Escalon quarterback Lucciano Dutra and the Cougars hold tight at No. 2 in this week's small-school rankings, trailing only Trans-Valley League rival Hilmar.

TVL summit at the top of the rankings, punchless Sonora falls outside top-10

James Burns

The small-school rankings are comprised of teams from the Central California Athletic Alliance, Mother Lode League, Southern League and Trans-Valley League. Last week's ranking and current record in parenthesis.

With another blowout loss, winless Sonora has fallen out of the Front Row small-school top-10 rankings. The Wildcats began the season a clear-cut No. 1 with enough offensive firepower to light up the night sky, but they've mustered just six points in losses to Oakdale, Ripon and Escalon. 

Injuries have taken a toll on Sonora and the schedule isn't showing any mercy. On Friday, the Wildcats travel to No. 1 Hilmar, which headlines an impressive start by the Trans-Valley League. The TVL owns the top-four spots in this week's ranking. Hilmar is followed by Escalon, Ripon and Modesto Christian. Hughson is No. 8. 

Orestimba tumbled outside the top-5 and is no longer the Southern League's highest-ranked team following a 44-43 loss to Golden Sierra last week. No. 5 Ripon Christian leapfrogs the Warriors, who land at No. 6.

Here's a closer look at this week's top-10:

1. (1) Hilmar (3-0) — Three games. Three blowouts. Three cameo appearances by arguably the area’s top small-school running back. Isaac Sharp carried the ball just five times in a 49-0 win over Gustine, but finished four in the end zone. Next: vs. Sonora.

2. (2) Escalon (3-0) — Luke Anderson had 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns and linebacker Nash Satnat continued his strong start with nine tackles as the Cougars rolled over free-falling Sonora, 34-6. Next: vs. River City.

3. (4) Ripon (3-0) — The Indians saw their shutout streak come to an end in the final minutes of a 42-7 victory over Central Valley, but coach Chris Musseman believes this team will be defined not by shutouts but selflessness. Ripon is six-deep at the running back position, and that type of depth can leave defenses guessing. Next: vs. Calaveras.

4. (5) Modesto Christian (3-0) — The Crusaders snapped a three-game losing streak to Calaveras with a 24-0 victory in San Andreas. The reigning Division VI finalists were paced by Dillon Johnson on both sides of the ball, Jay Nglam (one sack, one interception), and quarterback Hayden Sauser. Next: vs. El Capitan.

5. (6) Ripon Christian (3-0) — After rolling over Central California Athletic Alliance teams the first two weeks, Ripon Christian faced its first real test of the season. They pass with flying colors, nearly shutting out Summerville at home, a win that sent shockwaves through the Southern League. Next: bye.

6. (3) Orestimba (2-1) — The loss snapped the Warriors' 21-game regular-season winning streak. Orestimba gave up a five-point lead in the final minutes, but the root of its problems on Friday can be traced back to three turnovers, including two on back-to-back possessions in the first half. Next: bye.

7. (8) Denair (2-0) — The Coyotes rushed for seven touchdowns in a rout of Millennium, and had two running backs — Steffin Winston and Dylan DeSilva — combined for more than 340 yards on the ground. Next: Stone Ridge Christian.

8. (9) Hughson (2-1) — Playing without standout running back Carlos Arreola, the Huskies' defense carried the night in a 21-3 victory over Argonaut. There is no timetable for Arreola’s return; he hyperextended his knee in a loss at Orestimba. Next: at Summerville.

9. (10) Big Valley Christian (2-0) — Coach Brian Berkefeld says he’s starting to “love” his team and feels like there is “something special” brewing on the corner of Tully and Pelandale. The Lions blanked Le Grand despite suiting up just 17 players. Next: vs. Waterford.

10. (nr) Waterford (2-0) — The Wildcats enter the top-10 after a ho-hum victory over Turlock Christian. Waterford played without star quarterback Michael Vivo (sick) and overcame a bundle of turnovers to set up its showdown with Big Valley Christian. Next: at Big Valley Christian.