GLENDALE — Both the Glendale High and Hoover football teams arrive at the last week of the season riding prolonged losing streaks. They're both winless in league and the Nitros are still searching for their first victory of the season.
Come 7 p.m. today at Moyse Field, all of that will likely cease to matter.
That will be evident by the pageantry and fanfare that accompany the Pacific League season finale that merits its own title — the "Battle for the Victory Bell" — and draws the biggest turnout from the community that Moyse's expansive bleachers see all year.
"It's always an exciting game because of the amount of people that come out and watch," said second-year Nitros Coach and Glendale alum Alan Eberhart.
Now in his third year heading the Tornadoes, Hoover Coach Chris Long has a couple "Battles" under his belt and, after winning last year's installment, 15-7, knows firsthand that the memory of a rivalry win lasts much longer than that of a losing season.
"Hoover-Glendale is a big-time rivalry," Long said. "It's our last game of the year and there's no playoffs, obviously, so this is what everybody looks forward to. I'm sure both teams are ready and fired up for it."
A matchup of contrasting styles, the game figures to come down to which team can impose its will offensively.
For Glendale (0-9, 0-6 in league), that means controlling the possession battle and stretching out long drives with moderate gains on the ground.
Hoover's answer will be to assert its superior passing game and keep the tempo rolling in its favor.
"I think we have a chance, I think we can run the ball against them," Eberhart said. "But in the same token, I know they can throw the ball on us. It's either going to be like last year — very low scoring — or very high-scoring, which would be unique. …We're not an offense capable of scoring a whole lot of points."
The Tornadoes (1-8, 0-6) hope to rediscover the passing game that seemed to be on an upswing earlier in the year. Senior quarterback AJ Pule, who needs just 84 passing yards to reach the 1,000-yard milestone for the season, has a good rapport with receivers Jesse Pina, Devaughn Williams and Dymond McRae and is a dual threat with 357 rushing yards.
But in order to have a chance for its offense to shine, Hoover's defense, which has allowed an average of 53 points per game in league, must be effective early.
"Coming into the game, we know we've got to stop the run," Long said. "We've got an opponent who we feel we are equal to in talent. We know they're going to run the ball and try to stay on the field as long as possible.
"Our goal is for our defense to try and get off the field and hopefully we can get back on track on the offensive side of the ball."
Glendale will rely on junior quarterback Alex Yoon, who leads the team in rushing with 494 yards and five touchdowns, and running backs Chan Kim and Alex Manukian to control the game, while taking stock in the fact its defense was fairly solid all season with its glaring weakness being a tendency to wear down in the second half.
"It's gonna come down to us playing defense and special teams have been a sore spot for both of us and it's pretty obvious why," Eberhart said. "Those same guys playing special teams are all our starters and they're tired."
Either way, when the final whistle blows Friday, both teams will put football behind them until next fall.
One of them, though, will have a reason to look back on the 2010 season with a bit more fondness.
"We're both two teams that are struggling; this game goes either way," Eberhart said. "I'm going in with the approach that if we win it would be great because I want to see these kids succeed and if we don't, it's over, and that would be a big relief because it's been a long season."