MODESTO — Three weeks ago, the Enochs and Modesto high school football teams were going nowhere.
Done. Cooked. Finito. Flatter than water on a plate.
The Eagles, after losing their Modesto Metro Conference opener to Beyer on Sept. 27, were 0-5, with five blowout losses on their résumé.
Meanwhile, across town, the Panthers squandered a 2-0 start and dropped their third consecutive, a 22-19 MMC loss to Gregori in which they led 19-0 at halftime.
But just as summer has given way to autumn ... seasons change. And that holds true for football seasons, too.
Since Sept. 27, Enochs beat winless Johansen 35-6, then surprised MMC frontrunner Gregori 24-6. All of a sudden the Eagles are 2-1 in conference play and just a half-game behind 2-0 Beyer, which had a bye last week.
Oh, and by the way, Enochs quarterback Shawn Munoz returned after missing two and a half games.
"That doesn't hurt at all," Eagles head coach James Stacy said about the return of his signal caller.
Modesto has since had a bye and delivered a convincing 46-19 win over defending MMC champ Downey. More important, however, the Panthers finally put together a solid, four-quarter performance. That's something they had not been able to do in the loss to Gregori and in a 41-40 setback to Turlock, a game in which they trailed 41-14 in the third quarter.
"I sense it's almost like an epiphany for the guys," said Modesto head coach Richie Alkire. "It was almost like, 'Oh, that's what it's like to put four quarters together.' "
"But there's no time to celebrate. Enochs is going to be a war."
And the loser comes away with severely wounded playoff hopes.
Should the Eagles win, they'd be 3-1 in the MMC, with a bye and games against Downey and Davis on the horizon. If they were to run the table, they'd finish 5-5 overall and 5-1 in league. But with the loss to Beyer on the their record, they'd need the Pats to lose twice in order to claim the league's top playoff seed.
That's asking a lot, but the Pats do have the toughest remaining schedule of the playoff contenders, with games against Gregori, Modesto and Downey all teams that are .500 or better.
"They're starting to believe that we can do it," Stacy said about his players. "We talk all the time about treating each one of our remaining games as if it's a playoff game.
"They can see that even with the bad start we had, we still have a possibility. Our fate is in our own hands."
A Panthers victory Friday would move them to 4-3 and 2-1 in the MMC and set them up for a three-week run that features games against Davis (2-4), first-place Beyer, and Johansen (0-7). If they were to run the table, they'd be 7-3 and 5-1 and the outright league champ.
"You want to be at your best in the type of game that we're playing Friday night," Alkire said. "I hope we will be this Friday."
Modesto being at its best depends on quarterback Tiki Tonga, who missed the first two days of practice this week dealing with his ailing grandfather out of state. Tonga, who completed 16 of 23 for 233 yards and four TDs in last week's win, flew back to California on Wednesday morning and practiced with the team in the afternoon.
"Some things are bigger than a football game and we're playing a team that, unfortunately, knows that all too well," Alkire said, referring to the deaths of Enochs players Kaylan Carter and Bruno Diaz this past summer.
If my dad ever bothered to read my columns he doesn't read much because a) he's dyslexic and b) English is his second language he'd be really ticked off at me for being so wishy-washy.
Modesto was my preseason pick to win the MMC, but based on their inability to put together two, consistent halves of football, I picked against the Panthers in last week's game versus Downey.
Ouch. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson, right?
Panthers quarterback Tiki Tonga is expected to play after missing the first two practices of the week while visiting his sick grandfather. Enochs, meanwhile, has quarterback Shawn Munoz back from an ankle injury.
The Eagles have won two in a row and they're starting to believe they can recover from a dreadful 0-5 start.
So am I.
But I can't be wishy-washy. My dad just might read this.
Modesto 34, Enochs 28.