Time to ring the bell

Last season’s attempt to double the excitement of the Glendale High versus Hoover football rivalry was never able to translate the aura of the regular-season-ending “Battle for the Victory Bell” over to a season-opening clash.

If anything was learned from the short-lived experiment it’s just how big the “Battle” is to the two schools and the players who take part in the game.

“Of course [it’s the biggest game for us], it’s our rival team,” Hoover fullback Jesse Pina said. “I haven’t experienced a [Victory Bell] win, but I saw one my freshman year and, it’s pretty much both sides of the stands cheering for their school. Whether you win or lose, it’s just a great experience. The stands never get that filled up [any other time].”

When the longtime rivals meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Moyse Field on Glendale’s campus, which is both teams’ home field throughout the season, Hoover will be looking to end a two-year streak for the Nitros, who also lead the all-time series handily, 49-33-2.

“They’re all pretty fired up,” Hoover Coach Andrew Policky said. “We have a lot of seniors on our team and for most of them it’s going to be the last game they ever get to play. Especially for the kids who have been in the program for four years, they have a deep understanding of what this game means and the history of the game is something I think has everybody fired up this week.”

Glendale, which won in a shootout, 55-49, last season, has dominated the recent history of the game, winning four of the last five, with Hoover last winning in 2009, 15-7.

“The kids get into it, I think, at both schools,” first-year Glendale Coach John Tuttle said. “The atmosphere is awesome.”

While during its leanest years the rivalry has come down to the lone win on the season for both teams, and last year the combatants were a combined 1-17 with no league wins between them, this season is a different story.

Hoover is 3-6, Glendale enters at 2-7 and each team has already secured a Pacific League win with Glendale having beaten Crescenta Valley on Oct. 19 and Hoover boasting a win over Pasadena on Oct. 12, not to mention coming within a blocked field goal of beating Crescenta Valley on Friday.

“Both teams have improved,” Tuttle said. “That makes the game a little bit more exciting when we’re not both 0-9 going in. We both showed bits and pieces during the season that we can compete.”

The game doesn’t figure to be a contrast in styles, for the most part, as both teams favor a ball-control, time-of-possession oriented offense.

“That’s the plan for us, every week, that’s essentially the plan for us is to try and dominate the time of possession and run the football consistently and try to keep their offense off the field,” Policky said. “The big thing for us all year is can we finish drives?”

For Hoover, that starts with senior fullback Jesse Pina running behind a veteran offensive line. Big and hard to bring down, Pina has rushed for 815 yards and nine touchdowns in 127 carries, including a five-touchdown effort against South Pasadena on Sept. 7.

“They do a nice job running and executing their offense and getting Jesse the ball and keep you off balance by giving other guys the ball on the outside when you load up in the middle,” Tuttle said. “We’ve got to keep the ball on offense and just execute and finish drives, that’s all. We can’t go down the field and not finish and not come away with any points.”

Glendale is more prone to go to the air with quarterback Kevin Felix (805 yards and three touchdowns), but can run the ball, as well, behind Christian Osorio (449 yards) and Daniel Jung (310 yards).

The X-factor for the Nitros, however, is senior receiver Michael Davis, who's set to play for Brigham Young University. Leading the team in all-purpose yardage (992) and touchdowns (five), Davis’ size and speed make him a tough cover anywhere on the field.

“They are going to be able to run the ball and they always have the threat of throwing it to Michael Davis or handing him the ball,” Policky said. “They give him the ball in a lot of different ways and it puts a lot of stress on the defense. He’s such a dynamic football player, no one can match up with him one on one.”

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