GAME OF THE WEEK:

GLENDALE — In the 80th chapter of the saga that has become the annual “Battle for the Victory Bell,” the story has finally started to change for the better.

The two previous seasons have seen Glendale and Hoover high come together for the yearly showdown between archrivals with nary a victory between them.

Still brimming with bragging rights, ill will, smack talk and animosity, the rivalry remained just that, but the last two years saw the Tornadoes and Nitros combine for a 2-37-1 record, with the only victories coming against each other.

But times — and records — have improved, at least on the Nitros’ side, as Glendale enters Friday’s 7 p.m. contest at Moyse Field with a 5-4 overall mark, a 2-4 Pacific League standing and a shot at making the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs.

Indeed, the 2008 season has been one of turnaround for the Nitros.

“The kids put in a lot of time in the offseason and it showed,” Glendale second-year Coach Rafik Thorossian said. “It’s a huge improvement from last year.”

While improvement hasn’t been seen in terms of victories for winless Hoover (0-9, 0-6 in league), first-year Coach Chris Long maintains that his program has advanced in avenues not seen on the scoreboard — intangibles such as better practices, improved attitude and the advancement of his new spread offense.

“Our record won’t indicate that, whether it’s 0-10 or 1-9,” he said.

Glendale will most assuredly go in as the favorite, but in a contest in which every season finds coaches saying you can throw out the records, Long and the Tornadoes are hoping for just that.

“From our standpoint, I hope we can throw the records out,” Long said.

Hoover’s inspiration will likely come in the form of the age-old bragging rights and the hope of breaking a 19-game losing streak that dates back to the Tornadoes’ 2006 win against Glendale.

“Everyone’s excited,” said Long, who as the Tornadoes’ first-year coach will get his first taste of the madness that is the “Battle for the Victory Bell” and all its buildup. “It’s a big day for our school and our community and our football program.”

For Glendale, on top of the aforementioned bragging rights, it must win on Friday to keep its CIF playoff hopes alive. Should the Nitros win and both Arcadia and Burbank lose, the league’s fourth playoff team will be determined by a coin flip today.

Nevertheless, added incentive also comes with a Glendale victory assuring the Nitros their first winning season since 1993.

Oddly enough, one of Thorossian’s biggest concerns is if his team will be up for the game on the heels of last week’s 54-13 loss to Burroughs.

“They’re taking that loss pretty bad,” said Thorossian, whose team could have controlled its own playoff destiny with a win over Burroughs. “There was so much pressure on last week’s game.

“If they don’t show up to play Friday night, anything can happen in a rivalry.”

Indeed it can. And in a rivalry that over the years has been defined by the running game, this year’s installment could feature more passes than any before.

Long’s no-huddle spread offense has highlighted the abilities of sophomore quarterback AJ Pule and senior receiver Adam Ochart. Glendale’s offense has been led by junior quarterback Moises Chavez and a slew of receivers.

“We’re throwing, they’re throwing,” said Thorossian before indicating that his team must still establish its running game to avoid Hoover’s defense sitting on the pass as defenses have done in past weeks. “We’re still gonna run the ball, we have to.”

On top of all that is the rivalry factor, one that involves bragging rights and bad blood.

“I expect it to be our most physical game of the year,” Long said.

And so the 80th edition of the “Battle for the Victory Bell” comes to Moyse Field on Friday night, with Glendale hoping for the playoffs and looking to become its program’s first winning team in 15 years, while Hoover is hoping for its first win in a while and one that will signify that its archrival isn’t the only team turning things around.


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