The Union Democrat Sports Department

In just nine days, the Sonora Wildcat football team will square off against its longtime rival, the Oakdale Mustangs, for the 97th time.

That's right, just nine days, onAug. 29. The game has traditionally been played on the final week of the schedule. But due to Sonora exiting the Valley Oak League for the Mother Lode League this season, the schools agreed to open their respective schedules against each other. It's also the earliest the Cats will kickoff a season.

"It's different, really different," said Wildcat head coach Bryan Craig duringTuesday'spractice. "Oakdale is always in the back of your mind throughout the season, because you know they're Game 10 and it's a big rivalry. But having them early, it's a weird feeling that I haven't grasped yet. But we've been preparing for them since last week. A lot of the stuff we're doing is based on what they do trying to get ready for that zero week game. This is the first year we've had a zero week game and we want to make sure we go in prepared."

With nothing to scout, but scrimmagesSaturday, both teams will have to rely on past knowledge of each other's style and impact players. While Sonora scrimmagesSaturdayat Manteca against the Buffaloes and a few other teams, Oakdale will be elsewhere playing around the same time.

"There's no film exchange," Craig said. "We just have to scout each other at whatever scrimmages they have. That makes it harder with zero week, because there's only one chance to watch them scrimmage -and we're both scrimmaging at the same time. But I'm sure we'll both find people to go scout each other.

"We don't know too much about them. We're basing things on Oakdale of years past. It's Oakdale, they'll be good. I'm sure there's not going to be too many new nuances to their offense."

The game will be played at The Corral in Oakdale with kickoff at7 p.m.