It's great to have talent, but it never hurts to be lucky, too.
The Modesto Metro Conference football schedule fell in Downey High's favor, giving the Knights a bye before their title showdown with Enochs.
While the Eagles spent last week practicing for Modesto, Downey focused its energy on Enochs' tricky veer offense.
"We got extra time on video and we got a few extra days to break down the offense," said Downey coach Jeremy Plaa, whose Knights (6-1, 3-0 MMC) are No. 4 in The Bee's Stanislaus District rankings. "Nothing wrong with a bye before our biggest game of the year."
The Knights face the Eagles (5-3, 4-0) Thursday at 7:45 p.m. at Johansen High. Thursday games are usually at Downey with its artificial turf, new lights and upgraded seating.
Enochs is the "home" team, however, and chose to play on natural grass at Johansen. The surface is patchy and uneven after two months of football, but that should favor Enochs.
Downey's spread passing attack relies on crisp cuts by receivers and solid footing for quarterback Aaron Zwahlen. A University of Hawaii commit, his 33 TDs are second in the state and he's completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,202 yards.
It's a high-octane scheme designed to capitalize on artificial turf. Receivers make cuts at the bright hash marks and don't fret about uneven turf.
The precision nature of the attack has Zwahlen releasing the ball before a downfield receiver has turned for the ball. A stumble in a divot or a slip on slick grass and a receiver can go down while the ball is sailing deep in the secondary.
Enochs' James Stacy isn't going to apologize for choosing to play at Johansen. His dirt-spewing veer offense has been effective on all types of turf, averaging 43 points.
"We'll be seeing three, four, five receivers at a time," said Stacy, aware Downey averages 51 points. "The challenge is keeping the ball in front of us, not biting on a fake and allowing one of them to get free."
Neither side's been comfortable trying to duplicate each other's offense: Downey runs a one-back offense with only a handful of runs, and Enochs throws just 10 times a game.
"The thing with option football, it's almost impossible to duplicate in practice because of the speed, precision," said Plaa, whose defense allows 21 points a game. "If we stop the option, they're going to come at us with the toss or power."
Neither coach revealed too much at the Modesto Quarterback Club on Monday. These are the only MMC teams with winning records and players on both sides have been pointing to the game since August.
Stacy did mention his top receiver, explosive Josh Quevedo (10 catches, 29.5-yard average, four TDs), will be more prominent after weeks of inactivity. He's caught just two balls in four lopsided MMC wins.
"We've been so far ahead in games that we haven't needed to pass," said Stacy, whose club is plus-34 in average margin of victory in the MMC.
Quevedo grabbed four balls for 136 yards and two TDs in a Week Zero 35-31 loss to Pitman, and two for 56 in a Week 4 42-41 overtime loss to Merced.
Downey also lost to Merced: 45-41 in Week 1, when Merced forced Zwahlen into a season-high four picks on a season-high 46 attempts. In six other games, he has tossed three interceptions in 169 attempts.
Week 8 Schedule
Kickoffs at 7:30 p.m., unless noted
Modesto Metro Conference
Downey vs. Enochs (Johansen) 7:45
Modesto Metro Conference
Gregori vs. Beyer (Downey), 7:45
Modesto vs. Davis (Johansen), 7:45
Central California Conference
Buhach Colony at Golden Valley
Merced at Pitman (Turlock)
Turlock at Atwater
Valley Oak League
Sonora at Sierra, 7
Kimball at East Union, 7:15
Manteca at Lathrop
Weston Ranch at Oakdale
Western Athletic Conference
Central Catholic at Livingston, 7
Central Valley at Los Banos, 7
Patterson at Pacheco, 7
Hilmar at Escalon
Modesto Chr. at Hughson
Riverbank at Ripon
Le Grand at Gustine
Mariposa at Delhi
Ripon Chr. at Atwater
Denair at Turlock Chr. (Hilmar)
Mother Lode League
Argonaut at Bret Harte
Linden at Amador
Summerville at Calaveras
Central California Athletic
Big Valley at Brookside Chr. (McNair High), 1