Good news, Mater Dei football fans. Eisenhower--the nation's top-ranked team, the team the Monarchs are up against in Friday's Division I championship game--actually has a weakness.
We just can't tell you what it is.
C'mon, think we want to give you any more hope than you already have? Give you further reason to believe in that Mater Dei mystique? Think we want the streets of Santa Ana overrun with priests shouting "Red Attitude! Red Attitude!" and other Monarch mottoes?
OK, OK. Have it your way.
Eisenhower can't snap the football.
That's right--at least on point-after attempts. All season, the Eagles have been plagued with snaps that fly every which way but the right way. It's an oddity, all right. Snap after snap, the nation's top-ranked team can't get the ball to the holder.
So why does this make the Eisenhower coaches smile?
Because the majority of the time the Eagles have turned a bad snap into a two-point conversion. It's enough to make an opposing coach weep.
That is, if he's not weeping already.
Now, we present the Top 10 Reasons Mater Dei Fans Can Expect to Feel Hexed This Friday the 13th:
10. Point Power. Eisenhower has outscored opponents, 417-85. That's 111-20 in the first quarter alone. If you're going to score against them, your best chance is in the second quarter, where they've only outscored opponents, 91-29.
9. Confidence. Usually when sideline coaches scream, "PAT team, get ready!" it means their team is within scoring range. Eisenhower coaches say it the moment the Eagles cross midfield.
8. Size. We're talking XXXXXL. Big and Tall. Offensive and defensive lines that outweigh your average duplex.
7. Ice Cream. His real name's Aparicio Tate, but everyone calls this 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive end "Ice Cream." Guess what? He isn't your average, everyday 300-pound high school kid. His coaches claim he can stand under the goal posts, jump up and touch the cross bar. Plus, he's quicker than, well, most his size. In fact, his favorite sport is squash--squash the guy with the ball. Got his name in junior high from a kid who thought Aparicio sounded better as pistachio. By the way, his favorite food is pizza, not ice cream. Any more questions?
6. Omar Love, et al. El Toro Coach Mike Milner, whose team lost to Eisenhower, 20-7, this season, says Love reminds him of former Servite running back Derek Brown, now scurrying for yardage at Nebraska. Love's a tricky runner who has gained 1,190 yards and scored 23 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Mater Dei, this team isn't powered merely by Love. It has, among others, Marcus Soward, a slashing-type back who has gained 712 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Soward goes in whenever Love decides to take a break--it's their call. The Eisenhower coaches let them run the show, and they do.
5. Rankings--and revenge. Eisenhower has been top-ranked by USA Today since early in the season. The Eagles think a Division I title would be nice, sure, but they're gunning for a national championship. Anything else would be a disappointment.
And how do they get their wish? Only by beating Mater Dei, the same team that eliminated Eisenhower in last year's quarterfinals. Mater Dei wasn't expected to do anything last year. Not Eisenhower. The Eagles were 11-0 and had just beaten Citrus Belt League power Fontana for the first time in 11 years. Against unseeded Mater Dei, they keyed on running back Derek Sparks but got burned by quarterback Billy Blanton.
This year, they're aiming for revenge--Blanton being the bull's-eye.
4. That Orange County Thing. Some weeks back, Eisenhower Coach Tom Hoak accused Orange County coaches of being arrogant, saying they treat him and his inland colleagues like "country bumpkins or hayseeds." Hoak and his neighboring peers paint Orange County as the haven for wimpy, white collar types--a.k.a. coaches who stress the passing game. The Eagle players have a nickname for their county counterparts, but we can't print it here.
3. Give Me a !%&*!! for Intimidation. The Eagles--players and coaches--talk more trash than your local sanitation engineers. This they don't deny. Of course, Mater Dei obviously wasn't bothered by Fontana, and it probably doesn't get much worse.
2. Faces in the Crowd. With more than 3,000 students, Eisenhower has no problem with depth. But the Eagles managed to find a pearl in Percy Sheppard, a 6-3, 215-pound defensive end who had never played football until this year. What's a rookie doing starting on this team? Sheppard runs the 40 in 4.6 and was 97-0 as a heavyweight boxer for a San Bernardino club last year.
1. Fate. Actually, this one's open for debate. Will Bruce Rollinson's old CIF championship letterman's jacket bring him an extra measure of luck? Or is it really Eisenhower's year?
For some ridiculous reason, we pick Mater Dei.
Call it a snap decision.