Friday night – and in one case Thursday night – lights christen a new campaign for the seven teams of the South Sequoia League.
The league season won’t officially get underway until Sept. 27 after a five-week (counting Week Zero) non-league grind.
All SSL teams are in action this week with Cesar Chavez of Delano getting a jump on everyone else with a Thursday night game, hosting Roosevelt High of Fresno.
Tonight Arvin is at Highland, Bakersfield Christian at Huntington Beach, Robert F. Kennedy at Granite Hills (Porterville), Strathmore at Shafter, Taft at Golden Valley and Wasco at Mira Monte.
If the SSL holds true to recent form it looks like Bakersfield Christian will be chasing Wasco and everyone else scrambling for the bronze medal.
Everyone with a discernable pulse sees Wasco as the heavy favorite to repeat as league kingpin coming off last year’s eye-popping season — 13-0 and Division IV Valley champs with a team that put up some ridiculous numbers.
Rusvel Prado’s Tigers set a section scoring record, averaged more than 500 yards a game and were so dominating that nearly every outing was a TKO before halftime. Running clocks in the second half were not uncommon.
Wasco will take a big step up in class next week when the Tigers travel to Griffith Field to take a crack at venerable Bakersfield High – a gutsy move.
Bad news for all defensive coordinators is that run-happy Wasco returns Isaiah Sharp, who rushed for more than 2,300 yards and 34 touchdowns as a sophomore last year.
Kern County fandom wanted to see the Tigers in a state bowl game but that didn’t happen, rankling the locals who see a bias against Central Section teams. That’s why the leaders of the Central are thinking about throwing in with northern California to make the bowl games a true north versus south scheme.
BCHS finished a distant second behind Wasco last year and returns running back Matt Smith, a junior who has started every game since he was a freshman. He topped 1,800 yards last season.
League watchers are keeping an eye on the Oct. 18 BCHS-Wasco match-up in Bakersfield.
But don’t count out someone else stepping up as a spoiler.
Edgar Mares, beginning his 13th season at Arvin, is a crafty veteran who always motivates his players to reach for that extra gear.
Shafter got off to a 6-0 start last year but veered into a ditch and the Generals lost their last five, including a playoff.
Reliable quarterback Kyle Milwee retuns after posting outstanding numbers last year. How well his supporting cast performs could be the key to success.
Page 2 of 2 - Chavez is gearing up for its second run with the SSL and could be a surprise because the Titans hunger for a chance to rattle some cages.
Taft will be interesting to watch.
Wildcat faithful are eager to see if a return to a run-oriented offensive scheme will pay off.
Second-year coach Jarudd Prosser will try to build some success behind a solid group of running backs by reprising Steve Sprague’s philosophy of pounding the ball down the field and eating up clock.
Robert F. Kennedy, the newest kid on the block, won two games last season after three consecutive winless campaigns. The Thunderbirds lost their coach when he took a job at a small four-year school so the athletic director has taken up the reins and hopes to juice things up with the pistol offense.
Chad Brown watch
Taft fans will be keeping an eye on how North High does now that former Wildcat Chad Brown is in charge. He’s got no way to go but up after the Stars suffered through a dismal winless season a year ago. His wife, Lindsay, is the trainer at Taft High.