So what if there is no Southern Section playoff berth or Angelus League championship on the line? The mere mention of Servite playing rival Mater Dei--anywhere, anytime, in any sport--is enough to pique the interest of players, coaches and fans of both schools.
Tonight, the sport is football, and the Friars and the Monarchs will clash at Santa Ana Stadium at 7:30. Servite (3-1 in league, 8-1 overall) and Mater Dei (3-1, 6-3) already have clinched berths in the Big Five Conference playoffs. Even if fourth-place St. Paul (2-2) upsets first-place Bishop Amat (4-0) Friday night and Mater Dei loses tonight--creating a tie for third place--the Monarchs will earn the league's third playoff spot because they beat the Swordsmen, 17-14, four weeks ago.
But there's still plenty to get excited about. This has been one of Orange County's best rivalries, dating back to 1961, and the game usually plays before capacity crowds. Mater Dei leads the series, 12-11-1.
The 1985 edition features one of Orange County's best teams, Servite, which is ranked No. 1 with El Modena in this week's Sportswriters Assn. poll, and an unranked Mater Dei team that is hungry for some respect and recognition.
"Our emotions started going up right after (last week's) Pius X game," Monarch Coach Chuck Gallo said. "The kids have that Rambo look in their eyes, that sparkle. That tells you they're ready and they want it bad."
For the past two games, the Monarchs have had that faraway look in their eyes. After losing to Bishop Amat, 42-21, Oct. 24, Mater Dei beat last-place Bishop Montgomery, 13-7, and Pius X, 16-6, but Gallo called the wins unemotional and unimpressive.
"Once the Amat game was over, all they wanted to think about was Servite," Gallo said. "They didn't care about Bishop Montgomery or Pius. There was a lack of attention and intensity.
"But I know we'll be highly emotional against Servite, and that's what we need to beat them. There's a lot of electricity on campus this week, because people really want to beat Servite."
Leo Hand, the Servite coach, is taking an entirely different approach. He doesn't want his players to be too emotional.
"After 10 plays, all that rah-rah stuff wears off," Hand said. "Then it's down to basics--how you've prepared during the week, how you've practiced all year. I think Mater Dei will be all excited, but they're gonna realize they're in a game with a real good team, and I think we'll play like a real good team.
"Servite kids don't show a lot of emotion until the ball is hiked. We don't want to be an emotional team, because if you're up one week, what are you gonna do the next week when you don't have those emotions? We try to be consistent every week."
The Friars have. Servite has averaged 30 points a game on offense and, defensively, has allowed an average of 13 points a game. Quarterback Tim Rosenkranz has passed for 2,021 yards and 20 touchdowns and is 224 yards away from breaking Steve Beuerlein's single-season school passing record, set in 1982. Rosenkranz has two excellent receivers in Jeff Fieldhouse (33 receptions for 769 yards) and Nick-John Haiduc (21 catches for 534 yards).
Mater Dei, in contrast, has been erratic all season. The Monarchs played excellent football against St. Paul and Westminster (a 14-11 victory) but lost to Santa Ana and were routed by Bishop Amat. Sophomore quarterback Todd Marinovich has passed for 1,565 yards and 12 touchdowns but has been intercepted 13 times.
Servite is heavily favored to win tonight and claim at least second place, possibly a share of the league title. But Hand, in his second year at Servite, knows better than to be too confident.
"Ever since I came here, they told me that the records of the teams were no indication of how the game is gonna go," Hand said. "I guess the kids really get up for each other."
At least, the Mater Dei kids will be up for it.
In other action tonight:
Marina (4-0, 6-2-1) vs. Edison (3-1, 7-2) at LeBard Stadium--The Vikings can win the league title outright for the first time in the school's history (20 years) if they can defeat the Chargers for the first time ever. Edison leads the series, 10-0-1. The game had originally been scheduled for Sheue Field but was moved to Orange Coast College to accommodate a larger crowd.
The big matchup figures to be Edison quarterback Mike Angelovic against the Marina defensive secondary, one of Orange County's finest. Angelovic is the county's top-rated passer, having completed 89 of 150 attempts for 1,411 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Vikings' defense has come up with 16 interceptions, including a county-leading 7 by free safety Bill Craft.
Marina quarterback Rick Vanderriet had never played organized football before this year, but he has improved during the season and has thrown for 752 yards, completing 43 of 100 attempts. He passed for two touchdowns to lead the Vikings past Westminster, 37-15, last week, and has done a good job of running Marina's veer-option offense.
The Chargers are coming off last week's 24-12 win over Fountain Valley. Angelovic's favorite receiver has been Rick Justice, who has 37 receptions for 635 yards and 9 touchdowns. Edison's leading rusher is sophomore Kaleaph Carter, who has gained 668 yards in 155 carries and has scored 7 touchdowns.
Esperanza (4-2, 4-5) vs. Loara (4-2, 7-2) at Glover Stadium--The Aztecs and the Saxons are in a three-way tie for third place with El Dorado, a game behind league leaders Pacifica and Los Alamitos (both 5-1). Los Alamitos meets El Dorado Friday night. Should the Griffins win, the Esperanza-Loara winner would clinch the league's third playoff spot. If the Golden Hawks win, there will be a three-way tie for second place.
The game will feature two fine running backs, as Loara's Chris Wright (771 yards) will go against Esperanza's Mike Miscione (651 yards). Aztec quarterback Greg Beckman has completed 84 of 137 passes for 1,056 yards and 7 touchdowns; Saxon quarterback Wade Clester has thrown for 645 yards on 56 of 109 attempts.
Also: Katella (0-6, 1-8) vs. Cypress (0-6, 3-6) at Handel Stadium.
SOUTH COAST LEAGUE
Irvine (2-3, 6-3) at Mission Viejo (3-1-1, 7-1-1)--The Diablos were favored to win the league championship, but after losing to El Toro, 24-17, last week, they are in danger of missing the Southern Conference playoffs should they lose tonight. If Irvine upsets Mission Viejo and Dana Hills defeats winless Laguna Hills Friday night, the Dolphins would advance to the playoffs as the third-place team.
The Vaqueros took a break from their South Coast League schedule last week and defeated Gahr, 32-21, in nonleague play. Irvine was led by Jim Miele, who rushed for 85 yards, and Gary Renteria, who rushed for 65 yards. Mission Viejo's offense features quarterback Brendan Murphy (947 yards on 61 of 118 attempts) and running back Todd Yert (739 yards on 153 carries).
Foothill (6-0, 7-2) vs. Orange (0-6, 0-9) at Fred Kelly Stadium--The Knights can clinch their fourth league championship in five years by defeating the Panthers. Foothill had to come from behind to defeat Canyon, 21-16, last week, but the Knights should have an easier time against winless Orange, which will be playing its last Century League game. The Panthers will move to a new league next year.
Foothill has had its problems offensively, as quarterbacks Brian Horton and Chris Fergus have had trouble moving the team, but the defense, led by linebackers Tom Quinn and Barry Walshe, has allowed just 26 points in six league games.
Laguna Beach (3-3, 3-6) vs. Saddleback (5-1, 8-1) at Davidson Field--The Roadrunners, who have clinched a playoff berth, can wrap up second place with a win and a possible share of the league title should Corona del Mar upset first-place Newport Harbor.
Saddleback has relied on the running of Glenn Campbell, who has rushed for 1,062 yards in 138 carries and scored 14 touchdowns, and the passing of Myron Butler, the county's fourth-rated passer, who has completed 59 of 111 attempts for 1,070 yards and 11 touchdowns. Laguna Beach is coming off a 41-21 win over Corona del Mar, in which quarterback John Kimball threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.
GARDEN GROVE LEAGUE
Rancho Alamitos (0-4, 2-6) at Bolsa Grande (3-1, 5-4)--The Matadors clinched a playoff spot last week with a 24-21 victory over Garden Grove and will advance to the Central Conference tournament for the first time since 1982. Senior Kenny Torres rushed for 99 yards in 16 carries and scored a touchdown, and sophomore quarterback Damon Fisher scored twice last week for Bolsa Grande, which can clinch second place with a win over the last-place Vaqueros. Even if the Matadors lose, they will earn the league's No. 2 playoff berth because of wins over Santiago and Los Amigos, who will play for third place Friday night.