SAN DIEGO HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS : 3-A Battle: It’s Running vs. Defense : First Matchup to Test Strengths of Morse, Mount Miguel

Although Mount Miguel and Morse high schools are fewer than three miles apart, they have never met on the football field.

They will finally play tonight at 7:30 at Southwestern College. On the line will be a berth in the San Diego Section 3-A championship game at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, as well as a little neighborhood pride.

“It’s a neighborhood game,” said John Shacklett, Morse coach. “Like (when Morse plays) Lincoln and Sweetwater.”

Morse is trying to reach the section final for the first time since it won the title in 1979. Mount Miguel’s last championship appearance was in 1980, when it lost to Helix.


The game features one of the county’s top rushing attacks against the best rushing defense.

Morse (9-3) is second in the county in scoring, averaging 30 points per game. Morse is led by running back Larry Maxey, who had 1,271 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing during the regular season.

Mount Miguel (11-0) has allowed a total of 49 points in 11 games, and only one team has scored more than 7 points against the Matadors. El Capitan scored 21 points but lost, 35-21. Five of Mount Miguel’s victories have been shutouts, including a 35-0 win over Fallbrook in the quarterfinals.

Mount Miguel is especially tough against the run. It allows an average of 1.4 yards per carry.


A key for Morse will be the play of junior quarterback Jimmy Rose, who replaced starting quarterback Mike Lirea in the second quarter of the Tigers’ 16-8 victory over Sweetwater in the quarterfinals.

Lirea, a junior, was the victim of a late hit on the first play of the second quarter and injured his knee. Shacklett said Lirea suffered severe ligament damage, will have to have reconstructive surgery and may not play his senior season.

Shacklett and Mount Miguel Coach Gary Cooper agree that both teams have speed and that Morse is a little bigger. But Shacklett said he thinks the difference may be scheduling.

Morse has played four teams ranked among the county’s top 10 and Mission Viejo, which has advanced to the semifinals of the Southern Conference championships. Mount Miguel has played only two teams ranked among the county’s best.


“It’s an intangible thing, and I hope it pays off,” Shacklett said. “We’ve played a real tough schedule, and I don’t think (Mount Miguel) has faced anybody like us. I think that’s one of our advantages.”