Stephon Mathis knows he's going to be playing hurt the rest of the season.
But you'll have a hard time convincing Golden Valley the Merced running back is slowed down by a high ankle sprain.
Mathis stole the show with 197 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a 35-0 win Friday night as Merced retained possession of the Mayor's Cup at Don Odishoo Field.
"I don't think I'm going to be 100 percent the rest of the season," Mathis said. "I just have to play with it.
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"I'm finally learning how to play hurt."
This performance was special in many ways for Mathis.
It was the first time the junior had played against GV in his high school career.
He missed the games against the cross-town rivals his freshman and sophomore years because of injuries.
Friday night also gave him the opportunity to play in front of his older brother Wendell, who is on injured reserve with the Minnesota Vikings.
"I think a lot of it had to do with his brother being here," said Merced coach Rob Scheidt, whose team improved to 4-0 in the Central California Conference and 8-0 overall.
"He was ready to run.
I talked to him before the game about not being nervous. I just wanted him to be himself."
Mathis scored on runs of 1, 45, 2 and 35 yards.
He helped carry an offense that struggled to get any rhythm in the passing game.
Quarterback Brandon Garcia hit Jarrett Sparks for a 34-yard touchdown to give Merced a 7-0 lead with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
It was Sparks' only catch in the game after hauling in four touchdowns last week against Turlock.
Garcia completed just 7 of 16 passes for 120 yards with two interceptions.
"We knew we could run the ball," Scheidt said. "We just never got it going with the passing.
"Turnovers and penalties were a part of that. I get too greedy, too.
"I try to put the ball up top and score early."
Merced turned the ball over three times and was penalized 16 times for 157 yards.
The Merced defense dominated again en route to its second shutout this season.
"In practice our coaches are always preaching perfection and we did that tonight," Merced defensive end Kameron Huddleston said.
Merced has held five of its eight opponents under 10 points.
"It's the fastest defense we've seen all season," said GV quarterback Jeremy Jacobo, who completed just 4 of 20 passes for 100 yards.
"It was tough getting used to their speed."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org