When the Sac-Joaquin Section expanded the football season, allowing teams to play 10 games in an 11-week span, it created another opportunity to see a marquee matchup. If you're looking for an entertaining game on a Friday, these should top your list:
Hilmar vs. Beyer (Downey): These two open the Modesto Kickoff Classic, as well as the 2010 season with a 5 p.m. kickoff. Beyer QB Justin Usiak is anxious to forget about his injury-plagued junior season, while Hilmar will spread the field and exploit its agility on the fake grass. Beyer's Richie Alkire takes the field in his first game as the head coach.
Oakdale at Turlock: Looking for finesse? Don't bother here -- these neighbors love to hit. Turlock needs to make a statement after going 0-10 last season, while Oakdale is eager to show it can score after losing last year's offense to graduation. The 'Dogs debut on new turf at Joe Debley Stadium.
St. Mary's at Central Catholic: Nothing raises a religious fervor like the Holy Bowl, particularly since St. Mary's always struggles with its smaller parochial rival. The series is 2-2 and both must reload after heavy graduation losses.
Patterson at Escalon: Being in different divisions, Patterson's growing enrollment has sent it to Division 3, has done nothing to soften this rivalry between former Trans-Valley League foes. If anything, Escalon seems to take even more delight in playing their larger opponent -- the Cougars are 4-2 in the last six games.
Oakdale at Sierra: This became a must-see the moment Sierra upset Oakdale 44-42 on a 40-yard field goal with 1:25 to play in front of 4,000 fans at The Corral. It was Sierra's first-ever win over the Mustangs, the district's No. 3 winningest program over the last decade. Revenge will be on Oakdale's mind, while Sierra wants to show it was no fluke.
Davis at Pitman: Both feel they have a shot at winning a league title, so this showcase between non-league foes is an opportunity to show it. The fast turf at Debley Stadium will allow both to show their speed. Both open league the next week and, given the new playoff format, a win here is as important as a league win.
Johansen at Modesto: The city's top programs -- the two have combined for five of the last six Modesto Metro Conference titles -- meet in a conference opener. Johansen's air attack is back and Modesto features the city's top running back in Arquel Rogers.
Manteca at Sonora: In 2005, the Wildcats shocked Manteca 31-28 to give the Buffs their lone loss in a 12-1 season that culminated in a section title. The Buffs have owned Sonora since, winning four in a row by a combined 113-45. Sonora is tough at home -- the '05 upset was in the hills -- so can it produce off another surprise?
Buhach Colony at Merced: A breakout game for Eric DeAnda in 2009, he ran for a school-record 303 yards in Merced's 33-30 win. BC wants revenge, almost as much as its wants a CCC title. If there's one game on the schedule that could decide the champ, this will be it.
Los Banos at Central Catholic: Folks circled this one the moment the section revealed its realignment scheme two years ago. LB drops down due to lower enrollment, and Central Catholic moves up due to its football success. LB coach Dennis Stubbs, one of the district's best, brings a rugged ground game to town and CC needs a confidence-boosting win after playoff disappointments the last two seasons.
Pitman at Turlock: No rivalry in the district can top the Harvest Bowl when it comes to bitterness and creativity, and that's just with the fans. Pitman dominates the series by a 5-1 edge and won 40-6 last year -- and don't you believe for a moment that every Bulldog doesn't have that lopsided scored etched in his mind.