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Playoff plans decided tonight

TURLOCK -- Merced already has a share of the Central California Conference football title in the bag.

Coach Rob Scheidt's guys also wrapped up a playoff spot with last week's gritty win over Turlock.

You might think tonight's season finale on the road against Pitman is just a playoff tuneup.


Merced (5-0 CCC, 8-1 overall) can make its post-season path a lot easier with a win tonight.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Joe Debely Stadium.

"I personally can't imagine not playing another game at home this year," Scheidt said.

"We want to get back home. You don't want an opportunity like that taken away from you."

A victory tonight would give Merced home-field advantage for at least the first two rounds of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Almost as important, a win would put Merced on the opposite half of the South bracket from both Stockton St. Mary's (7-2) and Stockton Lincoln (8-1).

A Merced loss would send Pitman (4-1, 7-2) into the playoffs as the CCC's No. 1 seed, meaning Merced could be on the road throughout the playoffs -- including a first-round matchup at St. Mary's.

"That's why it's such a big game," Merced quarterback Allen Huddleston said. "We want to play at home in front of our fans."

Merced also will be short-handed tonight.

Defensive end Nathan Mayfield will not play for what Scheidt called personal reasons.

Scheidt expects Mayfield to return next week.

Tight end Patrick Franey, however, was dismissed from the team this week for disciplinary reasons and will not return.

"Our guys have shown they are a resilient group," Scheidt said. "I think that will show (tonight). Of course, you don't know until you get in those situations how it will affect you."

Merced will have plenty of fans in Los Banos (3-2, 5-4), which closes out the regular season at home against Buhach Colony (0-5, 2-7).

Los Banos needs a win, a Merced victory and a Turlock win over Atwater to earn its first playoff berth since 1998.

Other key area games include Patterson (3-1 Western Athletic Conference, 7-2) at Hilmar (3-1, 8-1).

In the North Sequoia League, Chowchilla (5-0 NSL, 8-1) is hosting Dos Palos (0-5, 2-7) in a traditional rivalry game.

Le Grand (3-1 Southern League, 5-4) can wrap up the SL's No. 2 seed with a win at Waterford (3-1, 5-4).