* SYLMAR vs. NOTRE DAME
At Notre Dame High, 7:30 p.m.
These regional powerhouses will meet for the first time on the football field. Notre Dame has not lost an opener since 1991; Sylmar is 4-1-1 in openers over the same span. Notre Dame's offense is a question mark with the departure of running back Justin Fargas. Wide receiver Todd Fenton had 27 catches for 536 yards and nine touchdowns last season, but two quarterbacks and three running backs likely will play. Quarterback Noah Albiston of Sylmar threw eight touchdown passes with only one pass intercepted last season. Safety Corey Neal, coming off an ankle injury, also will play wide receiver and running back for Sylmar.
* WESTLAKE vs. BUENA
At Ventura High, 7:30 p.m.
These Marmonte and Channel League powers are 1-1-1 in their last three meetings--all openers. Buena, of the Channel, squeaked past the Warriors last season, 20-19. Westlake should have the best passing game in Ventura County with junior quarterback Zac Wasserman, senior tight end Mike Seidman and senior wide receiver Travis Campbell. Senior receiver Kevin Howard can't play tonight because he hasn't practiced the required number of hours. Linebacker Jordan Lampos is the only experienced player on Westlake's interior defense. Buena rushed for more than 200 yards last season against Westlake and for 396 yards in a 35-35 tie with the Warriors in 1995. No doubt the Bulldogs will run some more, although backs Freddie Keiaho and D.J. Blackledge are playing their first varsity game. Junior quarterback Kyle Loughman of Buena passed for 1,600 yards last season.
* BAKERSFIELD vs. ANTELOPE VALLEY
At Antelope Valley High, 7:30 p.m.
The Antelopes begin the most difficult nonleague schedule in the region by renewing their series against the Drillers, ranked 10th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. Antelope Valley won the last meeting, 35-15, in 1995. After playing Bakersfield, the Antelopes play Sylmar, Dominguez and Bishop Amat but Bakersfield may have an even tougher schedule. The Drillers play Concord De La Salle next week, the top-ranked team in the nation by USA Today. Eight starters return from a Driller defense that posted seven shutouts last year, led by end Jermaine McDermott, who had 13 sacks last season. Antelope Valley will try to run the ball with tailbacks Jermaine Marshall, Bruce Molock and Ron Miller.
* ALEMANY vs. HUENEME
At Hueneme High, 7:30 p.m.
In a matchup of teams that look to be vastly improved, the visiting Indians appear to have an edge in backs and receivers while the Vikings may hold an advantage in the line. Alemany, 2-8 last season, boasts touted junior quarterback Casey Clausen, who passed for 1,663 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1997, and sophomore running back Deandre Scott, a converted wide receiver. Hueneme, 5-5 last season, returns four starting offensive linemen, a tight end and leading rusher Donald Thompson, who gained 750 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
* TAFT vs. BANNING (0-1)
At Banning High, 6:30 p.m.
Round one of the Taft quarterback controversy has junior transfer Brandon Hance starting over All-City senior Steve Alvarado. Hance leads a team hoping to return to the City 4-A championship game for a third consecutive season. The offense features running back Marquis Brignac and receivers Lawrence Wallace and Ronald Andrews. The defensive line benefits from another transfer, 310-pound Carl Cannon. Banning played its first game in Hawaii and suffered a 41-14 loss to Kahuku, but the Pilots have junior running back Chris Howard and a wealth of returning starters.
* HIGHLAND vs. VALENCIA
At Canyon High, 7 p.m.
How important are openers? Highland, the preseason favorite in the Golden League last season, defeated Valencia, 22-20, but sputtered thereafter and missed the playoffs. Valencia rebounded to finish second in the Foothill League and advanced to the postseason for the first time. Valencia running back Manuel White rushed for 2,189 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but has missed a significant amount of practice with a viral infection. Quarterback Brian Hamilton is recovering from a hip flexor and linebacker Ray Cassady had the flu this week. Under Coach Lin Parker, Highland has touted itself as Air Parker. With quarterback Camy Smith graduated, the Bulldogs have become Ground Parker. The offensive load will be shifted to senior running back Brandon McElvaine, who had ankle problems and was limited to 392 yards last season. McElvaine gained 95 yards on 17 carries against Valencia. White rushed for 251 yards and two touchdowns in that game.
* HART vs. QUARTZ HILL
At Quartz Hill High, 7:30 p.m.
Hart, ranked No. 1 in The Times' preseason regional poll and No. 7 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason state poll, tries to prove it is deserving of the accolades. The Indians, with quarterback Kyle Boller and returning All-Southern Section receiver Jerry Owens, should have no trouble moving the ball against a Rebel defense that allowed more than 300 yards a game last season and lost most of its starters to graduation. If the wind acts up, Hart can turn to Billy Brecht, who rushed for 1,115 yards last season. Scott Hunt, an all-section linebacker, leads the Hart defense. Quartz Hill is unproven at many positions, including quarterback, where Clifton Hebert and Jeff Williams will rotate. The Rebels' best player is defensive end Jason Carlton.
Other games (all starting times 7:30 unless noted):
Granada Hills at North Hollywood; Crespi at Chaminade; Crescenta Valley at Thousand Oaks; Dorsey at El Camino Real, 3; Grant at Verdugo Hills, 3; San Fernando at Jefferson, 3; Cleveland at Palisades, 7; Canoga Park at Birmingham, 7; Poly at Kennedy, 7; Hamilton at Van Nuys; Chatsworth at Reseda; Agoura at Calabasas, 7; Canyon at Camarillo, 7; Rio Mesa vs. Saugus at College of the Canyons, 7; La Canada vs. Whittier at California High, 7; Arcadia at St. Francis; Daniel Murphy vs. Burbank at Burroughs High; Burroughs at Evergreen, Wash.; Barstow at Palmdale; Lancaster at Victor Valley; Kilpatrick at Silver Valley; Alhambra at Glendale; Hoover at Monroe; Leuzinger at Littlerock; Lucerne Valley vs. Vasquez at Highland High; Antelope Valley Christian vs. Shandon at Clarke Park, 3; Pacific Christian at First Lutheran, 3; Faith Baptist at Maricopa; Ventura at Simi Valley, 7; Moorpark at Nordhoff; Royal at San Marcos; Malibu at Fillmore; Oxnard at Santa Barbara; Santa Clara at Santa Maria St. Joseph; El Segundo at Oak Park.