Shawn Jansen: A trio of can't-miss playoff games

Shawn Jansen

Eddie Beavers told me he hasn't been able to sleep all week.

The Merced senior can't stop thinking about tonight's game against Stockton St. Mary's.

If it wasn't for Nyquil, these last few nights might have been miserable for me, too.

However, a simple cold won't keep me away from work tonight.

It's not exactly like former San Francisco 49ers safety Ronnie Lott amputating part of his pinky so he can play the next week.

But if Merced's Stephon Mathis can give it a go on a gimpy ankle, I can plug away at the keyboard with the sniffles.

What a week to be a prep football fan.

These games are nothing to sneeze at.

You have to start with the Merced-St. Mary's clash at Merced College.

Talk about star power.

You have Oregon State-bound quarterback Cody Vaz slinging the ball all over the field for St. Mary's.

Everyone in the area is well aware of the Merced stars.

It's two of the top programs in the Sac-Joaquin Section smashing heads together for the third straight year in the playoffs.

Don't be fooled. Merced wanted to play St. Mary's.

Players like Kenny Cooper and Beavers were waiting outside the locker room to hear updates of the St. Mary's-Lincoln game after last week's win over Johansen.

Many of the players want payback after St. Mary's ended Merced's playoff run last year.

The winner moves on to the section title game next week at the University of the Pacific.

Merced came up just short to Vacaville in the championship game two years ago.

St. Mary's lost a shootout to Napa in the finals last year.

Both teams want another shot at the blue banner.

A loss would be tough to stomach for Merced.

The last four years, Merced has compiled a very impressive 42-6 record.

But, Rob Scheidt's boys still haven't won that elusive section title.

The Merced-St. Mary's game is just one of three fantastic games this week.

Just a short drive down Highway 99, Chowchilla is hosting Washington Union in a Central Section Division IV semifinal playoff game.

The two North Sequoia League rivals are playing for a spot in next week's Valley Championship game.

Chowchilla has been rolling. John Henson's defense has given up three or less points in three of the last four games -- and that includes a 26-0 win over Washington on Oct. 31.

Everything seems to be pointing to a Chowchilla-Central Valley Christian championship game.

It would give Chowchilla a chance to avenge it's only loss of the season.

Hilmar gets that same opportunity on Saturday against Central Catholic.

The only blemish on Hilmar's schedule was a 23-7 loss to Central Catholic six weeks ago.

Hilmar is a much better team now.

The defense has been dominant. The offense has been lighting up the scoreboard.

Hilmar has a realistic shot of ending Central Catholic's reign of seven straight section titles.

We have two public schools in Hilmar and Merced squaring off against private schools this week.

You'll find me rooting for the public school every time.

But that's a column for another day.

Right now, I'm excited about tonight.

This is why we do what we do.

Sportswriters are fans first. We live to write about these kind of games.

All week in the office, the conversation has centered on this week's games.

Will Mathis' ankle hold up?

Can Merced get to Vaz?

Will Chowchilla keep on rolling?

Does Hilmar really have a shot against Central Catholic?

Soon, we'll know all the answers.

I can't wait.

I just have to remember to pack the cough syrup.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at

Prep Football Playoffs


Sac-Joaquin Section

Division I semifinal

St. Mary's at Merced, 7:30 p.m.

Central Section

Division IV semifinal

Wash. Union at Chowchilla, 7 p.m.


Sac-Joaquin Section

Division V championship

Hilmar vs. Central Catholic, 1 p.m.

at the University of the Pacific