Merced College is eager to finish strong at Laney

Blue Devils hope to break even with win

slynch@mercedsunstar.comOctober 31, 2013 

The Merced College and Laney football teams were both hoping to be playing for a share of first place tonight.

Things didn't go according to plan. Chabot made sure of that.

The Eagles (4-3, 1-1 Golden Gate Conference) unraveled in the second half a week ago, squandering a 19-7 lead to Chabot.

The Blue Devils (3-5, 1-1 GGC) can relate, having given up a 22-13 halftime lead to the Gladiators the week before.

The pair will have to settle for trying to keep pace when they get together tonight and hope someone else can trip up Chabot along the way. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Oakland

"We were hoping for a little help, but that's the spot we put ourselves in," MC head coach Bob Casey said. "All we can do now is try and win our last two games and see where the chips fall.

"Right now we're trying to put together back-to-back wins and finish this season with some momentum."

A .500 finish would still be a huge boon for a Blue Devils squad that hasn't accomplished the feat since 2003.

To achieve that, they're going to have to beat possibly the best defense they've seen all season.

"Laney is just one solid unit," Casey said. "They're the fastest defense we've gone up against and they are battle tested. They've gone toe-to-toe with some of the top teams in Northern California."

MC will counter with an offense that has averaged 470 yards and 36 points per game since the return of starting quarterback Javon Smith.

The run is all the more impressive considering the Blue Devil offense hasn't been particularly sharp in the second half of the last two games.

"When we're going, this offense can do some things," wide receiver Carlos Diaz said. "No one has really stopped us. We've just stopped ourselves.

"We need to work on not coming out so flat at halftime. I think we went into halftime the last two weeks thinking we had them, and the other teams just kept fighting.

"Hopefully we've learned our lesson, no matter what the score is this week."

Taking care of the ball will be an added emphasis in this game.

Both defenses have been opportunistic, forcing more than two turnovers per game. And both offenses got a little sloppy last week, turning it over a combined 11 times.

Whichever team wins the turnover battle is likely coming out on top.

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