ATWATER -- Three Dog Night once sang that "one" was the loneliest number; that "two" could be as bad as one; and "three" was the saddest experience you'd ever know. But for Merced High, "three" is the gladdest experience it has ever known. The Bears wrapped up their third straight 10-0 regular season by defeating their rival of rivals to become "three-peat" champions of the Central California Conference. Before the 1990 season began, the Bears declared that the theme of their season was "three-peat." And, with their 48-12 victory over Atwater Friday, Merced accomplished the first part of their season long mission. Now the Bears can focus on the second part of that quest -- defending their Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title. With just over three minutes left in the ballgame, the Bears learned that Fontana, the state's top ranked team, was defeated by Rialto Eisenhower 16-7. Merced fans and players knew that the Fontana loss opened the door to California's top ranking and the chants of "We're No. 1" began. "I hope the kids are more excited about beating Atwater than Fontana losing," Speckman said. "You never know how the polls will go. They may pick someone else from Southern California to be ranked first. Tonight we played hard, hit hard and came through with a total team effort." Merced's Ray Gonzalez summed up his feelings after the game with one simple statement. "I'm excited about winning. I'm excited about the chance to be No. 1...I'm excited about everything." Gonzalez, a 5-8, 175-pound junior, improved his record as the Bears' starting quarterback to 24-0. Gonzalez led the Bears to a 14-0 season and the section title last season and is on course for an encore performance. But Mercedmay not be finished with the Falcons this season. If Merced and Atwater are each victorious in their first round playoff games, a second Bears-Falcons showdown would be played at Merced's Stadium '76. But that's just fine according to Merced's Tony Carillo. The 6-0, 180-pound tight end seemed to be having the time of his life with Merced leading 21-0 late in the second quarter. "It's so fun out there on the field," Carillo said. "I'm getting so much electricity from the crowd I feel like Hulk Hogan." For the most part, Friday's game went without a hitch. But the seating accomodations were, as expected, crowded. "It bothers me a little that we have to sit on the ground," Merced fan Mark Herforth said. Others found the conditions comfortable. "Under the circumstances, the seating is fine," said Greg Olzack, a member of the Atwater City Council. "It seems a lot more exciting. It's like playing at Wrigley Field instead of those big new parks." On the field, where it mattered most, there was plenty of room and Merced looked mighty confortable.