The road to the Northern California JC title game begins Saturday for six hopefuls from the Valley Conference.
If past results are true indicators, it will be an interesting five-week stretch.
Fresno City coach Tony Caviglia, however, hopes to avoid a repeat of recent history as the Rams began their run by hosting Sierra at 6 p.m.
The Rams a year ago finished in a three-way tie with San Joaquin Delta and American River for the conference crown, but the tiebreaker sent American River to the NorCal championship game against City College of San Francisco.
"It's a tough conference," said Caviglia, whose Rams this year are 3-2 overall and ranked No. 11 in the North. "But anyone can beat anybody on any weekend."
College of the Sequoias first-year coach Irv Pankey wants his team to remain focused. Last year, the Giants went 0-5 in conference after starting the season 4-0.
"Great football teams in our conference," said Pankey, whose team is 5-0 this year and ranked No. 5 heading into its opener at home against No. 14 Modesto. "There are no easy games."
American River, meanwhile, has established itself as the team to beat. The Beavers also are 5-0 and ranked second, a 34-13 win over then-No. 1 CC San Francisco among their credits. They host No. 19 Delta today.
"Now it's work time," American River coach Jerry Haflich said. "Have to handle our business one game at a time. This conference is very competitive, more than I can imagine."
Modesto coach Sam Young said the conference is up for grabs, despite the presence of the two unbeaten teams.
"They're coming into the conference with momentum," Young said. "It's been a wacky conference over the years. Anybody can beat anyone on any given day. Usually that makes for exciting football."
The Rams took care of business in 2011, finishing conference play at 5-0. Last year showed 4-1 wasn't enough, but all Caviglia wants is for his team "to be there at the end."
"You want to be playing for something," he said.
Fresno City could have a little extra momentum on its side today. It's homecoming week for the Rams.
The Wolverines are led by first-year coach Ben Noonan, who said he has been keeping an eye on the conference as Citrus College's offensive coordinator the past four years.
"Extremely tough," Noonan said. "Will prove to be very challenging."
Sierra is 3-2 but has won two straight.
Caviglia's team has lost its past two after starting 3-0. The losses were to CC San Francisco — still ranked No. 4 — and current No. 6 Santa Rosa. Both of those games were on the road, with the Rams 2-0 this year at Ratcliffe Stadium.
"We just got to put it on the field," Caviglia said. "We haven't played great football in the last two games. There is a lot of pride over here, and our kids are not happy because of the losses. They don't like losing."
JC FOOTBALL: THIS WEEK'S GAMES
(Rankings are for NorCal)
NO. 9 SIERRA (3-2) AT NO. 11 FRESNO CITY (3-2)
** Saturday: 6 p.m.
** Skinny: Rams coach Tony Caviglia opened up his quarterback competition during the bye week and will decide on a starter today. Rams were turnover-prone in the past two games, both losses, and will to have eliminate mistakes if they want to thrive in unforgiving Valley Conference. … Wolverines enter as winners of two straight. Sierra QB Daniel Harding is 127 of 219 for 1,348 yards and 13 TDs, but has 10 interceptions. Defensively, Sierra has held past two opponents to 34 total points after giving up 37, 43 and 31 in its first three games.
NO. 14 MODESTO (2-3) AT NO. 5 SEQUOIAS (5-0)
** Saturday: 1 p.m. at Mineral King Bowl
** Skinny: Giants have been putting up a lot of points (36.4 ppg), but in past two have given up a combined 75. COS still beat Foothill 37-36 and De Anza 41-39. … This could turn into a shootout because Modesto has given up 117 points in its past two. Pirates RBs Anthony Cota, James Sams and QB Teejay Gordon have combined for 15 rushing TDs.
NO. 20 DIABLO VALLEY (2-4) AT REEDLEY (1-4)
** Saturday: 7 p.m. at Reedley High
** Skinny: Tigers face Vikings in an interconference game. Reedley is in the Golden Gate and Diablo Valley the Mid-Empire Conference. … Tigers are coming off a 44-41 loss to Monterey two weeks ago. Coach Randy Whited knows what his team is in for: "We'll have our work cut out for us. Have to gain some momentum after losing it to Monterey." … Diablo Valley is 1-0 in its conference after defeating Merced 47-18 on Oct. 4. The Vikes beat Monterey last week, 50-13.
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