Is anyone calling this a football game , an extracurricular activity by a bunch of kids dressed up as Cowboys and Indians?
Not Canyon Coach Harry Welch. "It's a crusade at Hart," he said. "It's scary."
Not Hart Coach Rick Scott. "Harry's got everybody suckered," he said. "Canyon wants it bad. "
Canyon meets Hart tonight in a season opener at 7:30 p.m. at College of the Canyons.
Welch has worries beyond an inexperienced offensive line that could use more aging than bleu cheese.
"The way we are approaching this game bothers me," he said. "I don't like concerning ourselves with anyone but our own team. We were running discipline sprints until dusk earlier this week."
Just some guys making mental errors, missing assignments, that sort of thing?
"More than mental mistakes," Welch said. "It went deeper than that. This team can't prepare the way we have and get away with it. Not as inexperienced as we are."
Maybe Cowboys were indulging in streak talk, a Canyon no-no. Welch doesn't like his players discussing the team's 38-game winning streak, which includes three conference championships and two victories over Hart. The Cowboys have defeated the Indians three years in a row.
Scott, who has suffered through two losses to Canyon, will have none of Welch's worrying.
"Last year, Harry said his team was banged up," Scott said. "This year it's that they are so inexperienced they don't know what a football is. We'll introduce them to one at halftime.
"I can't for the life of me understand it. They have the same amount of returning starters, the same amount of All-CIF players."
Scott is steaming and his Hart's on fire. A bonfire rally in the school parking lot last night attracted more than 2,000 Hart students and fans.
"The students wanted to have something to kick off the season," Scott said.
Now it was Welch's turn to be caustic.
"We have a bonfire before our homecoming game when we play a rather weak team," Welch said. "I don't believe in doing anything to get the other team fired up."
Neither team will need extra incentive. Not with a crowd of more than 10,000 expected. But the multitude won't be in for many surprises.
"Harry and I run the same thing year in and year out," Scott said. "I can almost tell you the first play he'll run. It's like a chess match. It's calling the right play at the right time, not coming up with any magic or trick plays. And of course, above all, it's kids executing."
Senior quarterbacks Jim Bonds of Hart and Ken Sollom of Canyon are expected to generate the pivotal plays. Scott, however, believes the keys will be lining up behind the quarterbacks.
"The tailback who has the best game will be the difference," he said. "That's the classic match-up."
Hart's Chris Hite and Canyon's Lance Cross both are small, quick and experienced. Hite (5-9, 160) rushed for 783 yards and caught 58 passes last season. Cross (5-7, 160) rushed for 1,390 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last season and has rushed for 2,440 yards in two years. Both are seniors.
Said Scott: "Hite is by far the best tailback I've coached. When he gets the football, magical things happen."
Said Welch: "There are no limits to what Lance Cross can do with the football."
Unexpected heroes often emerge in big games. Hart outside linebacker Scott Holden led the team in interceptions during summer passing league. Jim VanDer Toorn, a defensive lineman "is capable of having a game like Joe Zacharia had for Canyon last year," according to Scott. Potential Canyon sleepers include speedy wide receiver Trevor Doyle, slot back Ernie Figueroa and linebacker Andy Boron.
Any final words before the fray?
Said Welch: "They have the potential to blow us out. They could pull an Oklahoma."
Said Scott: "We are even at quarterback and tailback, and both defenses are inexperienced. They have an edge in receivers. We have edge on the offensive line. Sounds close to me."
Year Canyon Hart 1970 16 8 1971 0 39 1972 12 14 1973 21 7 1974 7 20 1975 28 37 1976 12 7 1977 7 16 1978 20 13 1979 14 7 1980 7 21 1981 28 12 1982 14 22 1983 22 21 1984 21 6 1985 6 3 Wins 9 7