For the first time since 1996 and 1997, the Merced College football team will participate in back-to-back bowl games.

The Blue Devils, whom finished their regular season 9-1 with a 40-32 victory over Cabrillo College over the weekend, will take on Los Medanos (8-2) in the Living Breath Foundation Bowl at Hartnell College on Saturday, Nov. 25. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

Merced finishes the season with a share of the Golden Coast Conference title, the team’s first since ’97, and ranked unanimously No. 1 in the Northern California’s American Division.

The only bit of disappointment is that the Blue Devils won’t get to play for the American Division title despite their ranking. Merced College split the GGC crown with Monterey Peninsula, the only team to beat the Blue Devils all season. Because Monterey (7-3) won the head-to-head matchup, they get the nod in the championship game and will face Pacific 7 Conference winner Shasta (6-3).

“We’d love to play in the championship game, but that doesn’t take away what we’ve accomplished this year,” Merced head coach Bob Casey said. “(The conference title) means a great deal, especially for these sophomores. It’s been a long two years. These guys have definitely stepped up and helped change the culture here and become a team that nobody wants to play every week.

 “(Bowl games) are what we’re here for. All the other stuff is great, but it’s also nice to get some Ws on the field and get some recognition for these guys. These guys have been awesome.”

It’s Merced College’s first nine-win season since 1995, when coach Casey was a player on the team. The bowl game gives the Blue Devils the opportunity for just the third 10-win campaign in program history and the first since 1984.