Football is here, folks.
Time to study up on your local pigskin knowledge.
To assist your efforts, here's an ABC guide to the prep football season:
Against all odds.
We should find out very early where Merced ranks among the state’s best. Rob Scheidt’s boys take on Napa, Fresno Edison, and Del Oro in consecutive weeks before beginning their hunt for a third Central California Conference crown.
Bowl games, as in state bowl games.
In January, the CIF Federated Council agreed to expand the championship format from three to five divisions.
Combines and camps.
The proliferation of these summer activities have landed several players on scouting boards for colleges big and small. Ask Merced.
Defending champs: Merced (CCC), Patterson (Western Athletic Conference), Washington Union (North Sequoia League), Turlock Christian (Southern League), Calvary Temple (Harvest Christian League).
Everywhere: Merced senior Bernard Bolden.
As a junior, Bolden played running back, wide receiver, ran back kicks, punted the ball and played safety. Rumor has it he might line up under center this season, too.
Falcon Field at Atwater High.
The place will have a whole new look this season. If football games were decided by facilities, no one would come close to Atwater.
Sprinturf, all-weather track and a re-tooled weight room make Falcon Field the premier football venue in the area.
All prep football games will be played on Friday nights, with kickoffs ranging from 7-7:30 p.m.
Golden Valley and Stone Ridge Christian are the exceptions to the rule. Both will play a handful of Saturday games this fall.
Home Depot Center.
The venue down in Carson will host the CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games -- five games in two days -- through the 2009 season.
Nothing soothes aching legs quite like a plastic garbage can and five bags of ice.
After helping out the Merced program, Bell brings his championship experience to Atwater.
"The guy with big arms," as Atwater coach Bob Valladao calls him, will work with the linebackers.
Kicker Humberto Del Rio.
The Dos Palos specialist will look to add to his program record for field goals (14) in his final season.
Seven players from the area played in the annual charity game, including Golden Valley's Jay Jay Terry. The cornerback was named defensive MVP after picking up nine tackles and an interception.
Golden Valley owns the head-to-head (8-6), but Merced has won the last two by a combined score of 73-14.
Just to name a few: Allen Huddleston (Merced), Erik Martin (Los Banos) and Kyle Davey (Buhach Colony).
They sent us links to YouTube video clips, snarly messages and outright pleas for publicity.
Watch our freshmen, cried Buhach Colony parents.
Well, the wait is over. Coach Kevin Swartwood says part of the nucleus from that undefeated freshman team are set to earn their varsity stripes.
May have lost playmaker Matt Staack and wrecking ball Stefan Palacio to graduation, but the perennial CCC title contender hasn't lost its swagger.
Expect Pitman to push Merced for the top spot.
Merced finished 14th in MaxPrep's final Sac-Joaquin Section rankings -- the highest of any team in our area.
Steitz, as in Nick Steitz.
The Los Banos native was the starting center for the AFL's Grand Rapids Rampage, which came within one game of an Arena Bowl berth.
Now that his season is over, Steitz will begin working with LB's massive offensive line.
Pitman's older neighbor appears loaded offensively with quarterback Nick Crivelli and running back Tharon Gallegos back in the mix.
Atwater and Buhach Colony have combined for an 8-37 record in conference games over the last four seasons.
Could this be the year they finally turn around those numbers?
Dos Palos owns 15 titles and Chowchilla two.
Clearly, this hasn't been much of a war. Dos Palos has won 11 straight over Los Banos and holds a 40-22-6 advantage in the all-time seiries.
X stands for "excitement."
Yes, that's a nickname.
Atwater might not have the athletes that Merced rolls out every Friday night, but they do have one of the CCC's best at their disposal: running back Dexter Coward.
He's a threat through the air or on the ground.
A as in "Why not?"
Hilmar returns most of its roster from a team that went 7-3 and could shock WAC powers Central Catholic and Patterson. Remember, you heard it here first.
That's the number of losses you'll need have a shot at making it to Carson at the end of the season -- and even that might not do it.
Good luck, guys.
James Burns is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2417 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.