Why not?That’s the question Dennis Stubbs has been asking his Los Banos players all week as they prepare for this week’s key Central California Conference clash with Merced.“We’re definitely going against the guys that have been on top of the hill going on three years now,” Stubbs said.“Our kids know that. They read the paper. We’ve gotten better each week, so our approach is: Why not?”Los Banos (1-0 CCC, 3-2 overall) can answer that question tonight against the two-time defending conference champs.Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Merced College.There’s no question Merced is still the favorite entering CCC play after posting a 3-1 record against a difficult non-conference schedule. Players like Bernard Bolden, Nathan Mayfield, Kenny Cooper and Stephon Mathis give Merced a group of athletes nobody in the conference can match.So how much has Los Banos closed the gap?LB features a big, physical offensive line, while quarterback Erik Martin, receiver Rubal Sangha and running back Darron Brown have helped ignite a high-scoring offense.Not only that, but the defense posted its first shutout since 1992 in last week’s impressive 28-0 win at Turlock.“We’re confident we can play with the big boys,” Stubbs said. “We’re pretty excited to play (tonight). Our guys know the opportunity they have.”Still, beating Merced won’t be easy.Rob Scheidt’s guys have won 12 straight CCC games.Merced features a strong running game anchored by Mathis, who has racked up 672 yards and nine touchdowns.Merced’s Achilles’ heel has been the passing game.After throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in the first two games, quarterback Allen Huddleston has thrown four picks over the last two weeks.“We definitely don’t want to abandon the pass,” Scheidt said. “We just have to get back to doing the things we were able to do against Madera and Napa.”Scheidt feels Huddleston has been a little gun-shy since facing Edison’s great cornerbacks.“We have to realize not everybody is going to be able to respond like Edison’s guys,” Scheidt said.Stubbs feels stacking the line and forcing Merced to throw may not be the best option.“It’s scary any way you look at it,” Stubbs said. “Allen reminds me a lot of Chris Randle when I was at Golden Valley.“Sometimes we’d call a pass play and hope he’d take off running. I know he hasn’t been sharp, but he could have a great night.“Trying to match up with Bolden, Cooper and (Eddie) Beavers outside is scary, too.”None of it, though, is scary enough to keep Los Banos from showing up and forcing an answer to the big question.Why not?
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