ANAHEIM, Calif. (CBS) – An estimated 25,000 are expected to fill Angel Stadium in Anaheim tonight. Half in the black of Servite. The other half to form a sea of red for Mater Dei.
“We play in [front] of a lot of big crowds often,” says Servite 6th year head coach, Troy Thomas. “That’s typical of a Servite game, its not like we’re playing in front of 100,000 people.” Thomas is correct. There is a huge following for the Servite program. If you drive by Cerritos College on a Friday night during the fall, you’re sure to see plenty of RV’s and tailgaters flood the parking lot just outside of Falcon Stadium hours before gametime. Cerritos College is often the site for (3) Servite (7-0, 2-0) home games. Usually, over 7,000 people show up to see the Friars take the field arm in arm to the tune of bagpipes.
Tonight, however, there will be just a little bit more fans than what they’re accustomed to, but to Thomas tonight’s matchup versus Mater Dei “is the next one.” As in the next game on the schedule.
Its hard to imagine one of the best rivalries in Orange County being just another game. Albeit, a regular season game, it will once again be played at Angel Stadium. The stadium named after that baseball team that plays in Anaheim.
Tonight marks the 50th matchup between the two schools, with Mater Dei holding a 31-15-2 edge over the Friars. Mater Dei (5-2, 2-0) and head coach Bruce Rollinson have dominated the last two decades. Rollinson is 19-1-1 all time against the Men in Black. But that one loss came last season. It was the first win for Servite over Mater Dei since the 42-24 win in 1988 –the year before Rollinson took over.
The Streak ended last year on the strength of Cody Fajardo’s 281 total yards and three total touchdowns. That, was just another week for Fajardo, my 2009 Player of the Year. That was last year. Fajardo is now at the University of Nevada. Rollinson, meanwhile, is not sure his second loss to the Friars won’t come tonight. “Servite is the real deal,” says Rollinson. “They’re ranked number one in the world,” he says of the defending Division II State Bowl Champs.
I failed to check the latest World Rankings, but the Friars are ranked third in the Sports Central Top 10. They are also riding an 18 game win streak. Definitely cause for concern for the Monarchs. To take it a step further, Rollinson says “for us to win, every kid has to play above and beyond their God-given talents.”
Coachspeak? Perhaps. Especially considering this is a rivalry game, and one of the largest stages you can have for a non-playoff game: Angel Stadium, in front of thousands, and televised. Anything can happen.
Thomas knows there are plenty of playmakers for the Monarchs, outside of the stars QB Max Wittek and WR Victor Blackwell. Rollinson is excited to have RB Corbin Anderson back in the lineup. The senior tailback made his season debut last week in a win over Orange Lutheran. Anderson carried the ball 18 times for 110 yards after missing the first six games of the season as a result of having his knee scoped.
Meanwhile, the Friars have destroyed everyone in their path. They’ve allowed just 61 points all season. 24 of them were from St. John Bosco in a 32-24 win a week ago. The eight point win was the slimmest of margins for Servite all season long. They’ve abstained away from the close game and haven’t needed the “Fajardo Magic” late in games. Fajardo led game-winning drives three times in the playoffs last season.
The Monarchs best chance would be to keep it close, and they have the playmakers to do so. In two televised games last season, Blackwell totaled 22 catches, 401 yards, and four touchdowns.
Oh by the way, the winner moves on to 3-0 in Trinity League play, with St. Margarita still in the mix.
They may not light up the Halo, but sparks will fly tonight in Anaheim.