Attitude adjustment: Central administrators and coaches have made common reference in recent years to "changing the culture" at their school. The idea is a general academic-athletic upgrade, if not expectation, and that was evident this week in the Grizzlies' questioning why they were ONLY listed sixth in The Bee's preseason Central Section rankings.
"That's OK," Central coach Casey Quinn said in a motivational reference, "it will help us." And they may not need much a year after going 13-2 among freshman, junior varsity and varsity programs. Further, the former Clovis West assistant notes, he has 65 players on the varsity and 180 total in the three programs.
And has that ever been matched in Orange and Black? Doubtful. Tonight, at home, the Grizzlies will be immediately tested by Paso Robles, which has authored 55-42 and 44-7 conquests of Central the past two seasons.
On the flip side: As opposed to Central, which is successfully tapping into its 3,700 enrollment (No. 1 in the Central Section), Sunnyside (3,200, No. 2 in the section) can't say the same. But first-year coach Justin Garza refers lightheartedly to his 32-man roster: "I joke that we have 1% of the school population."
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Wildcats athletic director Roger Oliver, meanwhile, is confident the program will take off under the former Reedley coach: "It's amazing how quickly Justin has gained respect on campus and within the community. It's incredible. It may not translate into wins this year, but it will down the road. He sees the big picture; he gets it." Sunnyside will open next week at Lemoore.
PLAYERS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Niko Pacheco, Markus Espinoza, Bullard: It's a tight duel among these quarterbacks as to who will replace three-year starter Kerr Taubler, a Bee All-Star now at Yale and pilot of the Knights' 13-0 D-I championship season in 2009. They arrive with entirely different backgrounds: Pacheco, the Bullard-bred kid with name recognition as the son of former Fresno State player and current radio power broker Chris Pacheco; Espinoza, a transfer from Firebaugh. Niko Pacheco's a sophomore, Espinoza a junior. And coach Donnie Arax anticipates this: "They're both going to make mistakes early." The learning curve won't be kind for the quarterbacks against a grueling nonleague schedule beginning with a Saturday trip to 2009 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II runner-up Del Oro-Loomis (0-1).
OTHER GAMES IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Clovis East (0-0) at Edison (0-0): Clovis East is coming off the first losing season (4-7) in its nine-year history; Edison went 10-4 while winning the section's D-II title. But the second-ranked Timberwolves, stoked by the return of coach Tim Murphy, will be prohibitive favorites in the game at Sunnyside against a young Tigers team now coached by Fowler import Tim O'Brien.
Merced (0-1) at Clovis West (0-0): A year after leading Modesto Christian to a 15-0 record and the CIF State Small Schools championship, Golden Eagles coach Mike Parsons unveils his shotgun wing-T, featuring Bee All-Star running back Kendall Brock, against the Bears at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Merced is coached by Dos Palos graduate Rob Scheidt, a finalist for the Clovis West job that went to Parsons.
Fremont-Oakland (0-0) at Chowchilla (0-0): Attractive intersectional showdown matching the 2009 Oakland City Section champion against a Redskins outfit bent on rebounding after a 4-6 season.
Liberty-Madera Ranchos (0-0) at Corcoran (0-0): It was only nine months ago that Corcoran beat the Hawks 31-28 for the section's D-V crown.
– Follow us: Keep up with the action tonight at fresnobee.com, the SportsBuzz blog and on Twitter. Coverage will be provided by Andy Boogaard (Clovis East vs. Edison at Sunnyside) and Nick Giannandrea (Merced vs. Clovis West at Veterans Memorial).
Coaches: Got a score to report? Call (559) 441-6379 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org