state Grant of Sacramento at No. 10 in NorCal Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills, Friday. Both of these teams come into play having given up just one touchdown on defense in their first two games. Oak Ridge nearly beat the Pacers last year, 13-12, but that close call was expected as the Trojans were a senior-dominated team. This year, Oak Ridge has been better than expected behind sophomore QB Chandler Clemons. Throwing to all-state candidate Austin Collie, Clemons had four TD passes in last week's 40-0 win over Folsom. Grant has been led offensively so far by running back Gerwin Williams, who has scored eight TDs. We expect a barn-burner, but something inside also says that Grant may have been holding a few things back. Junior Syd Thompson was awfully quiet those first two games and there may be a few tricks up coach Mike Alberghini's sleeve.

7. No. 8 in state Division II Palmdale at No. 9 in state Division II Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, Friday. A win here and Palmdale would be making noise for a possible top 20 ranking. A win for Notre Dame would take some of the sting out of last week's loss to Westlake. Palmdale, which has an exciting offense featuring QB JaVonte Holmes and WRs T.J. McKay and Justin Shaw, also has some revenge on its minds. It was Notre Dame that ended the Falcons' season a year ago, 35-16, in the CIFSS Div. III playoffs. The year before, though, it was Palmdale that ended Notre Dame's season with a 14-7 triumph. This week, Palmdale also has moved up to No. 1 in the CIFSS Div. III rankings.

8. No. 9 in NorCal Nevada Union of Grass Valley at Elk Grove, Friday. This will be the game in which we find out if Elk Grove is more like it was two years ago when it won the CIF Sac Joaquin Section Div. I title or more like it was last year when it was barely over .500. The Thundering Herd has opened with easy wins over Davis of Modesto and Deer Valley of Antioch, but Nevada Union also is 2-0 and at least at the beginning of the season appeared to be more of an elite, rankable squad. Nevada Union fullback Ryan Herrera pounds away behind an experience offensive line. Elk Grove has some quickness in its backfield, led by Chris Gordon, who also is one of the top cover corners in the section.

9. No. 13 in SoCal Poly of Long Beach at St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs, Friday. This one could be called the Disappointment Bowl as both teams were hoping to be 2-0 coming into it, but have not lived up to expectations. For Poly, the Jackrabbits are coming off a 17-13 loss at home to Clovis East. It'll be interesting to see if that loss jolted the players into having more of a purpose this season or if maybe Poly just isnt' that good. St. Paul opened with a loss to Santa Margarita, but bounced back to beat Redondo last week. Both teams have been struggling at the quarterback position. Whichever of the two turns it around will probably be the difference for that team.

10. No. 9 in the state Foothill of Pleasanton at Skyline of Oakland, Friday. Scouts and other like-minded crazies could go to this game in the afternoon and then get out to De La Salle-St. Francis in the evening or perhaps Hayward vs. San Leandro or even James Logan vs. Pittsburg. Foothill trailed by a wide margin in last year's game, but staged a furious rally and wound up tying Skyline, 32-32. Kyle Barker, who is returning this year as Foothill's quarterback, threw for 372 yards. Foothill plays De La Salle next week and coming up with an impressive win vs. Skyline would be a good idea for the confidence. Skyline lost its first game to Serra of San Mateo, but came back to beat Bethel of Vallejo and James Logan.

11. No. 14 in NorCal Serra of San Mateo vs. No. 15 in NorCal Palma of Salinas at Salinas Sports Complex, Friday. The Padres impressed yet again last week in a 41-7 romp past Aragon of San Mateo. Palma couldn't do much offensively against De La Salle in its 35-0 loss, but the Chieftains were only down by 14-0 at halftime and almost cut it to 14-7 before a fumble ended a promising drive. Even if Serra wins, Padre fans can't get too excited. Just check out what the rest of the teams in the WCAL are doing so far this year, too.

12. Sanger vs. No. 15 in the state Clovis East at Lamonica Stadium, Friday. Here's a bet that Clovis East won't be too overconfident for this matchup even though the Huskies are coming off a huge win over Long Beach Poly. Why? Well, last year it was Sanger which put a 17-0 blanking on Clovis East's ledger and it's a Sanger team that many still think will turn out to be better than last year's despite that season-opening clank vs. Reedley. Some in the Central Section still want to see if Clovis East can do more offensively than just slug the ball down the field on short running plays. Eventually, a run-run-run offense will face a defense that will absolutely force it to do something else.

13. No. 9 in state Div. V Big Valley of Bieber at No. 10 in the state Div. V Bishop Quinn of Redding, Saturday. These two schools both won Northern Section titles last year -- Big Valley in Div. VI and Bishop Quinn in Div. V -- and it wouldn't surprise anyone if the same thing happened again. They are in the same league, though, and last year's 40-28 win by Bishop Quinn helped the Lions gain a spot in the final Div. V state rankings. Big Valley has more coming back this season, especially in the backfield with 6-2, 200-pound Michael Blue, but Bishop Quinn may be better up front, especially with 6-4, 275-pound Craig Van Ert. Big Valley won last week, 53-0, over Westwood. Bishop Quinn had a bye.

14. Garces of Bakersfield vs. No. 4 in state Div. IV Paraclete of Lancaster at Antelope Valley College, Saturday. If Paraclete hopes to be on the same level as Oaks Christian in the CIFSS Div. XI playoffs this year, a win over Garces would prove the point. Garces was among the state's best in Div. III last year and would have been No. 1 in Div. IV had it been classified with those teams. Jared Nelson has been on a tear running the ball for the Spirits. The Rams blanked San Joaquin Memorial two weeks ago and lost last week 24-10 to Liberty of Bakersfield. But Liberty might be the best team in town, period, regardless of enrollment, so Paraclete fans shouldn't read anything into that coming into this game. If Garces wins, it would be back into the Div. IV state rankings even with a 2-2 record.

15. Hayward vs. San Leandro at Burrell Field, Friday. This is one for the college recruiting types. Hayward's Phillip Mbakagu, one of the top DLs on the West Coast, vs. San Leandro's Sekeli Faaeteete, one of the top LBs on the West Coast. Hayward also will hoping to exact a little revenge for losing to the Pirates late in the 2002 regular season when both were unbeaten.


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