Sports

Nine district shutouts underscores problem of competitive balance

You want defense? We have your defense, right here.

While this sort of statistic isn't kept from year to year, how can last week's nine shutouts by Stanislaus District teams not be a record?

Nowhere was defense more of a focal point than the Western Athletic Conference. The three favorites not only celebrated shutouts, they won by a combined score of 154-0.

That also leads to the asterisk that needs to be placed beside many of the shutouts: It's clear there is a competitive imbalance in some leagues.

Waterford beat Delhi 68-0, leaving the Hawks scoreless this season; Big Valley beat Sierra Ridge 56-0; and Modesto Christian beat Riverbank 54-0.

Clearly, there's more going on than teams simply playing great defense. The six shutouts that were also blowouts were in small-school leagues, where the disparity between teams can be overwhelming.

Scores of 68, 61, 56, 54, 47, 46, is not good for high school football. Isn't there a point when a referee, coach or athletic director sees a 42-0 halftime score and says "Enough! We're not here to humiliate anyone."

Nowhere is it more evident than the WAC. The three favorites are among The Bee's top five small schools, and the other three traditionally struggle on the gridiron.

Of the nine shutouts, there was one defensive battle: Turlock over Pitman 7-0. The total score from the games was 402-0, an average of 45-0.

BACKFIELD TURMOIL -- It's a time of flux for backfields in the Modesto Metro Conference, which led to mixed results in conference openers:

Davis QB Jason Nesbitt didn't play in a stunning 17-6 loss to Downey -- a week after leading Davis past then-unbeaten Lodi. Wade Bettencourt took the snaps, and his repeated bobbles could mean Nesbitt is back under center.

Beyer could be without RB Shaun Smith the rest of the season due to disciplinary action, troubling news after its QBs went 0 for 15 with two interceptions vs. Enochs.

A new QB paid dividends at Downey. Jason Lee came in for Mason Hennigan, then tossed two TDs to Hennigan to break a three-game losing streak. Rather than create dissension, coach Jeremy Plaa's decision sparked Downey -- and he kept Hennigan, one of his top athletes, on the field.

Modesto has taken a step in the right direction by giving sophomore QB Klayton Miller more snaps. After using him sporadically in nonleague games, slowing Miller's development, he got the opportunity to lead in Friday's 41-14 loss to Johansen.

Miller was 16 for 23 for 159 yards and a TD and showed he has quick feet. He was picked off twice, but with Modesto winless after six games, this is an ideal opportunity for coach Rod Long to develop his QB.

IN GOOD HANDS -- He isn't attracting the attention of Los Banos' Rubal Sangha, but just try to find a better receiver then Central Valley's Deangelo Williams. The junior had seven catches for 214 yards and three TDs and had a 45-yard TD catch called back in a 31-28 loss to No. 4 Sierra.

The 6-foot-3-inch jumper repeatedly went high to snare balls, leaving cornerbacks no choice but to watch. He had five catches for 132 yards and three TDs in the first half.

The rest of the way, however, he caught one for six yards before a late circus-like, 66-yard catch and run. The drought wasn't because Sierra found a way to stop Williams: CV shifted its plays away from Williams.

With an upset in its grasp, CV all but ignored its star in the second half. That gave the T'Wolves the break they needed to escape with the victory.

A GRAND ... OR TWO? -- It took Merced's Stephon Mathis just six games to run for 1,000 yards. He had 208 in Friday's 56-18 win over Buhach Colony, giving him 1,016 yards. He could play eight more games if the Bears reach the Sac-Joaquin Section final and likely will play at least six more games unless the Bears are upset in their first two playoff games.

Merced's most difficult battles will be the last two weeks, when it has to visit Turlock and Pitman, a combined 9-3.

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