PASADENA — In the last decade, the Crescenta Valley and Rio Mesa High boys' water polo teams have built a healthy rivalry. It began with the teams competing in nonleague matches before elevating to the Falcons and Spartans battling for a CIF Southern Section championship.
The players change, but there's one constant — the rivalry continues to steadily grow.
Crescenta Valley Coach Jan Sakonju and Rio Mesa Coach Derrick Timmons agreed after Rio Mesa recorded a 13-6 nonleague victory against Crescenta Valley on Thursday afternoon at Pasadena City College.
"You want to be able to match up against solid programs and be able to develop that friendly rivalry," said Sakonju, whose team posted a 10-9 win against Rio Mesa in the CIF Southern Section Division VI championship match in 2008. "Teams like Rio Mesa, La Serna and Pasadena Poly allow for that to happen.
"There's a common factor when you play those teams in that the coaches are smart, as are the players. It's a win-win situation for both teams because you know we'll both play hard and that can help you for the playoffs."
Joe Yamamoto scored a match-best four goals for Rio Mesa (2-3-1), which captured the CIF Southern Section Division VI championship last season. Crescenta Valley, ranked tied for ninth with Pacific League rival Hoover in Division V, dropped to 1-5.
Timmons, whose team blocked Crescenta Valley from winning a second consecutive CIF-SS crown with a 10-6 victory in a semifinal match in 2009, said he expects the rivalry to continue.
"I think it's awesome," said Timmons, whose team beat Hoover and tied Glendale in the Thousand Oaks Tournament earlier this month and is ranked No. 4 in Division VI. "I have a lot of respect for Jan and his players and we've played in a lot of great games in the last few years.
"There's always that high intensity level when the teams get together."
The Falcons pulled to within 4-2 on a goal by Yusef Trad with 4:36 left in the second quarter. Rio Mesa then received one goal apiece from Yamamoto and David Beavais in less than a minute midway through the second quarter to take a 6-2 lead.
Rio Mesa held a 6-3 halftime advantage before controlling the bulk of the second half.
"I thought our guys came out a little flat and we made some mistakes," Sakonju said. "You want to be able to bounce back and that wasn't the case.
"We are about where I thought we would be. We've been working on improving and we need to continue doing that."
Crescenta Valley, which won the Pacific League championship last season, received two goals apiece from Trad and Antonio Camarillo. Jonny Malmrose and Leo Rostaman each scored one goal for the Falcons.
Zack Davis registered three goals for the Spartans, who received two scores from Dominic Tassano and one each from Austin Navarro, Brendan Kirk and Tanner Markham.