The last time Carlos Acosta shared a field with David DeLaTorre, Jamicheal Turner, Darrius Pierce, Kameron Huddleston and Michael Chambers, the group were at Merced High, battling Vacaville for a section title.
Now two years and an unsuccessful effort to walk on at UC Davis later, the Merced grad will rejoin his former teammates at Don Odishoo Field today.
Only this time, Acosta will be wearing a different uniform.
"I'm really excited I get to play against my old friends," the Modesto Junior College wide receiver said.
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"I know how good all of the guys are and that they can lay a smack.
"I actually want to take some of them on, take a hit from DeLaTorre or try get a catch on Jamicheal.
"We've gone against each other in practice in high school, but never for real, so I want to see how it goes."
With a number of talented sophomore receivers on the MJC depth chart -- including 1,000-yard receiver Marcus Allen -- Acosta's season stats (three catches for 41 yards) don't exactly stand out.
His explosiveness (two touchdowns), however, still remains, and it didn't take his former teammates long to spot him on film.
"Without knowing which number he was, I knew right away which one was Carlos," Turner said. "He runs this middle screen that's almost exactly the same as the one he ran in high school.
"I'll be keeping an eye out for it."
DeLaTorre had a similar reaction.
"I've been looking forward to this game all year long," DeLaTorre said. "We'll be friends again as soon as the game is over, but if I see (Acosta) coming across the middle, I'm going to pop him."
The Merced College crew will look to spoil MJC's perfect run through the Golden Gate Conference. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Modesto (4-0, 6-3) has already assured itself a share of the GGC crown and will attempt to win it outright against its fiercest rivals.
"This is a big game for us," MC coach Tony Lewis said. "They're our rivals. We can spoil their conference title and we can head into next season having won three of our final four games."
Tonight's game will be the 31st edition of the Gateway Bowl with the Blue Devils (2-2 GGC, 2-7) holding an 18-12 all-time edge.
The two schools last met in 2005 with MC winning 41-31.
"I still live in Merced, so I've followed how the guys are doing," Acosta said. "It's kind of weird going up against guys you grew up playing with, but I think it'll be that much sweeter if I can win the title outright against my friends."
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.