Who is the team to beat as Western Athletic Conference play begins this week?

Los Banos quarterback Anthony Caballero scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Chowchilla High to make the score 28-0 at Loftin Stadium in Los Banos on Sept. 29, 2017.
Los Banos quarterback Anthony Caballero scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Chowchilla High to make the score 28-0 at Loftin Stadium in Los Banos on Sept. 29, 2017.

Nobody was talking about the Los Banos High football team as a possible contender in the Western Athletic Conference coming into the season.

Most people felt the Tigers lost too many players from last year's team that finished 8-4.

Not anymore.

Los Banos has turned some heads with a 5-0 record as WAC play begins this week.

"It does put a target on our back with the 5-0 record," said Los Banos coach Dustin Caropreso. "Not a lot of people were looking at us other than our players and coaches coming into the season. Patterson is playing well. They played Downey, which is an undefeated, or Patterson could be 5-0.

"I do think we're going to get everybody's best shot."

The WAC race should be interesting. Every team enters league play with at least two nonconference wins, which means every team is still in the playoff hunt.

"The league is about what I thought coming into the season," said Pacheco coach David Snapp. "Los Banos' record is a little better than I thought. Patterson is probably the cream of the crop. They are playing pretty good all-around football offensively and defensively. I think the top three teams are us, Patterson and Los Banos."

That sets up a big Friday night matchup in Los Banos with Pacheco (2-3) hosting Patterson (4-1).

The Panthers are coming into the game banged up after last week's 59-35 loss to Edison of Stockton. It looks like Pacheco will be without starting tight end Sebastian Zambrano, who injured an ankle.

Snapp still feels the Panthers best shot at knocking off Patterson is playing the same type of game this week.

"We definitely need to control the football and eliminate their big plays," Snapp said. "We need to turn the game into a street fight. We need to be a physical team and make it a bare-knuckle brawl and see who the toughest team is. We don't want to get into a track meet with them."

The other matchups on Friday in the WAC are Los Banos at Ceres (3-2) and Central Valley (3-2) at Livingston (2-3).

Central Valley is the defending champions in the WAC and both Ceres and Livingston are improved this season. The Wolves have been led by quarterback Eduardo Mendoza and running back Anderson Guzman.

"I think everyone is capable of beating anyone," Caropreso said. "Right off the bat you have Pacheco and Patterson playing on Friday night. The team that loses that one is going to be behind the eight ball as far as making playoffs."

Los Banos comes in as one of the teams to beat after averaging 33.8 points per game through the first five games. Running back Antonio Lopez has rushed for 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. Quarterback Anthony Caballero has thrown for 808 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 401 rushing yards and five more scores.

The Tigers defense is coming off a shutout of Chowchilla last week and will be getting some more help with linebacker Adrian Atangan who transferred from Central Catholic and had to sit out the first six weeks. Defensive lineman Jack Aragona has also been cleared after recovering from an ACL tear last season.

"Our defense is getting better and getting a little more help," Caropreso said.

With some of the high-powered offenses the Tigers will be facing in the WAC the Los Banos defense will be challenged. The next five weeks is going to be a grind. Which ever team emerges as the champion will have earned it.

"I think our league has had a good showing," Caropreso said. "I think that's a good thing. It gives the league a good name and it helps the league when it comes time for playoff seeds."