By day, Matt Mosebrook is a mild-mannered student at Capistrano Valley High School. He’s easy-going, smiles a lot and is friendly with his teachers and classmates.
But on game nights, the kicked-back kid turns into Motor Mosebrook, a menacing middle linebacker who is the emotional leader of the football team.
It usually begins the night before. On game day, Mosebrook can’t concentrate, has a knot in his stomach and nervously counts the hours to kickoff.
He tries to watch game films of upcoming opponents and sometimes gets so excited, “I have to put the pads on and go out and do some hitting in practice.”
By game time, Mosebrook says, “My engine is revved, and I’m on fire.”
Tonight, Mosebrook will make the transformation one more time for Capistrano Valley (11-2), which plays host to Paramount (13-0) at Santa Ana Stadium in the Southern Section Division II championship game.
It’s a rematch of last year’s Division III semifinal, won by Paramount, 36-35, when junior tailback Leon Neal caught a two-point conversion pass in overtime. Mosebrook said he’s looking forward to the reunion.
“Paramount is a team that likes to talk a lot,” Mosebrook said. “Of course, Paramount is the type of team that can back it up.”
Paramount is seeking its third championship after winning consecutive Division III titles in 1988-89. Paramount has won 21 in a row, the longest winning streak in the section, and its seniors have won 45 of 46 over four years.
Talk is generally cheap, but Mosebrook claims Neal runs as fast as he talks. Neal had plenty to say last year following a 36-yard carry on which Mosebrook made the tackle.
“He looked at me and said, ‘How’d you like that one, big boy,’ ” Mosebrook said. “That’s OK, because talking gets me going. Sometimes, I like to hear what other players have to say. It becomes a game within the game.
“I don’t instigate the talking, but I’m not afraid to say something. I won’t back down from anybody.”
Mosebrook was a picture of energy last week in the first half of Capistrano Valley’s 26-24 semifinal victory over Mission Viejo.
Mosebrook stopped running back Marcellus Chrishon on third and goal at his own two late in the half with his team holding a 10-3 lead. Mosebrook came off the field in an emotional rage, pulled off his helmet, and steam poured off his head.
“I heard the announcer calling my name on tackles as ‘Matt’ and I found myself looking around wondering, ‘Who’s that?’ ” he said.
For the record, Mosebrook prefers to be called Motor. It’s a nickname his father gave him when he was 4.
“My father used to call me, ‘Motorscooter’ when I was a kid, then, ‘Scooter’ and it’s been, ‘Motor’ for the past 11 years,” he said.
Mosebrook started playing football 10 years ago in the Saddleback Valley Jr. All-American program and became a varsity starter at Capistrano Valley midway through his sophomore season. This year, he calls the defensive signals and is the team’s leading tackler.
Capistrano Valley’s defense has been overshadowed by the potent passing attack featuring quarterback Tony Solliday and wide receiver Dave Poltl. Mosebrook thinks the no-name defense deserves some credit.
“We don’t have a glamour player on our defense with the exception of Jeremy Brion (a free safety who has seven interceptions),” he said. “Last year, our defense had something written about them almost every week. . . . This year, our offense is awesome, and Tony and Dave deserve all the headlines.”
But Mosebrook predicts the defense will meet the challenge of Paramount’s potent passing and running attack, led by Neal and quarterback Steve Lopez.
“Last year’s game was intense,” Mosebrook said. “You knew the moment you walked out on the field that the game was going to be a street fight. This year won’t be any different.”
Mosebrook recalled the helpless feeling he had when Paramount scored the two-point conversion that won the game in overtime on the same field where the teams will meet again.
“It was a perfect play,” he said. "(Quarterback Jack) Manu scrambled to his right, threw across his body to his left and Neal was all alone in the end zone.
“I was falling backwards, and I remember watching the ball. It seemed like it took forever to get to the end zone. You knew as soon as he threw the pass, the game was over. But the pass seemed to go in slow motion forever.”
Afterward, Mosebrook said he felt as if he had let the seniors down. Tonight, Mosebrook returns for a rematch. And he’ll have his motor running at top speed.