As this football season has passed its midway point, the cream has risen to the top.
Bishop Diego is clearly the top team in Santa Barbara County, though Santa Barbara High isn't too far behind.
The best team in San Luis Obispo County? Well, that case is a bit more tightly contested, though Mission Prep appears to be the frontrunner.
Nipomo, with its 6-0 record, isn't too far behind and Arroyo Grande, riding a four-game win streak, is right there, too.
Those are the top five teams in this week's Power Rankings: Bishop Diego, Santa Barbara, Mission Prep, Nipomo and Arroyo Grande.
The top team in Northern Santa Barbara County is also clear: Santa Ynez, with its 6-1 record, holds that spot. The Santa Maria Valley is having a rough season, with the four 11-man teams going 4-17 this year.
No. 1: Bishop Diego (5-0, bye)
Last week: No. 1. Lost to St. Bonaventure 21-14. CalPreps state ranking: 51.
Defense and special teams dominated the Cardinals' big showdown with St. Bonaventure last week as the Seraphs won the game after returning a blocked 52-yard field goal, attempted by Bishop's quarterback Michael Luckhurst, for a touchdown. The Cardinals had about 150 yards of offense and nearly won the game.
Star running back Delon Thompson was the lone offensive standout in the game, rushing for 218 yards and two touchdowns for the Seraphs.
No. 2: Santa Barbara (5-1, vs. Pacifica)
Last week: No. 2. Beat Lompoc 44-38. CalPreps ranking: 162.
Santa Barbara has been on a roll, reeling off five straight wins after a season-opening loss. The Dons will get a test against the Oxnard schools in Channel League play. If they get past Pacifica this week, the Rio Mesa showdown will be a HUGE game.
Abel Renteria is a good, young quarterback and there are plenty of skill pieces at SBHS.
No. 3: Mission Prep (5-0, at Santa Maria)
Last week: No. 3. Beat Atascadero 27-7. CalPreps ranking: 195.
The theme from Mission Prep this fall: consistency.
The Royals have just been plugging along, steadily beating everyone in their way. That continued with last week's win against Atascadero. Expect another mismatch Friday night in the Ocean League game at Santa Maria. Sharpie it: The Royals will enter the postseason with a 9-0 record and they'll be hoping for a good division placement once the playoffs start. Depending where they land, they'll be eyeing a deep playoff run.
No. 4: Nipomo (6-0, vs. Paso Robles)
Last week: No. 5. Beat Righetti 21-13. CalPreps ranking: 277.
Nipomo hasn't been quite as impressive or steady as Mission Prep, though the results have been the same.
The Titans eked out another win last week, beating Righetti 21-13. Friday's game against a strong and improving Paso Robles team will be another test.
Three of Nipomo's wins have come by one score.
No. 5: Arroyo Grande (4-2, vs. St. Joseph)
Last week: No. 6. Beat Pioneer Valley 34-7. CalPreps ranking: 305.
One of the hottest teams in the region is suddenly eyeing a Mountain League title. But the meat of the Eagles' schedule is coming up, with games remaining against St. Joseph, Righetti, Nipomo and Paso Robles.
Arroyo Grande has won four in a row and will face a St. Joseph team that has yet to find its stride.
No. 6: Santa Ynez (5-1, at Buena)
Last Week: No. 7. Forfeit win over Cabrillo. CalPreps ranking: 279.
Santa Ynez surely would've liked to play Cabrillo to start league play, but the game was scrapped due to a COVID-19 case within the Cabrillo program.
Now the Pirates start league play at a good Buena team that could give them trouble.
No. 7: Paso Robles (3-2, at Nipomo)
Last week: No. 9. Beat St. Joseph 26-21. CalPreps ranking: 349.
The Bearcats stunned St. Joseph last week, climbing out of a 14-7 deficit on the Knights' Homecoming to win 26-21.
Can they deliver another stun at Nipomo Friday? We'll find out.
No. 8: St. Joseph (2-4, at Arroyo Grande)
Last week: No. 4. Lost to Paso Robles 26-21. CalPreps ranking: 313.
After this writer made excuses for St. Joseph most of the season, there were no excuses for last Friday's loss to Paso Robles.
The Knights had their transfers eligible and had plenty of momentum heading into their Mountain League opener, but they just fell flat.
After a 5-0 spring that was utterly dominant, this season is shaping up to be a disappointment. There's still plenty of football to play, but games against Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, Pioneer Valley and Righetti will force the Knights to hurry up the process.
The offense has been inconsistent and the defensive secondary has been exploited. Will this team finally get it into gear?
No. 9: Lompoc (3-3, at Rio Mesa)
Last week: No. 8. Lost to Santa Barbara 44-38. CalPreps ranking: 319.
Another Northern Santa Barbara County disappointment that looked good in the spring. The Braves have lost three in a row and have a monumental task at Rio Mesa in Oxnard this week.
The good news: Lompoc will be in the Central Section next season.
No. 10: Righetti (0-5, vs. Pioneer Valley)
Last week: No. 10. Lost vs. Nipomo 21-13. CalPreps ranking: 497.
How is an 0-5 team in the top 10? Well, there aren't that many other worthy candidates for one. Also, the Warriors have played a crazy difficult schedule.
Righetti's opponents are 23-7 this year and they've lost their last two games by a combined 15 points to two 6-0 teams.
Righetti hasn't been good this year, but when you dig deep enough you see the Warriors are better than their record.
VOTE: Martinez, Maldonado, Miller, Placencia, Puga and Evans up for Player of the Week
Elias Martinez, Righetti WR/DBUpdated
Martinez helped Righetti nearly tie up Nipomo late in Friday's league game. He intercepted a pass near his own end one, then scored on a 57-yard touchdown catch-and-run that could've tied the game at 14, but the Warriors' extra point failed with about 90 seconds left in the game. Nipomo ended up returning the ensuing onside kick for a touchdown in the 21-13 win.
Elias Martinez, Righetti WR/DB: interception, 57-yard TD catch in loss to Nipomo.
Nelson Maldonado, Lompoc WR/DBUpdated
Maldonado has been strong for Lompoc all season, but the Lompoc sophomore had his best game of the year in a 44-38 loss to Santa Barbara. He caught three huge touchdown passes, including one that tied the game at 31 in the second half on a reverse pass. Maldonado is also a starter on defense.
Nelson Maldonado, Lompoc WR/DB: three TD catches in loss to Santa Barbara.
Chris Miller, St. Joseph WR/DBUpdated
Miller, a senior at St. Joseph, played in his second game of the season last week against Paso Robles, and made an impact, mostly playing on defense. The safety has helped captain the defense and makes big special teams plays.
He also got into the act on offense, hauling in a huge 20-yard touchdown on fourth down to give the Knights a 21-20 lead in a game they eventually lost 26-21. Miller also had a 50-yard kick return on the Knights' final possession, setting them up to go in for the go-ahead touchdown, though the drive eventually ended with an end zone interception.
Chris Miller, St. Joseph WR/DB: 20-yard TD catch, 50-yard kick return; 8 tackles, 2 TFL.
David Placencia, Santa Maria DB/QB/RBUpdated
Meanwhile at Santa Maria High, David Placencia has been a rock for the Saints, playing just about every position. Coach Albert Mendoza noted how he played every snap on offense and defense in the loss to San Luis Obispo. He had 14 tackles and a blocked punt on defense and has also played quarterback.
Santa Maria lost to San Luis Obispo 17-6.
David Placencia, Santa Maria DB/QB/RB: 10 carries, 45 yards; 14 tackles, blocked punt in loss to SLO.
Makai Puga, Arroyo Grande RBUpdated
Arroyo Grande's Makai Puga had 164 yards and three scores on only 10 carries in the Eagles' 34-7 rout of Pioneer Valley.
Makai Puga, Arroyo Grande RB: 10 carries, 164 yards, 3 TDs; 2 catches, 33 yards in win over Pioneer Valley.
Gabe Evans, Nipomo RB/LBUpdated
Gabe Evans was key in the Titans' win over Righetti. Evans ran 20 times for 85 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also making nine tackles on defense.
Gabe Evans, Nipomo RB/LB: 20 carries, 85 yards, 2 TDs; 9 total tackles, TFL, pass breakup, QB hurry in win over Righetti.