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In your face! Merced avenges last year's loss to Madera in blowout fashion

MADERA -- Randy Blankenship is ready to hop on the Merced bandwagon.

The Madera football coach came away more than just impressed after Merced crushed his team 50-0 on Friday night to gain control of the Governor's Hat, which is awarded to the winner of this game.

Blankenship felt he had just watched something special.

"There's not a team like that in Fresno," Blankenship said. "It's been a long time since I've seen a team like that around here."

Merced indeed put on a show as it avenged one of its two losses from last season.

Merced coach Rob Scheidt vowed to open up the offense after a 21-14 victory over Los Angeles Crenshaw in the season opener.

He wasn't kidding.

Quarterback Brandon Garcia completed 9 of 15 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns without attempting a pass in the second half.

Merced star receiver Jarrett Sparks again showcased his talents by hauling in seven catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

"They were in single coverage all night," Sparks said. "There was nobody else on my side of the field and their cornerbacks were playing 15 yards off me. That's easy money."

The only thing keeping this from being a perfect night were two key injuries to Merced's running backs.

Scheidt and his coaching staff will hold their collective breath while they await reports of an ankle injury to starter Stephon Mathis and a knee injury to back-up Darrion Gray.

Mathis scored on a 21-yard run on Merced's first play of the second half -- then injured his ankle on Merced's next possession.

"We're just going to have to wait and see," Scheidt said. "We were getting down to the time when we were going to start subbing when he got hurt."

Bryan Sims made the move from fullback to tailback and finished with 87 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

Merced played nearly perfect football -- something it didn't do in last year's 40-34 overtime loss to Madera.

Garcia was making his first career start that night.

Now a senior, Garcia looked like a different quarterback.

"Last year, Brandon had a week to get ready to step in to start," Sparks said. "This time, he was much more prepared. He's had a year to learn behind Logan Todd."

The Merced defense was just as impressive, holding Madera to just 52 total yards in the first half.

Safety Bernard Bolden came away with two more interceptions -- returning one 41 yards for a touchdown -- to make it four in two games.

After a win over a talented Crenshaw team and this dominant performance at Madera, Merced has again caught people's attention.

"We need to keep this up," linebacker James Sulhoff said. "We know what we're capable of now. This is how we have to perform the rest of the season."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at">