When Buhach Colony High head football coach Kevin Swartwood looks at his schedule, he doesn't see any gimmies the rest of the way.
With every team in the Central California Conference entering league play tonight with a 3-2 record or better, the path to a conference title will be a long, treacherous road.
"It's going to be a battle every week," Swartwood said. "The last couple years there was always one game you could look at and think, 'We got that one.' Now it's not like that."
Conference play kicks off tonight with three interesting matchups.
The two preseason favorites in the CCC will square off in Atwater with Pitman (5-0) playing Buhach Colony (3-2).
Merced (3-2) will open at Turlock (3-2) and Golden Valley (3-2) hosts Atwater (4-1) at Veterans Stadium.
All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Merced head coach Rob Scheidt has been impressed with what he's seen from other teams in the CCC.
"The teams I've had an opportunity to see on film all look pretty good," Scheidt said. "Everyone has had issues why they haven't played as well as they could have in certain games.
"I think the team that generates momentum and builds confidence early on in league play might turn into the team to beat."
The Thunder are the two-time defending CCC champs after going a perfect 10-0 the last two seasons.
With games against Clovis North, Enochs and Serra, Buhach Colony has been tested early.
"It's going to be an interesting first week," Golden Valley head coach Dennis Stubbs said. "I think you'll really be able to tell who the frontrunners are after this week.
"I've got to believe Buhach is the team. They still have a lot of weapons. You've got Pitman playing them right off the bat. You'll find out a lot right there."
The Thunder came from behind to beat the Pride 27-24 last year.
Pitman comes in with a strong running attack. The Pride haven't been tested since their season-opening 35-31 win over Enochs. Pitman has outscored its last four opponents 222-58.
"Pitman has been good since they opened," Swartwood said. "Larry Nigro started it. I'm good friends with Larry. We both coached at Merced.
"Brandon Harris has taken over and if anything, they've gotten better. He's so organized. He's a Wing-T guru."
Turlock may struggle trying to slow down Merced's offense, which has scored more than 37 points per game. The Bulldogs have given up almost 30 points per game.
The Bears will focus their attention on Turlock quarterback Sean Downs.
"The biggest thing is their best player touches the ball on every play," Scheidt said. "That's something we have to prepare to defend. There's an opportunity for a big play on every play because (Downs) is going to have his hands on the ball."
At Veterans Stadium it will be Golden Valley's Rashawn Vance and his offensive line squaring off against Atwater's stout defense.
Vance has rushed for more than 500 total yards in the Cougars' last two games. Golden Valley has had some success early with Stubbs' return.
"We never take Stubbs for granted," Atwater head coach Bob Valladao said. "He's good at gameplanning and finding a niche. Our biggest opponent has been us. If we can get rid of the mistakes, we can hang with anybody."