Rob Scheidt can remember his first opening night as the Merced High football coach. He led the Bears to a win over Madera to open the 1996 season.
“It was special for me,” Scheidt said. “It was a game at the college. We got a win in our first game after the school had went 0-10 the year before. We won the Governor’s hat, which was a big thing against our rival.”
His opening nights as a player at Dos Palos are a little more foggy. That’s because he was a ball boy for the Broncos from the time he was 5 years old. He does remember his first varsity game was in Los Banos in front of about 6,000 people for the Westside War.
Scheidt will enjoy his 22nd opening night as the Bears coach on Friday night in an interesting matchup against Del Campo of Sacramento at Veterans Stadium. It’s a matchup of teams who played twice last year, splitting the two games.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“For most kids, they only get two opening nights,” Scheidt said. “Sophomores may have played on Friday nights (in junior varsity), but it’s 100 degrees. Now they are playing with lights on. They are wearing uniforms they’ve never worn before. Mom, dad, friends and people close to them are in the stands. It’s makes for a little more electricity.”
The Bears opened last season at Del Campo where Merced lost 26-21 and more importantly lost starting quarterback Jake Foss to a shoulder injury. The injury forced Dhameer Warren into the spotlight as a sophomore.
Warren went on to start the next the next seven games and then split time with Foss at quarterback when he returned. Warren completed 50-of-72 passes for 788 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“I really didn’t know what to expect last year,” Warren said.
That experience will be valuable as Warren returns as one of the few playmakers from last year’s team which reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals.
One of the questions coming into the season for Merced is who is going to score touchdowns?
The Bears scored 63 offensive touchdowns last season combined through the air and on the ground. All but six of those touchdowns were scored by seniors.
So what’s the biggest question about this team heading into this season for Scheidt?
“Who’s going to score? Other than Dhammer and Xavier (Stewart), nobody else has scored a touchdown,” Scheidt said. “We had Rayveon (Slaton), Paul (Scoggins), (Ulonzo Gilliam), Jake (Foss) and Tanner Pellissier. That’s a lot of quality players that we had.”
Del Campo won’t have that problem as the Cougars returns many of their key players.
The Cougars’ biggest threat is running back Greg Cabral, who led the Sac-Joaquin Section in rushing with 2,417 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. Del Campo also returns quarterback Tyler Dimino and his two top targets in receivers Trevor Brouhns and David Joseph.
“Their quarterback is good,” Scheidt said. “Their running back is obviously good. He had one of the best performances in the section as far as season performance. He had 300 yards against us in the first game. We know what we’re getting with him.”
Merced’s playmakers will emerge. Stewart is back and will be a tough guard for any cornerback. The Bears are breaking in other new receivers and a trio of running backs in Andre Barnett, Garrett Egan, and Elijah Gilliam, who is the younger brother of Ulonzo Gilliam.
“Oh yeah, we have a lot of guys to go to,” Warren said. “I played with a lot of these guys when I was a freshman. I know they are pretty good.”
Friday’s Football Schedule
(All Games start at 7 p.m.)
Del Campo at Merced (Veterans Stadium)
Downey vs Buhach Colony (Atwater High)
Golden Valley at Gregori
Atwater vs Central Valley (at Ceres High)
El Capitan at Calaveras
Hilmar vs Beyer (at Modesto Christian)
Livingston at Delhi
Los Banos at Madera
Madera South at Pacheco
Yosemite at Le Grand
Fresno Christian at Stone Ridge Christian
Chowchilla vs Roosevelt (at Sunnyside High)
Sierra Pacific at Dos Palos.