As rivalries go, it is safe to say that Cal Lutheran-Cal State Northridge falls well short of Notre Dame-USC.
There are no leprechauns. No white horses. There is no golden dome to deface or Tommy Trojan to disgrace.
There is, in fact, some question as to whether it is a rivalry at all.
Some players say that bragging rights to the Valley area are at stake, but does that really get anybody's blood boiling?
Think about it. The winner gets to say it has the best Division II football team west of the 405 Freeway and south of the 118. Wow.
Cal Lutheran (2-2) and Northridge (3-1) will meet for the 11th time Saturday night at North Campus Stadium. Northridge has won seven games, including the past four. There has never been an upset of note or an occasion when a conference championship hinged on the game's outcome.
Bob Shoup, Cal Lutheran's coach, said Cal Lutheran became Northridge's "rival" simply because there isn't a state school in the area that plays Division II football. "We kind of fell into this by default," he said.
Bob Burt, Northridge's coach, said Saturday's game is big because it is the Matadors' first Western Football Conference game of the season. Nothing more.
There is, however, evidence to the contrary.
If nothing else, the teams have traded a few bulletin board quotes this season.
At his weekly press meeting last week, Shoup was bemoaning the fact that he had to recruit football players who also met Cal Lutheran's tough academic restrictions when he said, "The last five running backs at Northridge couldn't get in here. The standards are too high." There was a bulge in his cheek when he said it, but there is some question whether it was from his tongue or his foot.
The quote was dutifully relayed in the newspaper and has been enlarged and prominently displayed on the bulletin board in the Northridge locker room.
Burt has not responded publicly but has said he will if Northridge wins.
So maybe there is hope that a real rivalry can develop after all.
The players seem relatively willing.
Tom Bonds, Cal Lutheran's all-everything quarterback, said the Northridge game is special to him because the Matadors failed--along with just about everyone else--to recruit him out of high school. They wanted his best friend, running back Mike Gatto, but not him. "I always wanted to get back at them for that," he said.
Bonds has been injured the past two times the Kingsmen played the Matadors. Northridge defenders say they're ready for his best shot.
Attention, quote watchers on the Cal Lutheran side:
"He's a good quarterback, there's no doubt about that," said CSUN tackle Steve Dominic, "but we'll be up for him. We'll see if he can do it against us." By the tone of Dominic's voice, there seemed to be some doubt. The Northridge defense is second in the WFC and third against the pass.
Dan Coleman, CSUN's free safety, said the Matadors are preparing for Bonds like they would any other quarterback. "All the hype and everything we hear about him just gets us that much more jacked up," he said. "I'm not taking anything away from the guy, but he hasn't done it against us so he's just like everyone else. Nothing special."
Clip. Enlarge. Staple.
Bonds, who has never been much of brazen talker, allowed that the CLU-CSUN rivalry was one of proximity and little else at this point. He said that could change, however.
"They've been beating us, so it hasn't been a rivalry that way," he said, "but we'd like to make it one.
"Beating them would probably do it."