Both played in three Southern Section championship football games, and both have three championship patches.
Yet Randy Austin and Joe Zacharia--whose high school team won 38 consecutive games--have never played in a game quite like the one scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The former Canyon High teammates will join 58 other recent high school graduates in the 35th Shrine All-Star football game. All but five of the players in the game have accepted scholarships at Division I schools.
"We played games at Canyon and had 9,000 people at the most," Austin said. "Here, they're expecting 30,000. This is the top game for me, bigger than any of the title games."
Austin's sentiment is shared by other Valley-area players selected for the game.
Said Simi Valley's M.J. Nelson: "I went to this game three years ago. I was thinking like, 'Oh man, if I can only get there.' This is my opportunity. It's my dream."
After the game, Nelson will turn his thoughts to his college career at Colorado. Notre Dame's John Perak, one of the five Valley players on the South team, also is headed for Colorado. Austin will attend UCLA, while Westlake's Gary Wellman is headed to USC.
In fact, all of the players for the South team will play Division I football next year.
All but one, that is.
For now, Zacharia, an All-Southern Section nose guard at Canyon, is set to play at Valley College next season. Unlike the other players, Zacharia did not have Division I schools beating a path to his doorstep. His size (6-0, 205) and his grades worked against him.
For a player with Zacharia's high school credentials, missing out on a Division I scholarship was difficult to accept.
"I was kind of getting over it," Zacharia said this week at the South's practice field at Occidental College. "But then I come here and all these guys are talking about their recruiting trips and how much fun they had.
"My turn will come."
Zacharia hopes that Saturday's game can make his turn come sooner.
"This game means a lot to me, probably more than it does to these other guys, because they know where they're going," he said. "They know where their futures are at. I don't right now. Valley is a good JC, but I don't know, I wouldn't mind going to a USC or something like that."
Zacharia knows that some fans, after looking at the program and seeing his college choice, may wonder why he was invited to the game.
Last week, while players from the North and South teams went to Knott's Berry Farm, the coaching staffs of the two squads had a meeting.
"One of the coaches of the North said they were going to attack the midget in the middle of the South," said Canyon Coach Harry Welch, one of the South's coaches.
The remark worried Welch. "I was wondering myself, 'Can Joe play with these guys,' " he said.
Welch's doubts were erased after a Monday scrimmage.
"We had a live, all-out scrimmage and Joe was as dominating as he ever was last year playing for the Cowboys. It was beautiful," Welch said.
In practice, Zacharia has battled Tom Dabasinskas, a 6-5, 245-pound center from San Pasqual High in Escondido. Dabasinskas has accepted a scholarship at USC.
At the start of practice, the South's offensive line, which averages just under 255 pounds a man, was "more or less having its way with the defense," Welch said.
But matters soon changed.
"Joe just started dominating the center," Welch said. "Joe would be real quick, slip by him and make a play in the backfield. The center started missing blocks and missing snaps."
Dabasinskas said he was surprised at Zacharia's ability because of his size.
"He's one of the better nose guards as far as skill that I've gone against," Dabasinskas said. "Just because of his size, you can't take anything away from him. He's real quick and has good moves."
Zacharia hopes others will be impressed Saturday.
"There are going to be scouts there from every Pac-10 school," he said. "At our school, there were college scouts, but they were there looking at one person (Austin). I'm sure most of them have read about me and they know I'm not going to a (Division I) school. So maybe they'll say, 'Hey, let's go talk to him,' if I do well. Make that, when I do well."
Perak did well enough at Notre Dame to earn a scholarship from Colorado. The 6-6, 225-pound tight end may get his only chance Saturday to play in Pasadena.
"My one dream is to play in the Rose Bowl," he said. "Going to a Big Eight school, I'll never have a chance to play in a Rose Bowl game. So when I walk out onto the field for the opening kickoff, I'm going to be in awe."
Austin figures to make several appearances at the Rose Bowl the next few years for the Bruins. Still, he can't wait to hit the field for the first time.
"I probably won't even recognize it when I go back the next time," Austin said. "I'll be too stoked up or something. It'll be crazy."
Wellman is keeping his head about him when it comes to what he wants to accomplish in the game.
"Mainly I want to go out there to win the game," the future Trojan said. "That's it, to win the game. Of course, it would be nice to catch about 10 passes. I wouldn't mind that at all."