It's an old adage made popular by prizefighters: To be the man, you have to beat the man.
And it applies to a handful of high school football showdowns tonight.
In the Modesto Metro Conference, defending champion Downey takes on Modesto, a 1-9 team last year that was picked by coaches in the preseason to make some noise in 2013.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Gregori High.
The Knights are 4-2 overall, 2-0 in league, and closing in on the magical six-win mark. Under the Sac-Joaquin Section's current playoff format, no six-win team ever has failed to qualify for the postseason.
A win for the Knights tonight would give them a half-game lead in the MMC standings over Beyer (4-2, 2-0), which has a bye tonight.
Modesto, on the other hand, is 2-3 and 0-1 in league after turning a 19-0 halftime lead into a 22-19 loss two weeks ago against Gregori.
For the Panthers to keep their MMC title aspirations alive, or get to six wins, they need a win over the reigning champs tonight.
"I think the bye was pretty good for us last week," Modesto coach Richie Alkire said. "At first I wasn't so sure after such a tough defeat, but the way it's turned out, we've had the opportunity to get healthy and work out some issues."
Returning to action tonight for the Panthers is senior defensive end T.J. Wolf and WR/DB Lesean Collins. Quarterback Tiki Tonga, who injured his foot against Gregori, also is good to go.
BUHACH COLONY (2-3) AT PITMAN (4-1), 7 p.m. Thunder head coach Kevin Swartwood is expecting a hostile environment in Turlock.
Pitman is considered the CCC favorite and Buhach Colony enters the league opener at Joe Debely Stadium as the three-time defending champ and winner of 15 straight conference tilts.
"They are big, fast, physical, pretty much every adjective you can think of," Swartwood said.
With trips to Whitney (Rocklin), Clovis North (Fresno) and Serra (San Mateo), the Thunder (2-3) have cut their teeth in hostile environments.
"I think that tough schedule is going to pay off," Swartwood said.
Pitman is looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season a 42-7 setback to Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove), ranked No. 14 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports before a bye last week.
"Having that time off can sometimes be good, and sometimes it's bad," said Pitman coach Tom Tyler, a former high school teammate of Swartwood's at Grace Davis. "We've just been doing our thing, getting prepared.
"These guys have won league three years in a row. They're not going to give up easy. They're talented, well coached and used to winning."
MANTECA (4-1, 2-0) AT OAKDALE (3-2, 2-0), 7:30 p.m. Seven-time reigning Valley Oak League champ Oakdale takes on a talented Manteca team at The Corral.
The Buffaloes will bring an offensive line that averages 290 pounds per man.
"They're big, physical, athletic and well coached," Oakdale coach Trent Merzon said. "But we've seen big teams, we've seen fast teams and we've seen well-coached teams. So as far as that goes, we won't be in awe when we take the field."
LOS BANOS (4-1, 1-0) AT CENTRAL CATHOLIC (5-1, 2-0), 7 p.m. The Raiders needed an eight-minute drive in the fourth quarter to keep the ball away from a hard-charging Pacheco (Los Banos) team, which fell 24-21. This week, the oldest high school in Los Banos gets a crack at Central Catholic, the defending league, section and state champion, in this Western Athletic Conference matchup.
WATERFORD (3-2, 2-0) AT LE GRAND (5-0, 2-0), 7:30 p.m. These teams, along with Ripon Christian, were co-champs of the Southern League in 2012, but Le Grand defeated Waterford in the regular-season matchup, 40-20, and again in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 final, 30-12.
Merced Sun-Star reporter Sean Lynch contributed to this report.
MMC - Davis at Johansen, Downey vs. Modesto (Gregori), Gregori vs. Enochs (Downey)
CCC - Buhach Colony at Pitman, Turlock at Merced, Golden Valley at Atwater
VOL - Manteca at Oakdale, Sonora at East Union, Weston Ranch at Kimball, Lathrop at Sierra
WAC - Los Banos at Central Catholic, Ceres at Patterson, Livingston at Pacheco
TVL- Escalon at Orestimba, Riverbank at Hilmar, Ripon at Hughson
SL - Gustine at Delhi, Mariposa at Denair, Waterford at Le Grand, Turlock Chr. at Ripon Chr.
MLL - Amador at Bret Harte, Summerville at Argonaut, Linden at Calaveras
CCAA - BVC at Sierra Ridge/ROP, Millennium at Stone Ridge Christian