High school football games to watch, schedule: Hughson-Escalon highlights key league games

League play for the Valley Oak League, Central California Athletic League and Trans-Valley League kicks off this week as the season quickly moves along.

Turlock and Gregori take the field Thursday in the first CCAL game of the season. The Jaguars are 1-2 in their three most recent matchups with the Bulldogs. Turlock has started the season 0-5, but its record might be a bit deceiving. Bulldogs coach James Peterson says the team has seen it all and learned valuable lessons despite its winless record. The area will get an idea of what this year’s Turlock team is Thursday night.

Patterson, Hughson and Escalon have key league games early in the schedule. The Tigers face off against Merced in a game that has gone on to determine the Central California Conference champion the past two seasons. Patterson won last week’s league opener against El Capitan in dominant fashion and Merced is 2-0 after picking up wins against Golden Valley and Atwater.

Hughson and Escalon face off Friday night for the 94th time. While Escalon leads the all-time series, Hughson has the most recent victory after earning a 29-14 win last season. The Huskies and Cougars are two of the top small-school teams in California and are each 4-1 heading into the matchup. Coaches for both teams believe the league title won’t be won or lost Friday night, but everyone knows how big the matchup between the two defending state champions is.

Johansen also looks to move to 3-0 in Western Athletic Conference play and Oakdale opens its VOL season against Sierra and its talented quarterback Zak Wilson, who has passed for over 1,100 yards.


Turlock (0-5) at Gregori (4-1), 7 p.m.

Coach Lamar Wallace and Gregori High took full advantage of their bye week in Week 6. Wallace says the Jaguars worked to shore up the little things as they prepare to make a push in the CCAL. Conner Bailey and Trey Webb have been quite a duo through Gregori’s first five games, combining for 293 yards and eight touchdowns through the air. Michael Marsden was great for all of the Jaguars non-league games, rushing for 879 total yards, 175.8 yards per game, and nine touchdowns. They host a Turlock squad that has played two of The Sacramento Bee’s top five ranked teams, Rocklin and Folsom, a pair of Fresno-area heavyweights in Clovis West and Central and a Bay Area perennial playoff team, Clayton Valley Charter.

Peterson says the team is the healthiest it has been all season. After having a bye last week, the Bulldogs get back Tarell Johnson and other offensive and defensive linemen and quarterback Vincent Gonzalez. Gonzalez was injured during the team’s game against Folsom, sat out against Clayton Valley Charter and got extra recovery time during last week’s bye. Jeremiah Stine, a transfer from Downey, will be ready to go after serving his five week section-mandated transfer sit out period. Peterson is excited about what the slot receiver/safety brings to the team with his leadership and “through the roof” football IQ.


Merced (3-2, 2-0) at Patterson (5-0, 1-0), 7 p.m.

For the past two seasons, the CCC championship has come down to the game between Patterson and Merced, and Patterson has won both. The Tigers are hoping to leave the CCC with a three-peat before moving to the VOL next season. Patterson coach Rob Cozart tells his team that until a new league champion is crowned, the Tigers will get everyone’s best game. The Bears are getting better as the season goes on. Cozart says the Merced they see Friday night at home will not be the same team that lost to Downey and Central Catholic in nonleague games. Running back Chase Smith, the reigning CCC Player of the Year, told the Merced Sun-Star after last week’s win over Atwater that he is back to 100% after missing a game earlier this year with a hyperextended elbow. The game will be won in the trenches as Smith continues to improve and the offensive line shows its depth and consistency. Cozart believes ball security and the ability to execute on a few explosive plays will be key. Last week against El Capitan, Max Medina had a career night, throwing for 353 yards and five touchdowns because the Gauchos stacked the box, electing to try to stop Coby Joseph, Jeremiah Lugo and the Tigers’ rushing attack.

Johansen (4-1, 2-0) at Ceres (2-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.

The Vikings already have four wins and have started Western Athletic Conference play 2-0, but coach Rod Smith will admit that nothing has come easy. Three of their four wins have come by less than five points, including both of their league wins over Pacheco and Mountain House. Last week, Johansen took down the Mustangs with a 63-yard rushing touchdown from Kean Saing and a two-point conversion from leading rusher Tek Garcia with around two minutes remaining. Like many schools in the area, Johansen is dealing with an abnormal number of injuries but has continued to win. The Vikings look to break a four-game losing streak against the Bulldogs and, with a win, will secure their first 3-0 league start since 2019.

Oakdale (4-1) at Sierra (3-2), 7 p.m.

The Mustangs got back on the right track last week against Enochs just in time for Valley Oak League play. Head coach Garrett Martin said the team moved the ball well on offense and the defense improved. Now, they set their sights on the always competitive Valley Oak League. Martin preaches execution whether your job is glorious or not. Oakdale is looking to win its fourth straight game against the Timberwolves. In their last 10 matchups, Oakdale has won eight games and lost just two. They will have to stop outstanding junior quarterback Zak Wilson. In his first season as a varsity starter, Wilson has passed for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 93 yards and four scores in five games. Facing Johnny Staggs at Enochs last week could help the defense in their attempt to contain Wilson. His favorite target has been 6-foot-1 fellow junior receiver Trevor Sutton as the two have connected for team highs in receptions (18), receiving yards (492) and receiving touchdowns (5). After being injured during the Week 5 matchup with Escalon and missing last week’s game against Enochs, lineman Thomas Vierra will suit up Friday night against the Timberwolves.

Escalon (4-1) at Hughson (4-1), 7 p.m.

This matchup between two of the Stanislaus District’s top five teams has some serious historical significance. The Hughson-Escalon rivalry dates back to 1930. Escalon leads the all-time 93-game series with a record of 68-22-3. The Cougars are 20-2 since 2001, but Hughson won the most recent matchup, taking the 2022 contest in last year’s TVL opener, 29-14. Both teams are healthy and well rested after each had a Week 6 bye. Escalon has played close contests against some of the best teams from neighboring sections, taking on Central Section and North Coast Section opponents. They most recently beat Oakdale 41-21 in Week 5. Hughson has won each of its games by double-digits, beating Ceres, Central Valley, Pitman and Elite of Vallejo. While the rivalry has been traditionally dominated on the ground, both coaches speak highly of their respective passing attacks. Shaun King at Hughson has been proud of the team’s air attack all season. Junior quarterback Robert McDaniel’s connection with Malakai Sumter, David Delgado and Larkin Meyer has produced 701 yards and nine touchdowns. Andrew Beam was pleased that the Cougars’ offense through the air finally clicked against Oakdale. Donovan Rozevink threw five touchdown passes and found Sam Jimenez for three of them. If you though the Escalon-Hughson rivalry that goes back nearly 100 years couldn’t get any better, consider this: both teams are defending section and state champions. Escalon won Division V section and Division 4-AA state titles last season and Hughson won Division VI section and 5-AA state championships.

Week 7 Schedule


7 p.m.

Turlock at Gregori


7 p.m.

Enochs at Modesto (at Downey High)

Johansen at Ceres

Livingston at Hilmar

Lathrop at Beyer (at Johansen High)

Central Valley at Buhach Colony

Pacheco at Davis (at Gregori High)

Central Catholic at East Union (at Lathrop High)

Merced at Patterson

Oakdale at Sierra

Downey at Pitman (at Turlock High)

Escalon at Hughson

Ripon at Modesto Christian

7:15 p.m.

Denair at Le Grand

Mariposa County at Orestimba

7:30 p.m.

Gridley at Riverbank

Waterford at Ripon Christian