Moorpark College will begin its season Saturday night against Harbor. If the game is anything like the past two season-opening matches between the teams, the first play may be one school's most spectacular of the season.
Moorpark and Harbor, it seems, have this little trick play fetish that each has exercised at the beginning of their past two non-conference games.
In 1984, it was Harbor. After being penalized on the first play and facing a first and 25, the Harbor quarterback ran what looked like a sweep. He pitched to the halfback. Just when the Moorpark secondary turned to pursue him, the halfback lobbed a 45-yard touchdown pass.
In 1985 when Moorpark debuted its "no-huddle" offense, the Raiders took the field on their first possession and lined up on the line of scrimmage. Quarterback Ken Lutz took the first snap, tossed a lateral pass to wide receiver Paul Davis, who lobbed a 62-yard touchdown pass to Dan Russell. Ouch.
Harbor didn't recover and the Raiders went on to a 31-3 victory and eventually the best season in their history. Moorpark was 8-3 last season and won a share of the Western State Conference championship. It shared the title with conference power Glendale, a team Moorpark beat in the regular season. Because of that win, Moorpark went to the Brahma Bowl, where it took a beating Dec. 7 from Pierce, 27-14.
Coach Jim Bittner, who lost Lutz and Russell, hopes the Raiders can win again. Now, if he can only find a replacement for Lutz.
He has three candidates in Steve Armstrong, Steve Haddad and Dan Nagelmann.
Haddad is the most likely to succeed Lutz. The sophomore transfer from Pierce has junior college experience, which includes his winning touchdown pass to beat Moorpark, 31-28, last season.
Nagelmann, a freshman, last season led his Thousand Oaks High team to a 7-4 record and the Marmonte League title.
Armstrong, a three-sport athlete at Agoura High in 1984, sat out last season. He went to Moorpark after deciding to discontinue life at the U.S. Military Academy. Before he went to West Point, Armstrong led the Agoura Chargers to the Desert Mountain Conference championship.
"To be fair about it," Bittner said, "We have to see all of them play."
While the Raiders have an abundance of quarterbacks, they lack depth everywhere else. So, the starters will have do. They include tackle Matt Hickman, 6-5, 285, and popular for his fondness of groceries, returning starter Kyle Opp at tight end, and guard Blane Wingle, an All-Western State Conference pick last season.
On defense, Bittner expects leadership from an experienced defensive backfield: linebackers Don Laut, Don Ott, Kevin Thomas, Jeff Ebert and safety Kyle Johnson. Said Bittner: "I think our defense will do fine."
Moorpark will play at Harbor on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.