MERCED -- It's a two-school town where neither has a stadium to claim all its own.
For many high school football programs, those are common excuses not to succeed. At Merced High, those factors are worn like feathers.
The Bears have more than overcome the brief lull that occurred immediately following the opening of Golden Valley and now use that as inspiration to rule the town.
Unlike most situations in which a team shares an off-campus stadium, Merced considers it part of its winning legacy to play its home games at Merced College's Stadium '76.
"We do some things differently in this program," said coach Rob Scheidt. "As a staff, we stay away from talking about winning, but we do talk a lot about what it means to be a football player at Merced. We talk about the expectations that not only I have but also about what the tradition holds at Merced.
"Part of that is playing at Merced College, which is a great facility where kids in this town have grown up watching us play. And while they're sitting there, they want to eventually wear the black and orange."
The Bears endured two losing seasons in the most recent decade, including a 4-6 record in 2009. But they were 34-6 in the previous three seasons, including 18-0 in three consecutive perfect Central California Conference campaigns between 2006-08.
But when Scheidt talks about the winning tradition at Merced, he's not referring to the 2000s.
"The glory years of Merced football were in the '80s and '90s, and we've had the ability through the last few years of embracing and building on that," Scheidt said.
He and the Bears do things a little different. You won't see a lot of Merced in summer passing leagues. You will see them maximize their time during the season, with morning workouts and Wednesday night football workshops.
It all goes toward making the most of the players' attention during the football season, instead of asking so much in the off-season that the sport can lose its elements of fun.
"We don't go to every passing tournament in the summer because that's not an emphasis for us," Scheidt said. "Football is a grind for a lot of these kids and you have to make it fun. We choose to put the emphasis on the period of time that counts.
"We want to make every Friday night a special time for us."
And Scheidt would like to see those Friday nights remain at Merced College. With Golden Valley pooling resources into building an on-campus stadium, Scheidt knows there will be pressure from the district for the Bears to play home games at the new facility.
"That stadium was built in 1976 with two schools in mind -- Merced College and Merced (High) -- and we've always looked at it as our home field," Scheidt said. "It costs us money to play there, but we still make money with the crowds we get. Golden Valley loses money when they play there, so they're looking into this new stadium and there will be pressure for us to play there.
"There's a lot of alumni who want us to stay where we are, and I know we might not have a say in it, but that venue is a big part of Merced High tradition."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.