The Southern League championship still goes through Le Grand, the three-time reigning titlist.
The Bulldogs (2-1) have reloaded after graduating the core members of their back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship squad that also earned a bid to compete in the CIF State Division IV Bowl Game in 2011.
In a media poll conducted by the Bulletin, Le Grand is favored by three of four participating pundits to repeat in league.
Ripon Christian (2-1), Mariposa (0-3) and Waterford (2-1), which also received a first-place vote, are the biggest threats to the Bulldogs’ throne. Ripon Christian and Mariposa will go toe-to-toe tonight in the first big Southern League showdown. Mariposa has long been a contender in the conference, and its 0-3 record is deceiving because of the Grizzlies’ level of competition in nonleague play.
The Knights are battle tested, however, having faced rival Ripon — no other team in the SL has seen a team that good. It will be a classic battle between RC’s athleticism and Mariposa’s overall physical strength.
Waterford has what is considered to be one of its best teams in school history with a slew of returners back on both sides of the ball, including standout RB Dylan Gonzalez.
Turlock Christian (2-1), which was almost unanimously picked to finish fifth, is already improved from last year’s 0-10 team but likely will have a tough time keeping up with the established contenders. The Eagles were soundly defeated 46-8 by Elliot Christian, a team Ripon Christian beat, 28-13.
Delhi (1-2), Denair (0-3) and Gustine (0-3) make up the rest of the league. Delhi’s lone win came against Big Valley Christian, which was drubbed by both Waterford and Ripon Christian.
Denair has only scored six points so far and has a tough three-game stretch (Le Grand, RC, Mariposa) to start league. Gustine is coming off a 62-0 loss at Orestimba.