As college rivalries go, it's not UCLA-USC, and as local rivalries go it may not match up with the knock-down, drag-out, in-your-face, let's-deface-that-school-across-town Buena-Ventura high school game. But let's get one thing straight: As rivalries go between junior colleges, Moorpark vs. Ventura is right up there.
To wit: In 1982, some Moorpark College students came up with an ingenious way to raise funds and havoc at the same time.
They brought an old, beat up car on campus, splashed some Ventura Pirate orange paint on it, got a sledge hammer, and auctioned off swings.
This was a smashing success, of course, and when they'd whomped on it enough, they towed it down to Ventura and dumped it in the middle of campus. Your football team, they said, will look similar to this Chevy after the game.
Chalk up a point for Moorpark.
Ventura students managed to rally, however, simply by finishing what Moorpark started. They cut the car up into itsy-bitsy pieces and dumped them on the Moorpark sideline just before game time.
"That," said Moorpark Coach Jim Bittner, "was the craziest."
Moorpark won the game, 27-6, but Ventura's fans won the war of pranks.
Coaches say the interest of students has subsided in recent years, but the rivalry between players should continue to thrive.
The reason: Every year there will be the type of battle found this season between Mike Kildee and Brian McCarty.
Kildee is a 6-2, 282-pound defensive tackle for Moorpark. McCarty is a 6-2, 255-pound offensive guard for Ventura. Two years ago, they were best buddies and the two top players at Rio Mesa High.
Saturday night at Larrabee Stadium they will be nose to nose on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage as Ventura and Moorpark meet for the 21st time to decide which has bragging rights for a year.
And, whatever the score, Kildee and McCarty will be waging their own personal battle all the way through.
"We're good friends," McCarty said. "It will be interesting. I'm sure not going to let up on him, whatever the score is."
Said Kildee: "You play hard all the time no matter who you're playing, but it's different going up against someone you know. I know if I give him the chance, he'll embarrass me, and he knows I'll do the same."
There is added incentive for Kildee, who also was a teammate of McCarty's on the Rio Mesa wrestling and track teams.
"In wrestling, I was his dummy," Kildee said. "He just threw me around. I'd say, 'One of these days I'm gonna pay you back for this.' I guess this is my chance."
For McCarty, who was one of the state's best high school wrestlers, the memories are more fond. "I had some experience on Mike," he said, "but he always gave me a good workout."
Ventura and Moorpark are the only junior colleges allowed to legally recruit football players in Ventura County, which makes for a strange scenario when the teams meet. Players from rival high school teams play side by side against former high school teammates.
"It's like two brothers," Bittner said. "If they get into a fight, there's no holding back, but just don't try to pick on the other guy."
Frank Madrid knows the rivalry from both ends. He was an All-Western State Conference receiver for Ventura last season, then transferred to Moorpark. He says he'd like nothing better than to burn his former teammates.
"Personally, I'd like a couple of TDs, but as long as we win I don't care about personal stats," said Madrid, who had six catches and was Ventura's player of the game against Moorpark last season.
He is not worried about revenge his former friends may seek. "You're going to get hit--there's not much you can do about that--but they can only do so much," he said.
Said Phil Passno, Ventura's coach: "I'm sure our guys would like to let him know we're still around."
To the victor goes the Citrus Cup. But pride is what's really at stake.
"Some of the kids on our team are from other areas and a couple didn't even know who we played next," Bittner said. "But the ones from around here knew. It's important to them because they're the ones who have to live with the outcome."
This season, the game has extra significance because it is the WSC opener for both teams. "One team is going to get off on the right foot and the other will be playing catch up for the rest of the season," Kildee said.
Moorpark has the jump so far.
The Raiders, ranked fifth in the state, are 3-0 and are coming off their most impressive win to date, 28-12, over Long Beach City. Ventura is 0-3 and has been outscored, 95-30.
There is another record to consider, however: Moorpark has defeated Ventura only four times in 20 games.
"They've been a real thorn in our side," Bittner said. "I wish they were 3-0, too. I don't relish the thought of our guys taking them lightly. We're discounting the records. We're both 0-0 in conference."
Moorpark held opponents scoreless for the first 11 quarters of this season until Long Beach scored in the fourth quarter last Saturday. The Raiders defeated Harbor, 28-0, and Compton, 24-0, in their first two games.
Against Long Beach, Bittner unveiled a passing attack he had kept under wraps in the first two games. Quarterback Dan Nagelmann completed 20 of 36 passes and Madrid, who had only two catches in the first two games, had eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Passno is hoping for a replay of 1984, when Ventura started the season 0-3, then beat Moorpark, 20-17, to start an eight-game win streak that it capped with a victory over Grossmont in the Ventura Bowl.
"We have a young football team that needs to experience winning a little," Passno said. "We're not in the best of spirits right now. If we're going to bounce back, now is the time to do it."