How would Moorpark College love to win its game at Ventura? Let the Raiders count the ways.
First of all, for the first time in years, the teams are playing for something more than Ventura County bragging rights. The game will likely decide the Western State Conference Northern Division championship.
Moorpark (7-1, 6-1 in conference play, 3-0 in division play) and Ventura (7-1, 6-1, 2-1) are ranked eighth and 11th in the state, respectively. If Moorpark wins, it's guaranteed at least a share of the Northern Division championship and a shot at the WSC title.
"This is the first time I can remember that both teams have had good teams," said Coach Jim Bittner, who is in his 17th year at Moorpark. "Normally, (Ventura's) only claim to fame was beating us. We were both sort of mediocre."
The winner of the Northern Division is guaranteed a berth in the WSC Bowl, but a 9-1 record would make Moorpark a near shoo-in for the PONY Bowl.
"If we don't (win the last two games), we're just a team that had a pretty good season," Bittner said. "If we win this game, I think we'll be assured a bowl game."
Another bowl, well actually a cup, is at stake. The Citrus Cup is awarded to the winner, and Moorpark will try to capture the cup for the third time in four years. Ventura, however, defeated Moorpark, 12-10, last year. "We've got to get that back," said Moorpark defensive back Troy Thomas, who has shown a propensity for getting things back with three interceptions in his last two games.
The Citrus Cup could be considered the trophy for a mythical "Ventura County Bowl." For the only two football-playing Ventura County community colleges, the game is somewhat of a sibling rivalry.
Bittner characterizes the rivalry as friendly, but the Moorpark defense, ranked second in the state, will likely be whipped beyond its characteristic frenzy.
The Moorpark offense, also ranked second in the state, runs on the turbocharged legs of Freddie Bradley, a Ventura refugee. "I know just about everyone on the team," Bradley said of Ventura. "I'll be playing against a lot of my friends."
Not only did Bradley, the leading scorer and eighth-leading rusher in the state, grow up in Ventura's back yard, but he also worked out with the Ventura team all summer before deciding to attend Moorpark.
For Bradley and Ventura, familiarity has not bred contempt.
"I guess it's kind of bad because everyone is going to want to hit me," Bradley said of playing against his buddies. "I live right around everyone. If I had to listen to it the rest of the year. . . ."
The Moorpark sophomores have been hearing about the teams' last meeting for a year, and the Raiders want revenge. Last season, Ventura, then 4-4, ambushed Moorpark, 8-0 at the time, with a victory on a last-second field goal. The loss knocked Moorpark out of consideration for the Potato Bowl and killed the Raiders' aspirations for a state championship.
"They put a big blemish on it," Thomas said of the 1988 season. "We want to get a little pay-back."