TeamFirst Soccer Academy holds seven to eight camps a year internationally. Leading the way for TeamFirst Soccer Academy are, from left: Ange Kelly, Tisha Venturini Hoch, Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm.

Bold or just bald? RC wins even in a loss, and CCAL debut honors CCC roots

James Burns
-

The brand-new Central California Athletic League debuts with an old-school Central California Conference dual.

No. 4 Downey (3-2) travels to No. 5 Turlock (2-3) on Friday evening for a league opener concocted in March in a Sac-Joaquin Section realignment meeting, but whose roots reach back decades. The two were once adversaries in the CCC, before the Modesto public schools formed the now-defunct Modesto Metro Conference.

Today, Downey and Turlock are part of a budding super league in the southern half of the section. In Year 1, the CCAL has seemingly surpassed the Valley Oak League, long the measuring stick for overall success in the region. Five of the six schools are ranked in the FrontRowPreps.com large-school top-10 poll, including No. 3 Pitman, Downey, Turlock, No. 8 Modesto, and No. 10 Gregori.

The Knights and Bulldogs have climbed as high as No. 2, but have fallen back following demanding non-conference schedules. Downey has won three of its first five games, including a shootout with Manteca, while Turlock has criss-crossed Northern California looking for the biggest bullies in the game. The Bulldogs have challenged themselves with Central, Fresno's top-ranked program; Freedom of Oakley, an East Bay power; and Sheldon of Elk Grove. Turlock was 0-3 in those games.

So, who has the edge in this clash of styles and championship pedigrees? 

Downey has the loftier ranking, but its quarterback situation remains unsettled. Will talented freshman Beau Green return from a sprained throwing shoulder? Or will junior Bryce Gouker, battling his own injury, get the start? If the Knights can't throw the ball with any kind of success to UC Davis commit Bryce Peterson or Anderson Grover, the onus falls on running backs Robert Rivera and Jordan Wilson and Downey's defense.

With tails wagging, the Bulldogs would take that scenario, but may not need it. Turlock is undefeated at home and soaring into the league opener without any significant injuries. In what truly has been the Year of the Quarterback, senior triggerman Jonah Kosakiewicz, a 6-foot-2 dual-threat, has played as well as any. Turlock also possesses a hard-hitting defense with two Division I-bound recruits, Cal's Everett Johnson and San Diego State's Garrett Fountain.

Elsewhere, there are two games of note, beginning with the Southern League clash between small-school No. 5 Ripon Christian and No. 6 Orestimba, the three-time defending league champion. The Warriors have won 23 consecutive league games, but face their toughest test in years. The Knights have a balanced roster brimming with talent, most notably Drew Van Vliet, Sean McGovern and Michael Kamps.

Adding another layer to this small-school dust-up: The Knights have nothing to lose. If Ripon Christian snaps Orestimba's winning streak it becomes the odds-on favorite to win the Southern League title, its first in six years, locking the Knights into the Division VI postseason. A loss, however, would almost assure Ripon Christian a top seed in the D-VII playoffs and a chance to make a run at the program's first-ever section and CIF State banners.

Across Highway 99, No. 2 Modesto Christian hosts No. 4 Escalon. The Crusaders haven't allowed more than nine points during their six-game winning streak and can knock Escalon out of the TVL title race with a victory Friday. The Cougars look to atone for last week's overtime loss to Hilmar.

Here's a look at all of our predictions for Week 6's games, including our overall records:

Thursday, Sept. 27

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA ATHLETIC ALLIANCE
Millennium at Turlock Christian, 7 p.m. Burns: Millennium Cortez: Millennium

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Lathrop at Beyer, 7 p.m. Burns: Lathrop Cortez: Lathrop

Friday, Sept. 28

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA ATHLETIC LEAGUE
Modesto at Gregori, 7 p.m. Burns: Modesto Cortez: Modesto
Pitman at Enochs, 7 p.m. Burns: Pitman Cortez: Pitman
Downey at Turlock, 7 p.m. Burns: Turlock Cortez: Turlock

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE
Buhach Colony at El Capitan, 7 p.m. Burns: Buhach Colony Cortez: Buhach Colony
Central Valley at Golden Valley, 7 pm. Burns: Central Valley Cortez: Golden Valley
Atwater at Patterson, 7 p.m. Burns: Patterson Cortez: Patterson

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA ATHLETIC ALLIANCE
Stone Ridge Christian at Big Valley Christian, 7 p.m. Burns: Big Valley Christian Cortez: Big Valley Christian

MOTHER LODE LEAGUE
Summerville at Argonaut, 7 p.m. Burns: Argonaut Cortez: Argonaut
Calaveras at Amador, 7 p.m. Burns: Calaveras Cortez: Calaveras
Sonora at Bret Harte, 7 p.m. Burns: Sonora Cortez: Sonora

SOUTHERN LEAGUE
Denair at Gustine, 7:15 p.m. Burns: Denair Cortez: Denair
Mariposa at Delhi, 7:15 p.m. Burns: Mariposa Cortez: Mariposa
Orestimba at Ripon Christian, 7:15 p.m. Burns: Orestimba Cortez: Ripon Christian
Le Grand at Waterford, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Waterford Cortez: Waterford

TRANS-VALLEY LEAGUE
Riverbank at Hughson, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Hughson Cortez: Hughson
Escalon at Modesto Christian, 7:30- p.m. Burns: Modesto Christian Cortez: Modesto Christian
Ripon at Livingston, 7:30 p.m. Burns: Ripon Cortez: Ripon

VALLEY OAK LEAGUE
East Union at Central Catholic, 7 p.m. Burns: Central Catholic Cortez: Central Catholic
Oakdale at Manteca, 7 p.m. Burns: Manteca Cortez: Manteca

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Johansen at Ceres, 7 p.m. Burns: Ceres Cortez: Ceres
Mountain House at Los Banos, 7 p.m. Burns: Mountain House Cortez: Mountain House
Pacheco at Davis, 7 p.m. Burns: Pacheco Cortez: Pacheco

PREVIOUS WEEKS
Week 0: Burns, 29-6. Cortez, 26-9.
Week 1: Burns, 22-10. Cortez, 21-11.
Week 2: Burns, 23-7. Cortez, 25-5.
Week 3: Burns, 20-10. Cortez 23-7.
Week 4: Burns 26-2. Cortez 24-4
Week 5: Burns 22-2. Cortez 23-1

SEASON
Burns, 142-37. Cortez, 142-37.

Follow James Burns on Twitter @jburns1980, or email him at frontrowpreps@gmail.com.