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Bruised, bashed but victorious

Add another couple positions to Bernard Bolden's resume.

The Merced junior made his first appearance at receiver and punter -- all to help fill in for the absence of Jarrett Sparks, who was on the sidelines with mononucleosis.

Add those chores to his usual duties at running back and safety, and you can see why Bolden didn't get many Gatorade breaks Friday night against Modesto Grace Davis.

Despite 21 penalties and four turnovers, Merced plugged away to win its Sac-Joaquin Section Division I first-round game 38-14.

The victory sets up second-round showdown next week between Merced (11-0) -- which is ranked 13th in the state by CalHiSports -- and No. 21 Stockton St. Mary's (10-1).

Bolden will be ready for another busy night.

"This is the playoffs where it's one loss and you're out," Bolden said. "I'm not ready to go home. You have to be ready to play wherever they need you."

Bolden wasn't the only Merced player working overtime.

Receiver Allen Huddleston had to fill in at cornerback when Jamichael Turner didn't return after the first quarter because of an injured hamstring.

Huddleston also finished the game at quarterback after Brandon Garcia injured his thumb blocking for running back Stephon Mathis.

"This week Allen had the least amount of reps at quarterback all year," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said.

"We knew he was going to play defense and receiver. I thought he came in and played composed at quarterback.

"Bernard was introduced to the X receiver position on Wednesday. We have some stuff for him that we didn't try because it was another game without flow."

Merced racked up 195 yards in penalties, but still had over 550 yards of total offense.

Mathis went crazy on the ground for the second straight week with 242 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

"I keep getting more banged up, but I've got to keep going," Mathis said. "You just try to stay tough."

Merced's mistakes helped Davis hang around longer than necessary, but the game was never in doubt after Merced opened up a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

Garcia threw touchdown passes to Eddie Beavers and Kenny Cooper -- who both also played extensive time on defense -- in the first half.

Merced's ground attack took over in the second half with Mathis collecting 152 yards in the final two quarters.

The Merced defense made it tough on Davis quarterback Ryan Torkelson, who completed just 15 of 40 passes for 173 yards.

Merced could have to do without some key players against St. Mary's, including Garcia, Sparks and Turner.

Garcia will have X-rays on his thumb today.

"I'm just hoping and praying," Garcia said.

Huddleston will again be on standby.

"I'll be watching a lot of film," Huddleston said. "I'm going to have to sit down with coach Scheidt.

"I have a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully we'll have Jarrett back.

"That would help a lot."

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

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