St. Mary's High linebacker Khalil Hodge (3) leads the state of California with 110 total tackles. (MICHAEL MCCOLLUM/THE RECORD)
As high school football season rolls along, the hierarchies become clear: on team depth charts, in leagues and in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Friday, the Tri-City Athletic League (TCAL) opened and a pecking order started to establish itself. Lincoln put a licking on Lodi, 30-6, St. Mary’s smothered West 46-14 and Tracy trampled Tokay 34-7. At least after a week, it seems the Trojans, Rams and Bulldogs could be the contenders for the TCAL crown.
Even in the Valley Oak League, which has three weeks already done, the top quartet of Manteca, Sierra, Oakdale and Central Catholic is 6-0 against Kimball, East Union, Weston Ranch and Lathrop.
My hierarchy, my weekly Prep Football Power Rankings, returns for Week 7, as we inch closer to November and the exhilarating season for section playoffs.
1. ST. MARY’S (1) 5-1, 1-0 TCAL
The Rams have a legitimate chance at contending in the Div. II playoff bracket this season.
St. Mary’s, after falling behind early, dropped 46 points on an upstart West (5-1, 0-1 TCAL) team on the road in Tracy.
Senior linebacker Khalil Hodge leads the state with 110 total tackles, and that mark is in the top 50 in the nation, according to MaxPreps.
ON FRIDAY: vs. Tokay (4-2, 0-1 TCAL), 7:15 p.m.
Sierra High wide receiver Hunter Johnson (front) had a game-high eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown in a 17-14 win over Central Catholic Oct. 3 at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. (CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD)
2. SIERRA (2) 6-0, 3-0 VOL
Sierra’s matchup with Oakdale, also 6-0 and 3-0 in VOL, is a monumental one, at home at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium in Manteca.
The Timberwolves are so confident at this point that they’re playing around with different offensive packages, like they did when starting sophomore Marcos Castillo at quarterback last week in Lathrop. Castillo responded with a 30-yard touchdown run and by kicking a 31-yard field goal in the 37-7 win. Junior tailback Mark Paule Jr. doesn’t have stats registered for the Lathrop game, though through five games he had 1,005 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.
ON FRIDAY: vs. Oakdale (6-0, 3-0 VOL), 7 p.m.
Tracy High tailback Nate Jones (right) as a junior. (MICHAEL MCCOLLUM/THE RECORD)
3. TRACY (3) 4-2, 1-0 TCAL
Tracy, on a four-game winning streak, is tough, has speed, size, experience and is ready to challenge St. Mary’s and Lincoln in the TCAL.
Bulldogs quarterback Michael Brown isn’t a perfect passer, but is a good one, and is fast and gritty. Senior tailback Nate Jones is a highlight reel touchdown run waiting to happen. The secondary with corners William Alexander and Joshua Clarke, and safeties/linebackers Jake Alvarado, Jason Nelson and Brandon Russell is one of the best in the section.
ON FRIDAY: at Lodi (4-2, 0-1 TCAL), 7:15 p.m.
Lincoln High defensive back Cameron Crump was tied for eighth in the Sac-Joaquin Section with three interceptions entering Friday. (CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD)
4. LINCOLN (5) 3-3, 1-0 TCAL
The Trojans got a convincing win over Lodi to open TCAL play, and will have the return of defensive lineman T.J. TiaTia, ranked one of the best in the section by Cal-Hi Sports preseason, back for at least some of the second half.
Right now, I think they’re a hair better overall, both in health and overall prowess, than No. 5.
ON FRIDAY: at West (5-1, 0-1 TCAL), 7:15 p.m.
Manteca High quarterback Dakarai Charles (right) threw for two touchdowns in his team's 42-21 loss against Oakdale at Levi's Stadium Saturday. (STAN OLSZEWSKI/SPECIAL TO THE RECORD)
5. MANTECA (4) 4-2, 1-2 VOL
The Buffaloes are a great team, but succumbed to Oakdale fullback Frankie Trent under the unrelenting Santa Clara sun on Saturday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.
Manteca, though, will get back on track: its toughest game is hosting Sierra on Halloween. The Buffaloes are a talented, driven club, and will finish 8-2 at-best or 7-3 at worst heading into the Div. III playoffs.
ON FRIDAY: at Kimball (1-5, 0-3 VOL), 7 p.m.
ON THE BUBBLE: Chavez (4-2, 1-0 SJAA) has won two straight games and has a legitimate chance to win the SJAA running away if it beats Edison this week… Escalon (4-2, 1-0 TVL) took care of a tough Hughson team on the road, and will likely give coach Mark Loureiro his Sac-Joaquin Section record-breaking 262nd win Friday vs. Hilmar… West (5-1, 0-1 TCAL), Lodi (4-2, 0-1 TCAL) and Tokay (4-2, 0-1 TCAL) all still deserve a spot here as well.
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