The most optimistic of prep football prognosticators almost certainly would not have predicted that this game, at 8 p.m. Friday at Venice, would see University and Venice fighting for first place in the Pac 8 League.
But Venice is 5-0 in league (5-1 overall) and alone at the top, and University, which got off to an 0-3 start, is 4-1 in league play (4-3 overall) and tied for second with Westchester (4-1, 6-1).
Venice, with many youngsters from a strong B club, has not been overpowering, except for a 27-9 defeat of Poly and last week's 35-0 rout of Grant. But University has won its last three by big margins; the Warriors thrashed Grant 47-0, North Hollywood 33-6 and Poly, 40-20, last week.
Venice Coach Al Dellinger said University "is very formidable. At this point in time, they are the best team in the league. . . . Along with our guy (Ernie Soto) they have the best quarterback in the league; (Warrior quarterback Jonn) Moomaw is excellent."
University Coach Joe Sedia said the Gondoliers "are going to be a real challenge. They have handled everybody in our league (including a 10-8 win over Westchester), and our kids are going to have to play a really fine game to win."
Like Dellinger, Sedia praised his opponent's passing game, saying the Gondoliers "seem to be able to complete a pass when they really need to. . . . Their defense has been getting a lot of publicity, but I think . . . their passing game has won ballgames and can't be overlooked. They're scary; they throw timing-type passes well."
Dellinger said his team has "come further than any (other) team we've had since I came here in 1971." That includes the 1977 squad that won the old Western League championship with stars Dana McLemore and Keyvan Jenkins.
"We're very scrappy," Dellinger said. "We're not very big, but we just kind of hustle all over the field. We're a team of really good players, but not any superstars. We're a blend of players that has come together to form a good team."
Sedia, unsure before the season how his offensive line would perform, said those linemen have come together, that the offensive line "is doing pretty well so far, and without making too many mistakes. They're not physically overpowering anybody, but they are blocking the right people."
University offensive tackle Dana Vatanpour, out last week because of two broken fingers, is vowing to play this week, but Sedia may be without top tailback William Harris (sprained ankle) and will not have fullback-linebacker Amani Davis (dislocated shoulder) and defensive tackle Kevin Allsup (ankle injury). The replacement for Harris is Robert Estelle, and Dion Griffin will fill in for Davis at fullback; both have been capable.
Santa Monica at Palos Verdes
If the same Santa Monica team that handed Redondo its first Bay League loss last week shows up at 2:45 p.m. Friday at Palos Verdes, the Sea Kings, highly ranked in preseason but 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the league, had better abdicate.
After two straight losses (to Westlake and league foe West Torrance), Santa Monica (4-3, 3-1) rolled over Redondo, 40-9, and West Torrance (4-2-2, 3-0-1) took over first place in the league.
Against Redondo (6-2, 3-1), Santa Monica quarterback Pat O'Hara threw for four touchdowns and more than 200 yards, and defensive back London Sattiewhite intercepted three passes, all key thefts and all in the first half. The Vikings rolled up more than 200 yards on the ground.
Santa Monica Coach Tebb Kusserow said the strong suit of Palos Verdes is its running. "We have to control their runners (led by Brian Connors). They throw the ball pretty well, but, if we can control (the run), we have a chance."