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Bolden shines in Merced win

Bernard Bolden stood battered and bruised. His face splattered with mud.

The Merced star could barely feel his thumb after jamming it in the fourth quarter.

However, his smile was still there.

Bolden and his Merced teammates live to play another week.

Barely.

Bolden practically carried Merced on his back to a 22-14 win over Johansen in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs on Friday night.

With running back Stephon Mathis out with a sprained ankle, Bolden filled in with 26 carries.

The rest of the night he spent playing safety, running back kicks and punts.

"I'm all beat up," Bolden said. "We need Stephon back next week.

"I'm going to be on him all week to make sure he's taking care of his ankle."

Merced (11-1) will host Stockton St. Mary's (10-2) next week in the semifinals. It's the third straight year Merced will play St. Mary's in the playoffs.

St. Mary's ended Merced's season last year.

Mathis vowed to play.

"I'm playing no matter what," he said. "I can't sit through another one of these games."

Johansen (8-4) gave Merced much more trouble than most people thought.

Running back Deven Cannon racked up 223 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.

However, Merced took advantage of four Johansen turnovers.

Merced cornerback Kaisjon Lopez set up one score when he jarred the ball loose from Cannon.

Bolden picked up the ball and raced 97 yards for a touchdown that gave his team a 13-6 lead late in the second quarter.

"I love that guy's heart," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said. "That's what separates him from all the other players in this area.

"It's his willingness to win. He's tough, too. He couldn't even feel his thumb on our last two possessions."

Bolden helped make up for Scheidt's blunder right before the half.

With six seconds remaining, Scheidt called a timeout in an attempt to force Johansen to punt the ball to Bolden.

Rather than punt, Johansen gave the ball to Cannon and he scored on a 49-yard run. He later added a two-point conversion that put Johansen ahead 14-13 at intermission.

"It was stupid," Scheidt said. "I told the guys at halftime I made a mistake. I out-thought myself.

"I asked them to redeem me and they sure did."

The Merced defense came up with three big turnovers in the second half, as they shut out Johansen in the final two quarters.

Merced quarterback Allen Huddleston put Merced ahead to stay with a 1-yard run early in the third quarter.

"This last month has been real tough for us," Bolden said.

"We know people are gunning for us. We have a target on our backs.

"We've been tested each week and we've risen to the occasion. We're going to have to play better next week, though."

MERCED 22

JOHANSEN 14

At Merced

JOH. 6 8 0 0 -- 14

MERCED 7 6 6 3 -- 22

First Quarter

JOH -- Deven Cannon 23 run (kick failed)

MER -- Bernard Bolden 28 run (D.J. Cherf kick)

Second Quarter

MER -- Bolden 97 fumble return (kick failed)

JOH -- Cannon 49 run (Cannon run)

Third Quarter

MER -- Allen Huddleston 1 run (run failed)

Fourth Quarter

MER -- Cherf 22 FG

Records: Johansen 8-4; Merced 11-1.

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