MERCED — Kevin Swartwood hasn't been able to stop and catch his breath this season.
Buhach Colony's football schedule which the head coach put together just won't allow it.
Tonight's matchup against Serra (1-1) of San Mateo finishes off a grueling gauntlet of a non-conference schedule that has already included games against Clovis North and San Ramon Valley.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Chabot College in Hayward.
"We're not feeling sorry for ourselves," said Swartwood, whose team is 2-2. "Hey, that's the schedule we have. It's a tough schedule. The way we look at it is we get to play it, not we've got to play it."
There might be a lot of scoreboard watching for Central California Conference teams as five of the six teams prepare for tough matchups this week. (Golden Valley hosts winless McNair on Friday). Merced and Atwater are also both in action tonight.
The conference was a perfect 6-0 last week.
You can't say the CCC teams are playing weak schedules when you look at these matchups:
Merced (3-1) at Clovis North (3-1).
Atwater (3-1) at Clovis (3-1).
Pitman (4-0) at Pleasant Grove (4-0).
Turlock (4-0) at West Valley (2-1).
It's one last test before CCC play begins in two weeks.
"It's a huge challenge for us," said Merced head coach Rob Scheidt. "If you want to be great these are the type of games you have to win. We want to go in there and compete and put ourselves in position to win late."
Winning such games gives a team credibility when playoff seeds are handed out. Sometimes a team can even get noticed with a close loss.
For example, take Serra's only loss this season. It was to De La Salle, 21-14, back on Sept. 7.
Yes, that De La Salle, the Concord powerhouse ranked No.1 in the state and 10th nationally.
"We got that film and (Serra) should have won that game," Swartwood said. "You see that score and maybe you're thinking De La Salle is down this year with a new coach and a new system. But since that game De La Salle has rolled people.
"It's not that De La Salle is down, it's Serra is that good."
The Padres are led by quarterback Matthew Fa'aita, who has thrown for 385 yards and two touchdowns in two games.
Serra also averages 238 yards on the ground with the help of running backs Kava Cassidy and Kelepi Lataimua.
"Everywhere you look they have athletes," Swartwood said. "They have size, speed and they're methodical. You hardly ever see a bad play."
The Thunder come into the game with some momentum after rallying late to defeat Whitney 30-24 last week.
Quarterback Darin Dupont threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lift Buhach Colony.
"We're down two scores with 4:38 left on the clock," Swartwood said. "You want everyone to keep playing hard but you know it's going to be tough to pull out a win. I haven't been part of a game like that in a while.
"We were on the ropes. It was a rowdy ride home."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.