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November 4, 2006

Huge Crowds At Two SoCal Showdowns

Although they came into the game ranked No. 8 in the state, the football team at Mater Dei of Santa Ana had its backs against the wall heading into Friday's game at Anaheim Stadium against Orange County parochial rival Servite of Anaheim.

If the Monarchs had lost to Servite, they would have fell to 1-3 in Trinity League play, but they came away with a huge 28-22 overtime win before more than 20,000 fans. Servite (6-3, 3-1) came into the game having lost every matchup with Mater Dei (7-2, 2-2) since 1988 and the game's outcome created a three-way tie for first place in the state's toughest league between the Friars, No. 6 Orange Lutheran (which took a forfeit win against JSerra of San Juan Capistrano) and No. 11 Santa Margarita (which knocked off St. John Bosco 28-23 Friday night).

Mater Dei has won some big games before at the stadium, including knocking off the No.1 ranked team in the nation, Eisenhower of Rialto, in 1991 before 33,265 fans and undefeated Los Alamitos in 1994 before 30,065 in two playoff games.

A stroke of luck in this big-time atmosphere seemed to help the Monarchs once again as Servite's Kevin Goessling missed two field goals that would have put his team in great position to win the game only one week after Lutheran had beaten Mater Dei with a field goal on the last play of the game.

The first miss was a 36-yarder that hit the left upright and fell forward with 12 seconds left. In overtime, the miss came from 42 yards out on Servite's first possession. Deflated, the Friars' defense then gave up the game-clinching score as Mater Dei's Ahmed Mokhtar scored on a 16-yard run. The Oregon State bound back finished with 152 yards rushing on 20 lugs.

"My rosary beads must be pretty good," Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson told the L.A. Times after the dramatic Trinity League win.

Although the Monarchs have had a stroke of good fortune playing at the venue, ironically they were on the losing end of the last regular season game to draw more fans at Anaheim Stadium. Of course, we're referring to just under the 21,000 fans that showed up for the now legendary 1998 game between De La Salle of Concord and Mater Dei that the Spartans won, 28-21, in their first of four straight wins over the Monarchs.

Three years earlier, 23,701 fans were on hand at Memorial Stadium in Bakersfield as the state's top-ranked team, Bishop Amat of La Puente, downed No. 3 Bakersfield, 34-3. That regular season match up was highly anticipated not only because both teams were highly regarded, but for its matchup between 1994 Mr. Football State Player of the Year Daylon McCutcheon of Amat, who eventually landed in the NFL as a defensive back, and the Drillers' Steve Wofford, a player some consider the best prep running back in the history of the CIF Central Section. In another twist of fate, Mater Dei knocked of that same Bishop Amat team, 28-21, at Anaheim Stadium one week after the big win over Los Alamitos to claim the CIF Southern Section Div. I title.

On a statewide level, the stakes might not have been as high in another game that drew over 20,000 fans Friday night, but it was a classic nonetheless as Garfield downed rival Roosevelt, 35-13, in the East Los Angeles Classic at Weingart Stadium on the campus of East Los Angeles College. In the most well-attended annual matchup in the Western United States where families are often split in the bleachers between spouses who attended either rival school, the teams' records are thrown out and the underdog often has pulled out the win.

This year, however, the favorite won as Garfield upped its record to 8-1 behind the running of Michael Aguilar, who bolted for 179 yards and three scores in 19 carries. On the season, the senior back has now rushed for 1,220 yards and hit paydirt 15 times. With the loss, the Roughriders fall to 2-7 on the season, but still lead the 71-year old series, 38-26-7.

More than just a football game, the annual East L.A. Classic is a cutural celebration for the largely Latino community on Los Angeles' eastside similar to a 10- or 25-year class reunion every single year. One of the most memorable contests took place in 1961 when Roosevelt's Mike Garrett scored six touchdowns in the Roughriders' 38-13 win. The 1965 Heisman Trophy winner's single game touchdown output has only been surpassed by three backs in L.A. City Section history, most recently last week when Venice junior standout Curtis McNeal scored seven touchdowns in a 55-27 win over Hamilton of Los Angeles. In 1998, Sylmar's Corey Neal scored eight touchdowns in a 55-8 win over Poly of Sun Valley and current University of Nebraska back and former North Hollywood standout Marlon Lucky matched that total in a 2004 playoff win over Westchester of Los Angeles.

Comments or corrections? Email mark@studentsports.com or ronnie@studentsports.com.

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