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September 10, 2008

Top 10 games to watch

High school football 2008 is hitting the road. We're taking a look at the best, or most intriguing, games of each regular-season week. Are you ready to take a ride?

Week 1 (Today): Oakdale at Turlock

• These teams have been each other's traditional opener for some time, and this year looks like a particularly good matchup. The only thing that isn't traditional about this game? It's on a Thursday. Also: Sonora at Johansen, Central Catholic at Cardinal Newman (Saturday).

Week 2 (Sept. 19): Patterson at Escalon

• Two of the top small schools meet up, this time at Lloyd C. Engel Field. The last time these teams met, it was in a Division V section semifinal, one that saw the Tigers make a goal-line stand on the final play for a 12-7 victory. Also: Turlock at Davis (MJC), Modesto at Sonora, Oakdale at West-Tracy, Los Banos at Dos Palos.

Week 3 (Sept. 26): Davis at Sonora

• Davis, one of the MMC's top contenders, takes a trip up Highway 108 to Sonora's historic Dunlavy Field. It's the first time these schools have met on the gridiron since Davis won here in 1975. Also: Modesto at Turlock, McClymonds at Oakdale, Manteca at Tracy.

Week 4 (Sat., Oct. 4): Del Oro at Merced (Atwater)

• Merced has the most talent of any team in the Stanislaus District, and it has assembled a loaded schedule that includes Napa, Edison of Fresno and, this week, a Thursday "home" game against Del Oro of Loomis at Atwater High's Falcon Field. Del Oro returns five starters from last year's Division II section runner-up team. On Atwater's artificial turf, both teams will look faster. And on a Thursday, get there early, because seating will be at a premium. Also: Central Catholic at Johansen, Downey at Patterson, Central Valley at Oakdale, Calaveras at Hilmar.

Week 5 (Oct. 10): St. Mary's at Central Catholic

• The third meeting between these teams -- renewing a Holy Bowl rivalry from the 1970s -- promises to be just as fun as the others. The last two times the Raiders and Rams met, their games went down to the wire. This year promises to be another high-scoring affair. St. Mary's, of Stockton, features Oregon State-bound quarterback Cody Vaz. Also: Buhach Colony at Atwater, Sierra at Manteca, Patterson at Modesto (Downey).

Week 6 (Oct. 17): Pitman at Turlock

• The fourth annual Harvest Bowl will be for more than Turlock bragging rights this year. The Bulldogs and Pride hope to contend with Merced for the CCC title. The winner here has serious postseason hopes. Also: Davis at Downey (Thursday), Manteca at Sonora.

Week 7 (Oct. 24): Davis at Modesto (Johansen)

• A classic matchup between two of Modesto's top public-school teams. Also: Merced at Golden Valley, Escalon at Hughson, Central Catholic at Hilmar.

Week 8 (Oct. 31): Hughson at Modesto Christian

• The top two quarterbacks in the Trans-Valley League -- Hughson's Zack Adams and MC's Isaiah Burse -- meet in a game that should have championship implications. The winner should be in good shape for one of the league's two playoff berths. Also: Pitman at Los Banos, Oakdale at Manteca, Ripon Christian at Ripon.

Week 9 (Nov. 7): Denair at Mariposa

• This is a packed week, one that could see as many as five league championships decided. So we're looking toward the game at the most unique of all district venues -- the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, where everybody sits on the same side of the field and shares the seats with Mariposa's boisterous band. Also: Merced at Turlock, Downey at Modesto (Johansen), Modesto Christian at Escalon, Central Catholic at Patterson.

Week 10 (Nov. 14): Merced at Pitman

• These teams were the top two squads in the CCC last season, and they could be at the top yet again. By this time, both teams should be playing their best, which will make for a big game at Joe Debely Field. Also: Sonora at Oakdale, Patterson at Hilmar.

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