High School Football

Lopez: What have we learned after the first month of the high school football season?

Julian A. Lopez
Julian A. Lopez

It feels like just yesterday when we were anticipating the start of the 2019 football season.

After last night, it’s hard to believe we’ve had a month of games.

Here are some thoughts:

Turlock is the favorite in the CCAL: The Bulldogs are the best large-school team in the Stanislaus District by far. With their only loss coming to Clayton Valley Charter, Turlock’s wins over Tracy (43-14 in Week 3) and Sheldon (14-6 in Week 4) are impressive. Senior running back Anthony Frias has over 320 rushing yards in his last two games and the Bulldogs’ defense is physical and hard-hitting.

Is this the year the Bulldogs make a deep run, possible semifinal appearance in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs?

So far, I wouldn’t put it past them. A game against powerhouse Central-Fresno next week will be a big test.

The TVL will be wild yet again: Last year, Ripon beat Modesto Christian in the final game of the regular season to create a tie for the Trans-Valley League title. Hilmar, which tied for third with Escalon, won a section and state title.

Through four weeks, Escalon, Hilmar, and Ripon have separated themselves in the league.

Escalon’s 49-20 win over Downey was eye-opening and the Indians and Yellowjackets have combined to outscore their opponents, 347-65.

Ripon travels to Hilmar next week in the first big test for each team.

I think there is a real possibility this league has two section championship teams when the season ends.

Central Catholic’s season isn’t over ... just yet: The Raiders fell to 0-4 after 49-27 loss to Upland last night.

It’s hard to find any positives after a non-league season which included losses to Clovis West, De La Salle, and St. Mary’s.

The season can take a dramatic shift if Central Catholic can beat Manteca in the Valley Oak League opener next week.

A win and the Raiders can set themselves up for a league title showdown in the last game of the season against Oakdale while a loss will put them in must-win territory for the rest of the year.

What to make of the WAC: To say the non-league schedule has been a struggle for the Western Athletic Conference would be an understatement.

Only two teams are above .500 and four have yet to win a game.

The two teams above .500 are Davis (3-0 and best start since 2014) and Johansen (2-1).

Despite a 20-14 loss to East Union, the Vikings have one of their most talented teams in awhile while Davis’ spread offense has yet to be stopped.

The numbers game: The days of schools having a freshman, junior varsity, and varsity team are over.

In 2011, there were 103,921 kids playing football; In 2018, it was down to 91,000.

While some schools do have enough players for each team, several local coaches decided to combine the two lower level teams.

One local coach said they don’t have a freshman team this year because despite have a large roster size, a lot of those kids were playing football for the first time and they would have little success so he combined his team with the JV.

Yes, it is a cause for concern but for those that say high school football’s participation is dying, it’s simply not true.

Football still draws the most athletes in the state by a wide-margin.

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Julian A. Lopez has been covering local sports for The Modesto Bee since August 2018. He graduated from Arizona State in 2016 with a BA in Journalism.