Emilio Tovar hit the ground on Wednesday afternoon with the all too familiar sound and look of agony.
The injury bug's appetite has been particularly insatiable with the Merced College football team this season, and as the defensive lineman writhed around on the ground, his teammates held a collective look of "here we go again."
When Tovar finally announced it was just a charley horse, the Blue Devil players and coaches shared a relieved laugh and went back about their business.
It's been that kind of year for Bob Casey's squad. If the injury isn't season-ending, there's no sympathy to spare.
Still, fighting through the adversity created by some extreme circumstances has left those still standing tightly bonded together. It was evident at practice on Wednesday, where there was no visible hangover from last weekend's second-half collapse against Chabot.
The atmosphere was loose and the football was fast, leaving Casey very pleased.
"It's entirely possible that Chabot loses to Laney this week and we have a chance to play for a share of the conference title in Week 9," Casey said. "That's something that hasn't happened around here for a long time. As a coach, that's all you can hope for, having relevant games the last couple weeks of the season."
MC (2-5, 0-1 Golden Gate Conference) also has the opportunity to finish .500 for the first time since 2003 and possibly earn a bowl bid. For all of that to happen, the Blue Devils will need to run the table in their last three weeks.
That quest starts on Saturday with a 1 p.m. tilt against a struggling Reedley (1-5) team at Stadium '76.
"Don't let their record fool you, Reedley has some guys," Casey said. "They lost a couple close games early and maybe lost a little bit of confidence. One or two of those games goes a little differently and they probably have a very different season."
The Tigers have struggled to move the ball, averaging a league-worst 242 yards per game and just under 16 points.
Reedley likes to bring pressure from all over defensively, with 13 different players recording at least half a sack on the season.
MC has shown it can move the ball against anyone after racking up more than 1,000 yards the last two weeks, but the bulk of the damage has come in one half of each game. The Blue Devils are still looking for the total performance.
"It's like coach says, it's all about 60 minutes," wide receiver Reginal Harris said. "The offense has had some good halves, but then the defense has struggled. Or the defense has kept us in the game while the offense couldn't do anything.
"We need to have a complete game. That's what we're looking to do on Saturday."