It's every team's hope to play meaningful games at the end of the season.
That's definitely the case for Atwater and Merced high football tonight when they square off in the 44th Santa Fe Bowl at Veterans Stadium.
What's on the line?
How about a Central California Conference championship, playoff berths, playoff position and bragging rights between longtime rivals?
"It's great," said Falcons coach Bob Valladao, whose team comes in with a 5-3 record overall and 2-1 in the CCC. "This is what you hope for, a big game. The kids are fired up. They know what's at stake. Merced is really good. This is what high school football is all about."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Merced leads the all-time series against Atwater 29-14.
A win by Merced (6-2, 3-0) clinches its first CCC title since 2009 and gives the Bears a shot at earning a high seed in the playoffs.
Still, Merced head coach Rob Scheidt says his team is concentrating on only one thing this week.
"We're focused on one game right now," Scheidt said. "We have an opportunity to win a championship this Friday. That supersedes anything beyond Friday. Maybe on Saturday morning we will look at the other stuff."
The Falcons are coming off an impressive 45-20 win over Turlock. A victory tonight pulls Atwater even with Merced atop the CCC and would give the Falcons their sixth win, which should punch their ticket for the playoffs.
A loss and Atwater will head into the Bloss Bowl next week needing a win against Buhach Colony (4-4, 2-1).
The Falcons know they have to slow down a Bears offense that is averaging just under 29 points per game. Valladao feels the best way to do that is for the Atwater offense to play "keep away."
Merced quarterback Tyrone Williams has been on a roll since conference play started, completing 47 of 62 passes for 710 yards with seven touchdowns and just two interceptions in his last three games.
"If we leave points on the field it's not going to be good for us," Valladao said. "We already experienced that against Pitman. Merced can score a lot quicker.
"We've got to sustain and finish drives. We can't beat ourselves. We have to control the ball and we have to convert on third downs."
In other CCC action, Buhach Colony hosts Turlock (4-4, 0-3) in a must-win for both teams if they want to make the playoffs.
Golden Valley (3-5, 1-2) travels to Turlock to play Pitman (5-3, 1-2).