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Another big game for Merced

Brandon Garcia couldn't believe he was watching himself on the tape. "I could tell something was wrong," the Merced quaterback said. "I was taking five steps when I should have been making three-step drops, and sometimes three when I should have taken five. I could see some of the wrong calls I made."

There are even moments of Merced's 16-6 victory over Sonora Garcia doesn't remember at all.

As it turns out, Garcia played through a concussion he sustained early in the second quarter.

He didn't play well.

The senior threw four interceptions.

Two weeks later, Garcia is ready to get back on the field as Merced (3-0) opens up Central California Conference play with a critical matchup against Pitman (2-1) at Don Odishoo Field.

In other CCC action, Los Banos travels to Atwater to face Buhach Colony and Atwater opens at Turlock.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Garcia does remember the play early in the second quarter against Sonora when he likely suffered the injury.

"I rolled out and when I went back around to the left side,

I got hit by one guy and when I went down, I got hit in the back of the head," Garcia said.

"My head was pounding and my ears were ringing, but I thought it was just an ordinary hit."

It wasn't until after the game that Garcia was checked out -- and told he had a concussion -- by the Merced trainer.

A visit to the emergency room later that night confirmed he indeed had suffered a concussion.

"Probably in retrospect, we should have done something," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said.

"When you ask a kid if he's OK and he's eager to get back out there -- we had no idea. We're going to have to look at all our guys closer and get them checked out if we feel something's wrong."

Garcia was cleared for this week's game on Wednesday, and he's eager to erase what he does remember from his performance against Sonora.

Garcia had thrown five touchdowns and just one interception in his first two starts this season.

"His first two games against Crenshaw and Madera, Brandon played as well as anyone I've coached," Scheidt said.

"That's what we want him to go back to. You don't want him to ruin his self-cofidence because of an injury."

Merced will need Garcia at his best tonight against one of the top defenses in the CCC -- led by linebackers Stefan Palacios and Dalton Binda.

Tonight's matchup features the only two teams given serious consideration to win the conference.

"I think we'll be ready," Scheidt said. "We've had so many big games the last two years.

"People reading the paper might think the Sun-Star is just pumping up another big Merced game.

"We feel this game is huge. I know (Pitman) feels the same way."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

Pitman (2-1)

at Merced (3-0)

WHEN: Tonight at Don Odishoo Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

LAST SEASON: Merced won, 44-26, handing Pitman its worse loss of the season.

INJURY REPORT: Merced RB Stephon Mathis will play after missing one game with knee and ankle injuries. QB Brandon Garcia will also play after suffering a concussion vs. Sonora.

RB Darrion Gray will miss his second straight game.

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