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‘These are the games that count.’ Who are the teams to beat in the CCC?

Coming into the season, Buhach Colony and Merced were the favorites to win the Central California Conference.

After four weeks, the only thing that has changes is maybe the Bears have leapfrogged the Thunder after as the CCC favorites after going 4-0 and averaging 50 points per game.

The games mean a little more starting this week with CCC action getting underway. The next six weeks will determine the conference champion.

“As much as the last four games meant toward our season goals and us having an opportunity to win games, these are the games that count,” said Merced coach Rob Scheidt. “These are conference games. Everyone wants to play for a conference championship.”

So let’s break down the CCC teams as they prepare for their conference openers on Friday night.

The Favorites

Merced (4-0) - The Bears have looked dominant against a tough schedule that includes two 3-1 teams in Downey and Madera. The offense has been nearly unstoppable with Dhameer Warrn and Junior Garcia rotating at quarterback. Desmond Thompson has three 100-yard rushing games and Xavier Stewart and Ezra Morales have been big weapons at receiver.

It’s hard to imagine any team slowing down this offense. The Bears open at Central Valley (1-3) at Ceres High on Friday.

Buhach Colony (3-1) - The Thunder may have the formula to beat the Bears with their power running game. It could shorten the game and keep the high-octane Merced offense off the field.

John Buttrey, Owen Thomas, Youlas Dickson and Joshua Goodman have all run the ball effectively behind an experienced offensive line.

Buhach Colony will get challenged right out of the gate on Friday night against Patterson (2-2).

Contenders

Patterson (2-2) - The Tigers join Central Valley as the two new additions to the CCC. Patterson has scored at least 40 points in three of their four games. Sophomore Jordan Imada is the leading rusher as the Tigers average close to 200 yards on the ground per game.

Patterson has a weapon on sophomore kicker Adrian Melesio, who kicked a 55-yard field goal right before the half against Modesto last week.

The question is will Patterson be able to compete with the top teams in the CCC. We’ll get a good idea this Friday when they open at Buhach Colony.

Atwater (3-1) - The Falcons have scored a lot of points through the first four week. Quarterback Isaiah Deleon and running back Charles Jackson have been a big-play duo out of the backfield.

With each win the confidence grows at Atwater.

“I think it goes back to the Stagg game,” said Falcons coach Seneca Ybarra. “We didn’t have a great week of practice and we kind of sleep walked our way through the first half. Our guys woke up in the second half. That was a big step for our program because in the past we would have rolled all the way over.

“It showed our kids what happens when you don’t take care of the little things and do things right at practice.”

The Falcons would love to make their last two games against Merced and Buhach Colony meaningful. Atwater opens CCC play on Friday at El Capitan.

AK Golden Valley vs Centennial Football 1.JPG
Golden Valley senior Jaren Phillips (20) attempts to break a tackle during a game against Centennial at Veterans Stadium on the campus of Golden Valley High School in Merced, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. The Golden Hawks beat the Cougars 38-15. Andrew Kuhn akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Dark Horse

Golden Valley (3-1) - The Cougars have definitely showed they are improved with the three wins, but the schedule definitely gets tougher now that they are in conference play.

The Cougars have shown they will compete to the final whistle. Running back Jaren Phillips runs hard and has had success early on this season. Receiver Etrell Bowers is a big play threat and has scored three touchdowns.

Golden Valley probably doesn’t have the fire power to keep up with some of the top teams in the league, but they have the ability to pick up some more wins this season. The Cougars have a bye this week.

The Others

El Capitan (0-4) - The highlight of the Gauchos’ season so far has been playing Oakdale to a 6-6 draw in the first half two weeks ago. El Capitan has been outscored 168 to 36 in the other seven halves of football this season.

Kevin Reid returned to quarterback last week and completed 4 of 8 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown and one interception. Reid played receiver the first three weeks while recovered from a shoulder injury. With Reid at quarterback, it allows the Gauchos to move Jacob Tanori around to different spots.

The Gauchos open at home on Friday against Atwater.

Central Valley (1-3) - The Hawks let a 22-8 lead slip away in the fourth quarter in a 28-22 loss to Enochs last week. Central Valley has averaged only 222 yards of offense through four games. That’s going to make it tough for the Hawks to keep up with most of the offenses in the CCC.

The Hawks open at home against Merced on Friday.

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