The annual Mater Dei-Servite high school football game has a little added spice, as if it needed any, this time around.
Tonight at 7:30 in Santa Ana Stadium, The Big Game is The Huge Game.
The winner has a shot at being the No. 1 representative from the Angelus League in the Division I playoffs; the loser might end up having to hope for a wild-card berth. The outcome of Friday’s St. Paul-Bishop Amat game also figures heavily in the standings.
Mater Dei, Servite, Bishop Amat and St. Paul are 2-1 in league play. Bishop Montgomery (0-4) is out of the picture.
The Monarchs, who are in the playoffs regardless of tonight’s outcome, gain the No. 1 berth if they beat Servite and St. Paul beats Bishop Amat. If they lose, they’ll still go as the No. 3 team.
The Friars get the No. 1 spot if they win and Bishop Amat wins. If the Friars and Bishop Amat lose, Servite will be the league’s No. 4 team and have to wait for a wild-card spot.
“It’s a one-game season,” said Chuck Gallo, Mater Dei coach.
The game has a number of match-ups between talented players.
The featured one involves Servite running back Derek Brown and Mater Dei defensive linemen Jason Uhl, Lua Pola and Tracy Hirchag.
After Mater Dei beat his team last week, St. Paul Coach Miguel Olmedo called Uhl, Pola and Hirchag the three best defensive linemen in Division I.
But can they stop Brown, Orange County’s leading rusher with 1,465 yards?
“They (Mater Dei) have the type of defense that can stop Brown,” said Bishop Amat Coach Mark Paredes, whose team beat Mater Dei and lost to Servite. “They have to string him out a little bit, bottle him up and take away the big yardage.”
Few teams have been able to stop Brown, who has moved to fourth on the county’s all-time career rushing list with 3,957 yards.
There are other subtle match-ups that can’t be overlooked.
Mater Dei’s defense will try to contain Servite quarterback Chris Johnson.
“They have three great weapons,” Gallo said. “Johnson, (receiver Oscar) Ford and Brown. I don’t think you can commit totally to Brown because then Johnson and Ford will take you apart.”
And Servite, led by linebacker Garrett Gready, will also try to stop Kealii Clifford, Mater Dei’s rugged running back. Clifford has rushed for 753 yards.
Mater Dei has won its past two games. The Monarchs defeated St. Paul, 25-15, last week and Crespi, 42-28, 2 weeks ago.
Servite is coming off a 27-22 loss to Loyola, the nation’s top-ranked high school team, according to USA Today.
Nevertheless, you can figure on Servite being ready for Mater Dei.
“If it was someone other than Mater Dei I could see it (a letdown),” Gallo said. “If it was someone like Bishop Montgomery, someone that doesn’t mean a lot to them. (But) it’s an intense, traditional rivalry.
"(Servite) wants to win the championship No. 1, and No. 2 they don’t want to lose to Mater Dei.”
In other featured games:
Trabuco Hills (7-2, 3-1) vs. Woodbridge (9-0, 4-0) at Irvine High School--The winner gets the Pacific Coast League’s No. 1 spot in the Division VIII playoffs. It’s a familiar postion for Woodbridge, which last season came into the final game of the regular season unbeaten, but lost to Laguna Beach and lost the league title. Woodbridge needs to win in order to take the title. A loss to Trabuco Hills would leave the teams co-champions, but Trabuco Hills would get the No. 1 playoff spot. The game features two outstanding quarterbacks. Woodbridge’s Fred Schweer has completed 54% of his passes for 1,607 yards. Trabuco Hills’ David Lowery has thrown for 2,028 yards and 16 touchdowns. Trabuco Hills’ Tim Manning and Rick Sparks each has 8 interceptions to lead the county.
Loara (5-3-1, 1-2-1) vs. Katella (5-3-1, 2-2) at Glover Stadium--At stake is the Empire League’s No. 3 entry to the Division III playoffs. A year ago, Katella defeated Loara and earned a berth in the playoffs. Again, the Knights must win to secure a playoff spot. Last week, Joe Pastorello, Katella running back, set a school record for rushing yardage in a season with 1,022, breaking the mark of 1,000 set by Adam Chaves in 1980. Coy Collins of Loara has been a key figure for the Saxons, though a few minor leg injuries have held him under 600 yards for the season.
Costa Mesa (4-4-1, 2-2) at Laguna Beach (2-7, 2-2)--Another battle for a playoff berth. The winner takes third place in the Pacific Coast League. Costa Mesa running back Manny Bonilla is fifth in the county in rushing with 996 yards. Laguna Beach, the reigning league champion, is led by kicker/linebacker Jason Crabbe and receiver Darren Webb.
Sunny Hills (7-2-0, 3-1) vs. Troy (6-2-1, 2-2) at Fullerton High School--If Sunny Hills wins it probably goes to the Division VI playoffs as the Freeway League’s No. 2 team behind behind La Habra. If Troy wins, it will go to the playoffs. That combined with a Fullerton victory over Sonora would leave Sunny Hills hoping for a wild-card berth. Brian Pizula, who has rushed for 776 yards, leads the Sunny Hills offense. Troy quarterback Brad Zeppieri has completed 55% of his passes for 831 yards.
Edison (8-1, 3-1) at Westminster (4-5, 3-1)--To the winner goes the No. 2 spot in the Sunset League. Both teams are assured of a playoff spot. Edison quarterback Donnie Smith, filling in for injured starter Greg Angelovic, has completed 19 of 30 passes for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2 victories. Westminster quarterback Bob Elliott threw for 5 interceptions last week, but the Lions still managed to win, 26-19, over Huntington Beach.