Bob Valladao was interested to see how his Atwater High football team would respond this week after a tough loss to Pitman.
Would they come back on Monday feeling sorry for themselves or ready to get back to work?
Valladao liked what he saw.
The Falcons (1-1 Central California Conference, 5-2 overall) have been in a foul mood all week, and it's made for some spirited practices as they prepare to host Turlock (1-1, 4-3) tonight. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
"We've had a good week of practice," Valladao said. "They guys were frustrated last week, but they were able to shake it off.
"We had some intense practices. Monday, they were still getting over last Friday, but I think we've had the best week of practice we could of had."
With five wins, the Falcons are just one victory shy of the six wins needed to make the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Despite the loss to Pitman, the Falcons still have an opportunity to win at least a share of the CCC title if they can win their final three games with the way their schedule sets up with games remaining against Merced and Buhach Colony.
"We're not done yet," Atwater senior linebacker Trevor Coleman said. "It's like I told the team just now, we know how hard we worked for this. We're not going to let any team stand in our way. I've been on varsity for three years now. I've never seen a team this focused to win."
Merced (1-1, 4-3) finds itself in a similar situation tonight when it travels to Turlock to face Pitman (1-1, 6-1).
The Bears are trying to rebound from a 42-21 loss to Buhach Colony last week.
With four wins, Merced needs to win two of its final three games to hit the six-win mark.
Merced has struggled stopping the run, including the 455 yards Buhach Colony gained on the ground.
The Bears will have to slow down Pitman's run-oriented Wing-T.
Buhach Colony (2-0, 5-2) seized control of the CCC the past two weeks with wins over Pitman and Merced.
The Thunder play Golden Valley (0-2, 3-4) tonight at Veterans Stadium.
Atwater will have a challenge tonight containing Turlock quarterback Sean Downs.
The junior threw for 89 yards and a touchdown to go along with 171 yards rushing and two more scores in a 28-14 win over Golden Valley last week.
Downs broke free for touchdown runs of 39 and 52 yards.
"He's very athletic," Valladao said. "You can do everything right, and if he still finds a seam, he can still make a big play."
The challenge for Atwater this week has been putting the Pitman loss behind them and focusing on what's ahead.
"You want to forget about it, but you want to remember how we lost," Coleman said. "The mental mistakes...we have to try to eliminate those."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.