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And just like that, a rivalry begins

There was little interest the previous three times Golden Valley faced Los Banos.

The two teams hadn't played each other in a regular-season game until Los Banos joined the Central California Conference in 2004.

Since then, all three meetings have been lopsided GV victories.

So why all the hoopla over tonight's matchup?


Dennis Stubbs.

The former Golden Valley coach will lead his new Los Banos team against his old one for the first time tonight at Don Odishoo Field.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

"This game isn't about me," Stubbs said. "That's what we've been telling our kids this week. It's about us and our program. I assume (Golden Valley) has been doing the same thing.

"But there's no way to avoid it. Obviously, there is going to be talk about me. I think our kids have handled it real well. They're just excited to play football."

Stubbs was hired at Los Banos in January after spending 12 years at Golden Valley.

Stubbs compiled a 78-53-1 record while leading GV to three CCC titles and two section final appearances.

Is there a little extra motivation for the kids wearing those GV helmets tonight?

"I've been waiting for this game ever since he left," Golden Valley receiver Caleb Fiedor said. "I can't believe it's here so fast."

Caught in the middle of everything is Jon Betschart, Stubbs' successor at GV.

There can't be any complaints about the job Betschart has done.

Golden Valley comes into the game 1-0 in the CCC and 3-2 overall.

After going 1-15 in its first three seasons in the conference, Los Banos surprisingly sits atop the CCC at 2-0.

"For Dennis and the kids, there's a lot of emotion this week," Betschart said.

"It's exciting. They're a good ball club. They're coming in 2-0 and we're 1-0.

Both teams have worked hard to get to this point."

With both teams dreaming of playoffs, the "Dennis Stubbs Bowl" means much more than the return of an old friend.

"Obviously, Merced and Pitman are the front-runners," Stubbs said. "Everybody thinks that.

"The question is will somebody come out of the pack (and) at least battle Pitman to get that second playoff spot? That's why this game is huge."

Both teams are playing with confidence.

Los Banos has put together three straight wins for the first time since 1999.

Quarterback Julio Cortez passed for four touchdowns last week.

Los Banos has also shown the ability to run the ball with its bruiser Casey Cotta.

Golden Valley has received stellar play from its defense. The secondary has nine interceptions in their last two games.

"Los Banos has thrown the ball very well," Betschart said. "Sergio, Jeremy and J.J. have stepped up and played good defense. We expect that again this week."

The big-game atmosphere is nothing new for a GV team that has made the playoffs three straight years.

Obviously, Stubbs is well aware of that fact.

"Our biggest concern is the experience of that group," Stubbs said. "They've been in big games. Those seniors have been to the playoffs the last two years.

"We're behind in the experience category. That's a big concern for us."

Golden Valley came into this season than bigger goals than just winning this game.

"We want to make the playoffs," Fiedor said. "Yeah, I want to beat my old coach. But I want to go to the playoffs way more than I want to beat him."