Both teams are undefeated.
Both teams want the league title.
So why is one of the teams, Pitman High, approaching Friday night’s mega showdown with state-ranked and defending league champion Buhach Colony High at Debely Stadium as just another game? Are coach Brandon Harris and his Pride downplaying one of the most anticipated meetings in the Sac-Joaquin Section this year or are they really looking at this matchup like any other?
It’s more of the latter, as the Pride approach every game as if they’re 0-0.
“Every week is a big game,” coach Harris said.
This week’s matchup, which is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, could be Pitman’s biggest game in school history. Whoever wins this Friday night, considering both squads are 6-0 and 1-0 in the Central California Conference, might end up being league champion. The last time the Pride carried that label was back in 2005, and then in ‘04.
“It’s a big game coming up,” Pitman running back Kody Brackett said. “It’s basically the CCC title right here. Whoever wins this is probably going to win the title.”
Even before the Pride sealed their 52-10 thumping of Golden Valley High, the crowd at Debely Stadium was chanting “We want Buhach! We want Buhach!” This meeting with the Thunder has been long anticipated, since there was hope that both teams would be undefeated at this point.
How did both teams get here?
The Thunder returned this season as a semifinalist in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. With two highly recruited players in defensive tackle Aziz Shittu and center Matt Cochran, Buhach Colony has put up staggering numbers en route to a 6-0 record.
After winning by a combined score of 259-50, the Thunder faced perhaps their toughest opponent last week in Turlock High, Pitman’s crosstown rival. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Thunder began to pull away.
But that’s not to say Buhach Colony has faced weak competition before then: Their combined opponents’ record is 16-20, compared to Pitman’s combined opponents’ record of 6-30.
“We’re a good team, too,” Brackett noted. “We’re good players.”
Every team the Pride have faced, they’ve handled — convincingly. Pitman has shut out two teams, held four to single-digit scoring and forced at least a couple of running clocks this season.
They’ve done it with a productive backfield, with Brackett leading with 626 yards, 10 touchdowns and four 100-yard games. The other running backs are Tyler Arnsberg (201 yards, two TDs), Andres Mendez (396 yards, five TDs) and Brent Nelle (315 yards, two TDs). Quarterback AJ Derr, who also plays defensive back, has carried the ball 25 times for 166 yards and five TDs.
So there you go. That’s how the two teams got here.
Now, it’s time for someone to lose.
“We prepare for everybody just like they’re the No. 1 team,” said Harris, the Pitman coach. “It’s no different. I think the kids are probably a little bit more tuned in. As far as the coaches, we’re preparing the same as usual. The kids, they understand it’s a big game, so they’re dialed in a little bit better than us.”
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