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Mathis will play Friday, running at full speed

So far, so good for Merced running back Stephon Mathis.

The senior star appears on track to play on Friday against St. Mary's in the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal playoff game.

Mathis missed last week's 22-14 win over Johansen with a sprained left ankle.

Mathis has been able to go full speed in practice this week with a brace on his ankle.

It's a needed weapon against an explosive opponent in St. Mary's.

Mathis has racked up 1,832 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground.

"It feels pretty good," Mathis said. "I'll be able to play.

"I don't feel pain. It's just a little stiff. But, there's no doubt in my mind...I'll be out there."

Blast from the past

It's been almost a decade since Willie Steverson played quarterback for Merced.

Steverson is displaying the skills that helped him pass for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1999 this week in practice.

Steverson is playing the role of St. Mary's Cody Vaz in attempt to get the Merced defense prepared to face the Oregon State-bound quarterback.

Steverson is making enough plays to get under the skin of some of the Merced defensive players.

"We need to put some pads on him," defensive end Nathan Mayfield barked at Merced's coaching staff.'

Mayfield was upset he couldn't hit his former junior varsity assistant coach.

Merced-St. Mary's Part III

Merced has been waiting for another shot at St. Mary's since Vaz and company ended Merced's season last year in the second round of the playoffs.

It's made for an intense week of practice.

"The two teams know each other," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said.

"We've seen a big time pick-up in tempo the last two days.

"There's 48 Division I teams in our section and we're one of only four teams left and one of only two left south of Stockton.

"That's pretty special."

Tickets on sale

Tickets for Friday's game are on sale at Merced's Student Body Office. Prices are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children.

The gates will open at 6 p.m.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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