Clovis West High will need to justify its preseason top billing by The Bee to endure a daunting regular-season schedule.
All 10 of the Golden Eagles’ opponents are ranked – nine from the Central Section in addition to Rocklin of the Sac-Joaquin Section.
And the grind will begin when Clovis West confronts Central Section defending Division-I champion Liberty-Bakersfield at 7 p.m. Friday at Clovis’ Lamonica Stadium.
It was at the same site that the Liberty Patriots – No. 2 behind the Eagles in the preseason rankings – closed a postseason demolition party last season by defeating Clovis 56-21 for its first top-division football title following 41-7 and 40-27 victories over Bullard and Central.
Clovis West, which played eight sophomores significantly – including Fresno State-courted quarterback Adrian Martinez – in a 6-5 2015 season, will complete its nonleague schedule against The Bee’s No. 13 Centennial, No. 9 Edison, Rocklin and No. 3 Bullard. Rocklin, ranked No. 43 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, is coming off a 10-4 season and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II championship.
The Eagles will then oppose The Bee’s No. 10 Clovis North, No. 11 Buchanan, No. 19 Clovis East, No. 5 Central and No. 4 Clovis in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
No gimmies, and by design.
“As a football player I want to be challenged each week; that’s how I look at it,” said Clovis West coach George Petrissans. “I just think it makes you better. Are you going to get better by playing someone weak? You have to have learning moments and push your body.”
The Eagles are seeking their 10th section title and first since 2010. Starting only four seniors this season, they have the ability to make a run at it.
Most of their juniors went unbeaten in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Martinez, from the same class, also played on an unbeaten junior varsity team as a freshman. His class also features two sets of twins – inside linebackers D.J. and Dusty Schramm, and cornerbacks Jayden and Dakota Helms – and running back Rodney Wright, son of the former Fresno State receiver great of the same name. Dad is a Clovis West assistant.
Other games to watch (all Friday; 2015 records included) – No. 5 Central (4-8) vs. Bullard (9-3), at McLane: Grizzlies debut for coach Kyle Biggs, who once assisted Donnie Arax at Bullard.
▪ Stockdale (3-7) at No. 6 Ridgeview (13-1): Ridgeview went 4-0 against D-I nonleague opposition last year before going on to capture the D-II title.
▪ No. 12 Hanford (14-1) at No. 11 Buchanan (5-6): Hanford returns Bee 2015 Player of the Year Ryan Johnson, a San Jose State-bound quarterback, from two D-III championship teams. Hanford’s Bullpups also won last year’s state Division IV-AA crown. Former Buchanan star and NFL defensive back Matt Giordano debuts as Bears coach.
▪ No. 14 Tulare Western (9-4) vs. No. 17 El Diamante (5-6), at Golden West: A Tulare County showdown right out of the gate.
▪ No. 15 Memorial (9-4) at Washington (9-4): Rival game and matchup of 2015 section runners-up (Memorial D-III; Washington D-IV).