Injuries are a part of football, and we’ve seen how they can affect teams in Merced County this season.
Merced High School was fortunate to have a quarterback to turn to in Dhameer Warren when Jake Foss injured his shoulder in the season opener. Warren led the Bears to a 6-1 record and helped keep Merced in the running for a Central California Conference championship and a playoff spot as Foss worked his way back into the lineup.
Other teams also have had to deal with injuries as they chase conference titles or postseason berths.
It looks like Pacheco star Chris Munoz will be out for the rest of the season after suffering a concussion last week against Central Valley. That’s big considering the Panthers will miss him in their secondary when they face pass-happy Ceres this week. Pacheco also has a banged-up running back in Tk Teneng.
Delhi tried to rest Jesse Flores’ injured ankle for two weeks, but with the Hawks trailing last week, they brought in Flores in the second half. It wasn’t enough as Delhi fell to Denair 14-0 for the Hawks’ first loss. This week, Delhi faces a must-win against undefeated Orestimba if the Hawks want to win their first Southern League title.
Hilmar (7-1) lost leading rusher Joshua Lee Jennings for the season to an injured knee in Week 1 against Beyer. The Yellowjackets have overcome that with Cody Rentfro and Xavier Burke in the backfield.
Stone Ridge Christian (8-0) has kept winning despite bringing along Shane Casillas slowly from his leg injury last season.
The teams that overcome key injuries are usually the teams playing late into November. Let’s move on to this week’s games:
Merced (6-2, 3-1 Central California Conference) at Turlock (6-2, 4-0) – The Bears need a win to keep alive their hopes of a fourth consecutive conference championship and then for the Bulldogs to defeat Pitman next week. Jake Foss looks like he’ll return to his starting role at quarterback. The Bears have won four straight against Turlock and eight of the last 10. Prediction: Merced.
Pitman (8-0, 4-0 CCC) at Golden Valley (5-3, 1-3) – The Cougars need one win in the final two games to earn a playoff spot. They’ve had two weeks to prepare for the Pride after a bye last week. The question is, can their defense find a way to slow Pitman’s Devan Bass? Prediction: Pitman.
El Capitan (2-6, 1-4 CCC) at Atwater (0-8, 0-4) – The Gauchos have struggled to score and have been outscored 162-7 in their last four games. The Falcons have surrendered at least 48 points in all four of their CCC losses. Prediction: El Capitan.
Ceres (4-4, 2-1 Western Athletic Conference) at Pacheco (4-4, 2-1) – The Panthers are banged up with Munoz out and Teneng hurting. Last week, they were in line to win the conference. Now, they are playing for their playoff lives, needing to win their final two games. Prediction: Pacheco.
Los Banos (5-3, 2-1 WAC) at Livingston (1-7, 0-3) – The Tigers got a big performance from Daniel Guerrero, who caught three touchdown passes in a 48-34 win over Patterson last week. The Wolves have surrendered 194 points in their last four games. Prediction: Los Banos.
Orestimba (7-1, 5-0 Southern League) at Delhi (7-1, 4-1) – The Hawks should come into this matchup refocused after being upset by Denair 14-0. Delhi’s Flores has been trying to heal a gimpy ankle the past few weeks. The Warriors have been playing consistent all season. Prediction: Orestimba.
Ripon Christian (2-6, 1-4 SL) at Le Grand (0-8, 0-5) – The Knights have played some teams tough, with two one-point losses. Le Grand scored a season-high 19 points last week. Prediction: Ripon Christian.
Denair (5-3, 3-2 SL) at Mariposa (3-5, 2-3) – The Coyotes continue their storybook season with just 16 players as they upset Delhi. Denair needs one more win to qualify for the playoffs. Mariposa has won two in a row. Prediction: Denair.
Waterford (3-5, 1-4 SL) at Gustine (5-3, 4-1) – The Reds have won three in a row and can set themselves up to play for a share of the Southern League championship against Orestimba next week with a win. Prediction: Gustine.
Hilmar (7-1, 3-0 Trans-Valley League) at Mountain House (1-7, 0-3) – The Yellowjackets are riding a four-game winning streak. Mountain House has been outscored 116-31 in three TVL games. Prediction: Hilmar.
Stone Ridge Christian (8-0) at Fresno Christian (7-1) – The Knights have topped 40 points in each of their last four games as they are surging toward the postseason in quest of their third consecutive section championship. Prediction: Stone Ridge Christian.
Chowchilla (6-1, 1-1 North Sequoia League) at Sierra (4-4, 0-3) – The Redskins have had two weeks to prepare for this matchup following a bye. A win also sets up a showdown next week with Liberty for a share of the NSL championship. Prediction: Chowchilla.
Tranquillity (3-5, 1-2 West Sierra League) at Dos Palos (4-4, 2-1) – The Broncos started the season with two straight wins, followed by four consecutive losses, then they rebounded with wins in the last two weeks. I think the arrow is still pointed upward. Prediction: Dos Palos.
Last week: 10-2. Year to date: 91-15 (.858).