It's hard to believe there are only three weeks left in the regular season for football teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
The regular season may be winding down, but there's still plenty to play for.
Looking around Merced County, four teams could have some staying power this postseason.
Last year, we saw both Le Grand and Buhach Colony make long playoff runs. The Bulldogs ultimately won a section championship and the Thunder fell to eventual state champion Folsom in the semifinals.
Both are well-equipped to do it again. Add in Los Banos and Hilmar and we're looking at possibly four teams practicing on Thanksgiving morning.
Let's take a closer look at why each team may have staying power come postseason:
Le Grand (7-0)
The Bulldogs have the best shot of any local team of playing in a state bowl.
If Central Catholic doesn't win a D4 section title, it looks like Le Grand would be the choice to represent the North in the Division 4 bowl.
Le Grand is the heavy favorite to repeat this season in the D5 section. The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 393-87. Daniel Guizar (1,139 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns), Zach Moreno (815 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns) and Alex Bucio (1,471 passing yards and 26 touchdowns) are all among state leaders.
You just don't see that kind of balance at the small-school level.
If Le Grand can get past rivals Mariposa in the regular-season finale, those blowouts could continue all the way to Carson.
Buhach Colony (7-0)
If the Thunder can win a D2 section title, BC will likely earn an invite to the state bowl.
However, their path is a lot tougher than Le Grand's, littered with potential obstacles. Elk Grove, Vacaville and Folsom will make up a fun D2 bracket.
The Thunder should have a high seed and home playoff games up until the championship game.
The Thunder have a dominant defense and a strong running game. Both can be helpful in the postseason.
Los Banos (6-1)
The Tigers have won six straight games and should finish the season 9-1.
It looks like Los Banos will go into the D3 bracket with a high seed.
It'll be a tough field with Oakdale, Manteca, Placer and possibly Del Oro.
What you have to like about the Tigers is their coach Dennis Stubbs, who led LB to the Division 1 semifinals two years ago.
The Tigers have balance on offense with running back James Sams, quarterback Chris Corpus and a big-play receiver in Daeton West.
Los Banos' defense has also played well in its two biggest games against Patterson and Central Catholic.
The Yellowjackets definitely have people in Escalon talking about next week's clash in Hilmar.
Coach Frank Marques already has a section title under his belt, and he believes this team has the same DNA.
The Yellowjackets have a versatile offense that can spread teams out or play smashmouth football.
Hilmar is deep and very dangerous.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.