Rich Lawson doesn't want to bury Notre Dame. He just wants to bury the hatchet.
When Lawson takes his Chaminade Eagles to Notre Dame tonight, like most coaches, he'll have one thing on his mind.
"I just want to go out and win and prove that we're a quality team," Lawson said.
But for Lawson, the game will mean more. In his first game as a high school head coach, Lawson coaches against his alma mater--and former employer.
"I think there's something unique about going back and playing your alma mater," he said. But Lawson wonders whether he'll be welcome at Notre Dame.
After graduating in 1973, he served as an assistant from 1978 to 1980. He and Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney didn't see eye to eye on many matters.
"It was just a difference of philosophy," Lawson said.
Lawson left to take a coaching job at Glendale College in 1981 after his contract was not renewed for reasons he says never were explained.
"To this day, I'm not quite sure why I left," Lawson said. "I don't think they treated me very fair for an alumnus."
Lawson said that after accepting the job at Glendale, he was offered a teaching position at Notre Dame but not a coaching job. He declined the offer.
"I just think that it wasn't in my best interests to take it," he said.
Rooney, who also is athletic director, said that Lawson resigned. He also agreed that there was a clash in philosophy.
"It happens in every coaching staff," he said. "But that's all forgotten as far as I'm concerned. There's no reason to hold any grudges."
Lawson, too, is in a forgiving mood.
"I'm not motivated by playing Notre Dame," he said. "What's motivating me is that I want to start a successful football program."
Hitting the road: After the game against Notre Dame, Chaminade is scheduled to play four more road games before its home opener against Salesian.
But like most of the Eagles' home games this year, the site has yet to be determined.
Without a stadium of its own, Chaminade is forced to schedule its home games at Calabasas High or Pierce College whenever the facilities are available. Chaminade's homecoming game at Pierce on Oct. 24 is the only home game scheduled so far.
The Eagles won't have that problem next year. Scheduled for completion in May is a 2,500-seat, lighted stadium on Chaminade's Canoga Park campus.
"But until then it's 'On the Road Again,' " Lawson said.
How does it affect Lawson's players to have to play so many games without a home-field advantage?
"That's something I don't even address," Lawson said. "Some of them talk about it, but I think it's a waste of energy and I tell them that."
The last supper: The Alemany varsity has a weekly tradition. Every Thursday night before a Friday game, the team meets at the house of a player or coach for a feast.
"It's something we started when I first came here," said Coach Enrique Lopez, who is starting his fourth season at the school. "Every week it's at a different player or coach's house."
With 35 players and five coaches, the cost can be prohibitive, Lopez said.
"Sometimes a parent picks up the tab for all of us," Lopez said. "Other times we have the kids each bring an item. Like tonight, when it's at a poor coach's house. Everybody brings something."
Last night's fiesta was at assistant coach Dennis Henderson's house.
"He's got about an acre and a half of space in his backyard," Lopez said, "That helps."
It also helps the staff keep an eye on the rowdy bunch.
"It's like the old college bed check the night before a game," Lopez cracked, "It helps keep the kids off the street."
Add Alemany: The Indians, ranked No. 10 in the Times Valley poll, will be up at the crack of dawn today, preparing for a six-hour drive to Los Banos, where Alemany plays its season opener.
Lopez circulated a travel itinerary at Thursday's practice, which included notations for a prayer meeting at the school at 7:30 a.m. The team leaves at 8.
"It's a long drive," Lopez said. "I hope it doesn't take the edge off."
Alemany has some players banged up, especially on the offensive line. Tight ends Vince Ferry and Rob Smith probably won't play, and backup linemen John Ybarra and Mark Bennett also are ailing.
"We're a little thin, that's for sure," Lopez said.
Lopez did receive some good news, however. Wide receiver Tony Borquez, who had arthroscopic knee surgery over the summer, is expected to return later this month.
"He's about the fastest guy on the team," Lopez said.
Staff writer Steve Elling contributed to this story.