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Turf's up for tripleheader at Downey

The other football is coming to Chuck Hughes Stadium at Downey High School.

The six Modesto Metro Conference boys soccer teams will play a tripleheader Wednesday at Downey High School, the first soccer to be played on the stadium's new Sportexe artificial turf.

"It's nice, we're pretty excited," said Modesto coach Matt Mendes, whose first-place Panthers will play Davis at 8 p.m. "We're happy to get a chance to go out there and play."

Mendes and his Panthers have never played on artificial turf as a team, but it's a goal for every Modesto soccer team, every year. That's because the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South semifinals are played on Lincoln High School's artificial turf football field.

"That's where you want to go, the playoffs," Mendes said.

But Wednesday's tripleheader is bigger than playoff preparation.

"We're hoping this will help promote high school soccer across Modesto," Mendes said. "You always want to play in front of a crowd, and this should draw fans from all six teams."

Downey and Johansen play the early game, at 4 p.m. Enochs and Beyer follow at 6, with the 8 p.m. nightcap Davis vs. Modesto.

Mendes said he and his players are planning on watching all three games.

"We hope to be playing on artificial turf down the road (in the playoffs)," Mendes said. "But we're all pretty happy to be playing at Downey's field next week."

ONE OF THE age-old debates on our online forums and in stadiums across the Stanislaus District is, how do small-school powers like Central Catholic stack up against the larger schools, such as Oakdale?

This year's Oakdale team is explosive and high-scoring. Central Catholic is also scoring lots of points, but with a punishing ground game.

Last Friday, Cardinal Newman defeated Oakdale 42-39 at The Corral. They did it with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana in the Cardinal Newman stands. Montana, whose children used to attend Cardinal Newman, was in Oakdale to speak with a horse breeder. Two weeks ago, the Cardinals came to Central Catholic, escaping with a 35-35 tie.

Who better to ask about these teams than Cardinal Newman quarterback Max Pond?

I caught up with Pond at about the 50-yard line on The Corral's FieldTurf and asked him.

Big pause from Max.

"Well, Oakdale has so many athletes. I was so impressed by (Nicky Batteate) and they had fast guys all over the place," he finally said.

And Central Catholic?

"They're so big and physical," he said. "They pound you and pound you. And with a running back like (Louis Bland) you know they're going to win a lot of games."

Not quite the answer I was looking for, so I plow forward with a "who would win?" question.

"That's really tough," he said. "I don't know if I've got an answer for that.

"I'll say this: It would be close."

Doesn't he understand? We need an answer! Help us out, Max!

"Sorry, they're just too close to say who would win over the other."

OK, I guess we'll take that. Back to the forum debates.

MANTECA VAULTED OVER Oakdale in the latest Division III state rankings after the Mustangs' loss to Cardinal Newman last Friday.

Manteca extended its state-best winning streak to 23 games with a 23-13 victory over Tracy. The Buffaloes are now No. 3 in the state, while Oakdale fell from No. 2 to No. 4.

After its win over Ripon, Central Catholic went from No. 3 to No. 2 in the latest Division IV rankings. Patterson, which drubbed Sierra 48-24, moved from No. 6 to No. 3.

Manteca travels to Oakdale for a key Valley Oak League game Oct. 19, while Patterson comes to Central Catholic for their big Western Athletic Conference game Oct. 26.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.