Dustin Caropreso’s earliest memories of the Westside War was when he was a kid. He couldn’t believe so many people showed up for a high school football game.
“I was a kid running around on the sidelines and I just remember how many people there were,” said Caropreso, who begins his eighth season as the Los Banos head coach. “I just remember thinking, ‘Holy smokes.’”
Friday night Dos Palos travels to Loftin Stadium to face Los Banos in the season opener of both teams. It will be the 81st time the two teams have played each other in the rivalry. The Broncos lead the all-time series 42-32-6, however, Los Banos has won the last eight games.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The winning team each year gets to hoist the cotton bale trophy.
“This is the game you circle whenever the schedule comes out,” said Dos Palos coach Rob Calvert. “It doesn’t matter what year, what time the game is, Dos Palos is always going to be up for the Los Banos game. Our kids are excited and ready to go. It’s going to be a good game.”
The last time the Broncos defeated Los Banos was in Mike Sparks’ final game as Dos Palos head coach. Sparks won his 200th career win by going for two and a 21-20 win in 2010.
“That’s definitely one of the games that sticks out to me,” Calvert said. “It was the last time we won it in coach Sparks’ last year. We went for two at the end to win it. It was an exciting game.”
The two schools are separated by just 17 miles on the west side of Merced County. The small-town clash creates a big-time atmosphere every year.
Whether the game is played at Bill Hume Stadium in Dos Palos or Loftin Stadium in Los Banos, it’s standing room only at the game. There are usually fans lining the field.
“Both programs have a lot of tradition,” Calvert said. “Both towns are small towns. This is the best of what high school football is about. There’s a lot of pride and a lot of tradition. A lot of people have played in this game.”
Both teams enter this season with high expectations.
The Tigers return some offensive power in third-year running back Justin Incaprera and speedy receiver Landon Ramos. Los Banos has a defense anchored by a third-year starter at linebacker in Adrian Atangan.
The Broncos return an explosive running back of their own in Tyree Martin and have a big target out wide in 6-foot-4 receiver Zane Merrell. Dos Palos will also rely on a youth movement with as many as six sophomores starting, including quarterback Trent Calvert.
“I listen to the guys at the drug store talk about the Los Banos-Dos Palos rivalry,” Caropreso said. “There’s always a lot of interest in the game. It’s always a big deal.”
All Games Start at 7 p.m.
Dos Palos at Los Banos
Del Campo at Merced
West at Atwater
Buhach Colony at Gregori
Golden Valley at Livermore
Pacheco at El Capitan
Delhi at Hilmar
Le Grand at Livingston
Mariposa at Summerville
Vacaville Christian at Stone Ridge Christian
Fresno at Chowchilla