It's difficult to upgrade a nonleague schedule that includes programs that have won eight of the last 10 Southern Section Division I football championships.
Leave it to Mission Viejo.
The Diablos announced Thursday they have agreed to two-year contracts to play Concord De La Salle, owner of a national-record 146-game winning streak, and defending Southern Section Division I champion Los Alamitos beginning next season.
Mission Viejo will host Los Alamitos in Week 1 and travel to De La Salle in Week 5, then in 2005 will open the season at Los Alamitos and play host to De La Salle in Week 5. Mission Viejo's nonleague schedule next season will include road games against traditional Southland powers Santa Ana Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly.
"Call us crazy, call us what you want, but the players in this program are smiling ear to ear," said Mission Viejo Coach Bob Johnson.
De La Salle began its winning streak in 1992. Should the Spartans continue winning until they meet Mission Viejo in October 2004, the streak would be at 155 games. Mission Viejo, currently ranked No. 1 in the Southland by The Times, has won 36 consecutive games and back-to-back Division II championships.
De La Salle Athletic Director Terry Eidson, who is also the Spartans' defensive coordinator, said the game is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 8 at De La Salle. The Spartans were not willing to travel to Southern California next fall because they allow for only one trip outside of Northern California per season and already made a commitment to travel out of state during Week 1, Eidson said.
The Spartans, who have defeated Long Beach Poly and Mater Dei in recent seasons, recognize Mission Viejo as an emerging Southland power. That made the invitation difficult to reject, Eidson said.
"It's hard for us to find teams to play," he said. "Mission Viejo has proved to be one of the stronger ones in Southern California and we wanted to play a Southern California team."
Los Alamitos was ranked No. 1 in the Southland until losing to Fountain Valley two weeks ago.
Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes said Thursday he was more focused on Anaheim Esperanza, his opponent Thursday night, than Mission Viejo. He ordinarily waits until after the season to assemble his nonleague schedule, but said Johnson was ready to seal the deal.
Neither coach wanted to travel for the game, Barnes said, but ultimately he agreed. The decision leaves the Griffins with four nonleague games next season, all on the road.
The Griffins are dropping their 2004 opener against Culver City and a Week 2 game against Newhall Hart. They may drop a Week 5 game against Carson.
Los Alamitos typically plays one of the strongest nonleague schedules in the region, but Barnes said because the Griffins play in a more competitive league than the Diablos, they can't afford to take on all comers.
"You've got to have something left for league," he said.