FRESNO -- Nathan Mayfield feels like he's been waiting a year for tonight's game against Fresno Edison.
Many of his Merced teammates feel the same way.
During the last six months they've heard plenty about Edison's three All-Americans -- Rolando Jefferson, T.J. McDonald and Cliff Harris.
Finally, the game is here.
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"There's no hard feelings, but I don't like them right now," Mayfield said. "We've been waiting for this game since we found out we were playing Edison.
"Let's go find out what we've got. We're ready to go."
Merced (2-0) comes in ranked 17th in the state by ESPN-CalHiSports against No. 9 Edison (3-0).
Any shot for either team to make a state bowl game will be riding on this game.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Fresno's Chukchansi Park.
"There's been a lot of media hype about this game even before the season started," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said.
"Fortunately, both Edison and Merced have done our parts to live up to the hype.
"We've done some good things in our first two games and they have in their first three games.
"Obviously, it's only escalated the attention this game has received."
Both teams are loaded with big-time players.
Merced has its quartet of players -- Mayfield, Bernard Bolden, Kenny Cooper and Stephon Mathis -- who have been receiving interest from colleges.
"We know they have a lot of ability," said Edison coach Tim McDonald, who played 12 years in the NFL.
"Bolden looks like he's back to being completely healthy. (Cooper) looks like a player and the receiver (Allen Huddleston) they moved to quarterback gives them all kinds of options.
"(Mathis) looks like a solid runner and (Eddie Beavers) doesn't look like the same player I saw last year."
Edison is more than just its big three, too.
McDonald says running back Marquise Cooper might be their best football player, pound-for-pound.
"He's got a lot of moves and a lot of wiggle, I'll give him that," Mayfield said.
It's a rare game in which Merced faces a team that can match its speed.
Edison has made many big plays in its three games. Several of them have come on special teams.
Edison returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in last week's 70-27 win over Fresno Central.
Jefferson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown for the only score in an 8-6 win over Compton Dominguez two weeks ago.
"If they start on the 35-yard line, it's not a bad thing," Scheidt said. "I don't think we'll just kick it out of bounds, but we'll change our approach and be smart."
Smart will help.
So will playing great football -- on both sides.
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.