Los Banos football coach Dustin Caropreso has been here before: undefeated going into Week 8.
He was a senior the last time the Tigers (7-0, 2-0) traveled this far into the season without a loss.
The year was 1992 and “Baby Got Back” blasted through the headphones on his Walkman.
There is no historical significance to Los Banos’ red-hot start, but there is plenty of intrigue and surprise.
Caropreso had confidence this group could compete in the Western Athletic Conference, a league with no clear-cut favorite coming out of the summer. But he wasn’t sure how they would coalesce or handle a season-opening trip to Madera.
Caropreso was putting the offense into the hands of a quarterback (Anthony Caballero) who hadn’t played the position in two years. He had a promising junior running back (Antonio Lopez), but new faces on the offensive line gave him pause.
“We still had some things to figure out,” Caropreso said. “We knew certain things had to happen for us to be successful, and we’ve just built from there. It’s snow-balled.”
The Tigers’ streak faces its toughest test Friday against Patterson (6-1, 2-0), a former league champion playing as well as any team in the district.
Patterson has won five consecutive games. Its only blemish is to No. 3 Downey (8-0, 4-0), another one of the district’s six unbeaten teams.
Senior quarterback Gabe Sanchez has taken the reins for Patterson. He is eighth in the Sac-Joaquin Section in passing yards with 1,702, and has thrown 15 touchdowns with no interceptions in his last three games.
“I’m just glad we play them at home,” Caropreso said, “and not on their turf.”
Los Banos has added motivation. The senior class was 0-2 against Patterson at the lower-levels, according to Caropreso, losses that still sting.
“I don’t know if you want to call it revenge, but they feel like they have something to prove,” said Caropreso, who has redemption on the brain, too.
In 1992, Los Banos had its season-long winning streak snapped in Week 8. Los Banos was beaten by Oakdale, 14-12.
Here’s a closer look at the other five unbeaten district teams:
Two years after a perfect regular season, the Warriors are once again trending in that direction.
The Warriors are the No. 1 small school team in the Stanislaus District and almost unbeatable in Southern League. Orestimba has won 18 consecutive league games going into Friday’s tilt with Waterford.
That streak began with the 2015 team, widely regarded as the greatest in program history.
That season, the Warriors won their first 11 games and reached the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs. There, they lost to Sonora, the eventual section champion and CIF Northern California finalist.
Orestimba coach Aaron Souza stops short of comparisons. There is no comparison.
“To be frank, we haven’t won anything yet,” Souza said. “We have a lot of football left to play. All we’ve done is a clinch a playoff berth. To start comparing isn’t fair to anybody.”
The catalyst in the Warriors’ perfect start has been the play of the offensive and defensive lines. Orestimba owns a rare luxury for a small-school program – none of its linemen start on both sides of the ball.
With that kind of depth, offensive and defensive line coaches Pablo Flores and Danny Alves can spend more time in practice with their people-pushers.
“It’s starting to show on the field,” Souza said.
The senior class has flirted with perfection before. As sophomores, the Class of 2018 went 10-0.
“I knew this was a possibility, but not all the time does JV success parlay,” Souza said. “Sometimes kids get injured. Sometimes kids don’t develop. It was a possibility and we’ve take care of business one game at a time.”
With a roster lined with sophomores and juniors, the Knights had just one goal this season: To be playing their best football by Week 8.
Downey is the only 8-0 team in the district, but will finish with two Modesto Metro Conference heavies: Modesto on Friday and Gregori on Nov. 4.
“You don’t ever expect to be 8-0,” coach Jeremy Plaa said. “Our big focus was to improve throughout the preseason with the teams we were playing. Going undefeated wasn’t one of our goals. We wanted to improve so that we were playing our best versus Modesto and Gregori and right into the playoffs.”
Plaa has been pleasantly surprised by the Knights’ ability to adapt, grow and innovate.
“This group has above-average intelligence in terms of football IQ,” Plaa said. “We have a talented group of kids, but this group picks up things (trick plays and new wrinkles) a lot quicker and they’re able to innovate faster. Anything I throw at them, they soak it up in a day and master it really quickly.”
When Jason McCoy took control of the football program at Gregori High, he instilled a five-year plan.
Well, it took six.
In Year 6, the Jaguars have rocketed to the top of the Modesto Metro Conference standings with a record winning streak.
Gregori (3-0) is 7-0 for the first time in program history and showing no signs of slowing down.
“We had a five-year plan of where we wanted this program to be,” McCoy said. “From a brand new program, it took time to lay down a foundation and get it going.”
The Jaguars have averaged about six wins over the last four seasons, but lacked the structure to compete against the established programs in the district.
That changed with this senior class. McCoy has 27 four-year seniors, all of whom committed to track in the spring and four days in the weightroom during the football season.
“Good things happen to those who are invested,” McCoy said.
Central Catholic (6-0)
For all of his success at Central Catholic, coach Roger Canepa has only experienced this kind of start twice.
The Raiders have won their first six games, including four to launch their Valley Oak League title quest. Dauson Booker has been a force, rushing for 907 yards and 15 touchdowns, second only to Oakdale’s Cameron Cherry. The defense is yielding just nine points per game.
The only other time a Canepa-coached Raiders team started the season 6-0 was in 2015. That season, Central Catholic went 16-0 and collected its fourth straight CIF State Bowl victory.
The Raiders will visit Lathrop on Friday.
Big Valley Christian (7-0)
The Lions are off to their best start in eight years.
Big Valley Christian has won its first seven games under first-year coach Brian Berkefeld and sits in the catbird’s seat in the Central California Athletic Alliance.
Sophomore running back Javyn Drobnick has been a revelation. He has 920 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, including two games with 200 or more yards.
In 2009, Big Valley Christian won its first nine games, completing a perfect regular season.
Matching that feat will be tricky. The Lions have a back-loaded schedule, beginning with Friday’s home finale with Brookside Christian and a season-ending trip to Stone Ridge Christian.
Week 8 Predictions
Last Week: Burns (24-3) (177-46). Cortez: (25-2) (177-47)
Modesto Metro Conference
Modesto at Downey, 7 p.m. Burns: Downey Cortez: Downey
Enochs at Johansen, 7 p.m. Burns: Enochs Cortez: Enochs
Davis at Gregori, 7 p.m. Burns: Gregori Cortez: Gregori
Central California Conference
Buhach Colony at Merced 7 p.m. Burns: Buhach Colony Cortez: Buhach Colony
El Capitan at Pitman, 7 p.m. Burns: Pitman Cortez: Pitman
Turlock at Atwater, 7 p.m. Burns: Turlock Cortez: Turlock
Valley Oak League
Central Catholic at Lathrop, 7:15 p.m. Burns: Central Catholic Cortez: Central Catholic
Sierra at East Union, 7 p.m. Burns: East Union Cortez: East Union
Manteca at Weston Ranch, 7 p.m. Burns: Manteca Cortez: Manteca
Oakdale at Kimball, 7:15 p.m. Burns: Oakdale Cortez: Oakdale
Western Athletic Conference
Ceres at Livingston, 7 p.m. Burns: Ceres Cortez: Ceres
Pacheco at Central Valley, 7 p.m. Burns: Central Valley Cortez: Central Valley
Patterson at Los Banos, 7 p.m. Burns: Patterson Cortez: Patterson
Escalon at Ripon, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Escalon Cortez: Escalon
Hilmar at Modesto Christian, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Modesto Christian Cortez: Modesto Christian
Hughson at Mountain House, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Mountain House Cortez: Mountain House
Mother Lode League
Argonaut at Linden, 7 p.m. Burns: Argonaut Cortez: Argonaut
Calaveras at Amador, 7 p.m. Burns: Calaveras Cortez: Calaveras
Summerville at Bret Harte, 7 p.m. Burns: Summerville Cortez: Summerville
Denair at Delhi, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Denair Cortez: Denair
Le Grand at Gustine, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Gustine Cortez: Gustine
Waterford at Orestimba, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Orestimba Cortez: Orestimba
Ripon Christian at Mariposa, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Mariposa Cortez: Ripon Christian
Central California Athletic Alliance
Brookside Christian at Big Valley Christian, 7 p.m. Burns: Big Valley Christian Cortez: Big Valley Christian
Millennium at Stone Ridge Christian, 7 p.m. Burns: Stone Ridge Christian Cortez: Stone Ridge Christian
Saturday, Oct. 21
Central California Athletic Alliance
Sierra Ridge/Rite of Passage at Turlock Christian, 7 p.m. Burns: Turlock Christian Cortez: Turlock Christian