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Ceres High varsity boys soccer coach Koeurn Phe has had trouble sleeping lately, thinking about the much-anticipated showdown with crosstown rival Central Valley.

The Hawks will host the Bulldogs in the battle of the Valley Oak League's top two teams this Thursday at 4 p.m.

"It's almost like you're playing against your brother, trying to impress," Phe said. "It's going to be intense."

Ceres High has compiled an 0-4 record against Central Valley over the past two seasons.

The winner of this year's first meeting will become the favorite to take the league's regular season title.

Central Valley will be led by sophomore midfielder/forward Jose Ramirez (three goals), freshman striker/defender Daniel Ochoa (six goals, one assist), junior forward/midfielder Antonio Cabrera (seven goals, two assists) and sophomore midfielder/forward Gerardo Cazares (four assists, one goal).

Ceres High will be led by senior midfielder Aron Mejia (one goal, two assists), junior forwards Luis Martinez (10 goals, five assists) and David Estrada (eight goals, three assists), and junior midfielder/forward Pablo Gomez (seven assists, two goals).

"I'm excited because we have the ability to beat them," Estrada said. "But every player has to play like it's the last game of their life."

Added Martinez: "The team that makes the less mistakes and controls the midfield is going to win the game."

The Hawks participated in the playoffs in their second year of existence in 2007. The Bulldogs just missed qualifying for the postseason.

Both teams control their own destiny heading into the second half of the 2008 campaign.

"This year, only two teams make the playoffs," Hawks head coach Omar Leon said. "If both of us make it, that would be great. We're doing a good job representing Ceres Unified School District."

Ceres High's and Central Valley's success can be attributed to the rich talent pool located in Ceres. Their rosters consist mainly of Hispanics, roughly 90 percent.

"Soccer is part of our culture," Leon said. "We grow up watching, dreaming and eating it."

Just imagine if Ceres had one high school soccer team. That squad would have no weaknesses according to both coaches.

"It would be tough to make cuts," Phe said. "We'd have 20 players that could start but only 11 could be on the field. We'd have a dream team."

"I agree with him (Koeurn)," Leon said. "I don't think there would be any other high school in the area that would be as strong as us."

Estrada and Martinez echoed the same sentiments.

"I've thought about it a few times," David said. "We'd be able to accomplish more things together than separate."

Added Luis: "That would be a tough team to beat."