A High School Football Rivalry Blooms in the Diehl's Back Yard : Athletics: One plays for Mater Dei, the other for Irvine. They have separate rooms and meet on the field tonight.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reed Diehl was in Mater Dei's parking lot Friday night when he heard the news from a teammate, who had heard it from someone else.

Irvine lost.

"No way," Diehl said. "Did they really lose?"

Yeah.

"What was the score?"

Twenty to seven.

"Oh no," he said, "that can't be true."

But it was. Diehl's sources were accurate. Anaheim had beaten Irvine, 20-7. And Diehl, who had just been part of Mater Dei's 52-11 victory over Hawthorne was, in his words, "shocked."

Shocked because tonight's game against Irvine at Santa Ana Stadium lost a little of its luster. Shocked because one team had been ranked second in the county and the other third.

"I was hoping both teams would be 3-0," Diehl said. "But it's still Irvine. It's still the same team."

It was going to be a huge game; now, it's just another big game. Mater Dei is No. 2 in the county; Irvine No. 8.

It is still a huge game at the Diehl house, where two upstairs bedrooms are separated only by a wall.

One is Reed's room, decorated with Mater Dei paraphernalia and a poster of O.J. Simpson. The other is decorated with school paraphernalia, but a Jim Morrison poster hovers over the headboard. This room is Russ Diehl's, Reed's older brother by one year. Russ, 17, is also a junior. He also plays football. He plays for Irvine.

Reed is stuck in the anonymity of the offensive line. He is the right guard who fell in love with the pageantry and passion of Mater Dei football when he attended a Monarch football camp the summer before his freshman year.

Russ is a fullback who has thrived in the backfield of two schools his first two years. He went to the same Monarch football camp but wasn't turned on by the Mater Dei Hype Machine. Nor did he want to play defense, which is what it looked like he might be playing at Mater Dei. He went to another parochial school, Santa Margarita, and was the most valuable player on a freshman team that lost only one game.

"He's the real deal," Santa Margarita varsity Coach Jim Hartigan said. Real deal. Real Diehl. Get it?

But Russ missed his friends in Irvine, so he changed schools, and last year, he was the MVP on an unbeaten sophomore team at Irvine.

And tonight, Russ will do his part in trying to chop the Monarchs off at the knees with his hard-running, attacking style.

"He has a varsity future," Irvine Coach Terry Henigan said. "It might happen this year, but if not, it will definitely happen next year."

Russ is averaging 4.0 yards per carry this season, sharing the spotlight in Irvine's one-back backfield with Sean Clark, Chris Austin and Dennis Gaitor. But Henigan hopes to decide on a go-to guy in the next two weeks. It could be Diehl.

"He's best when he gets the ball a lot," Henigan said. "He needs the ball 25 times a game because he just wears on you. But at our (varsity) level, physically, I don't know if he's ready for that. But toughness made him stand out last year."

Standing out at home is no problem, either.

Russ is blond, blue-eyed, and has fair skin; Reed has dark hair, brown eyes and olive skin.

Russ eats like a bird; Reed eats like, well, an offensive lineman.

Russ falls asleep listening to country music; Reed falls asleep listening to classical music.

Russ is 5 feet 10 inches, 165 pounds; Reed is 6-4, 220.

"That's usually the way it is," Henigan joked. "Mater Dei gets the big ones, we get the little ones."

Reed will probably get bigger. Monarch Coach Bruce Rollinson expects him to eventually get in the 6-5, 240 neighborhood.

"He's got physical size; he has still hasn't grown into his body," Rollinson said. "He's one of those big boned kids. . . . He looks like he's growing as the season goes on. This is a veteran line coming back, and Reed will make a solid contribution this year, but he will be our top returner next year."

And Reed will also play defense next season. He was on the defensive line on Mater Dei's unbeaten sophomore team last year, and he made the transition to offense this summer.

Though both have looked forward to the meeting since they discovered they were scheduled to play each other, there hasn't been a lot of increased tension around the house. The only tension comes from Diane Diehl, their mother, who watches one son one week while Russell Diehl II watches the other. Then they switch.

"I don't really understand football," Diane said. "(Other parents) say, 'You're so engrossed.' I'm living the plays as I see the boys play them, but I don't have a clue as to what's happening. I'm watching my son and when he falls down, I just want to make sure that he gets back up.

"This is unusual. For years they were on the same team. They've never played against each other. . . . They're very mild and calm about it, maybe because each is very confident they're going to win. I'm the one that's nervous."

Reed is, perhaps, hoping a little harder for the last laugh. But not because his brother has been telling him Irvine is going to win. Russ has been very quiet, as usual. See, Reed has lived all his life in Irvine. He knows a lot of Irvine players. And a lot know him.

"If I do lose, I'll be hearing it until next year," he said. "Whatever I can do, whatever the team can do, I want to come out on top. I've already heard a little bit during the off-season; some guys said, 'We got Mater Dei, we got Mater Dei.' I have a lot of friends on the team. I can't lose to my friends because then I'll really get it."

And if Mater Dei wins?

"I'm not going to give it to them," Reed said. "Well, in a little way I am. Those certain guys who said in the off-season they would destroy us, I'm going to tell those guys. I'll remind them."

And his brother?

"By Saturday, it will be over and done with."

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