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Le Grand the team to beat in Southern League
Even as a sophomore, RB Andrew Brown of Ripon Christian may be one of the top skill players in the Southern League. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Southern League

1. Le Grand    48 (6)

2. Mariposa    42

3. Delhi    36

4. Ripon Ch.    28

5. Waterford    25

6. Denair    16

7. Gustine    12

8. Turlock Ch.    9

First-place votes in parentheses. Participating newspapers: Manteca Bulletin, Modesto Bee, Mariposa Gazette, Merced Sun-Star, Turlock Journal and Ripon Record.

The path to the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship Bowl Games is set for Le Grand, the runaway favorite in the Southern League.

If the Bulldogs (3-0) can hold up health-wise, they could end up representing the North in the Division-IV state title game. They are currently ranked second in the North according to the Cal-Hi Sports Division-IV state bowl rankings. Above them is Central Catholic of Modesto, which has stiffer competition in the Western Athletic Conference at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs.

Le Grand, meanwhile, competes in Division V in the SJS, and it made easy work of its two postseason opponents — 56-7 over Golden Sierra, 61-7 over Highlands — a year ago.

The good news for the Bulldogs is that the toughest opponent on their schedule is behind them. In Week 2, they handed Livingston its only loss, 42-36. Livingston has a student body of 1,164 compared to Le Grand’s 485.

Back are QB Alex Bucio and 6-4 receiver Zach Moreno, so expectations are even higher.

Le Grand should roll through the Southern League schedule until its Week-10 tussle with Mariposa.

The Bears (1-2), unanimously voted as the runner-up in a media poll conducted by the Bulletin, should put up a fight. They had the toughest nonleague schedule of all SL teams, opening with an impressive 21-15 win over Summerville before falling to Orestimba (29-22) and Livingston (21-16), two 3-1 teams.

Delhi (2-1) challenged itself in nonleague play. First was McLane of Fresno, a school that is over three times the size of Delhi. The Hawks soared to a 20-14 win before dealing Riverbank its lone loss, 14-13.

Ripon Christian (1-2) might be the best of the rest.

With some dynamic skill athletes and a big, experienced line, the Knights could sneak into the postseason for the first time in six years. That could require five wins — the magic number is six under the SJS’ current playoff format — so they’d have to knock off one of the league’s big three.

Waterford (1-2) may also be in the hunt by season’s end. The Wildcats picked up some momentum with last week’s 36-28 win over Big Valley Christian — a team RC blasted 40-0 in Week Zero. But they did battle Riverbank to a one-point loss, 20-19.

Riverbank, for the record, crushed Denair, 43-7.

Denair (1-2) did however take down Summerville in more dominating fashion than Mariposa did, 47-6, so the Coyotes are dangerous.

Gustine and Turlock Christian are winless, and they meet in two weeks.

Gustine lost its three nonleague contests by an average margin of 46.6 points. In defense of the Redskins, they played some decent teams in Bret Harte, Argonaut and Orestimba.

Turlock Christian, led by 6-foot-6 junior QB Chase Gonzalez, has relied on its passing game to rack up yards and points, just not the wins. All of its losses came to schools of comparative size: Millennium, Big Valley Christian and Elliot Christian.