Katella High School, which has not had a winning season in 17 years, is one victory away from clinching at least a .500 record.
The Knights (4-1-1 overall, 0-0-1 in the Empire League) play Esperanza at 7:30 tonight in Bradford Stadium at Valencia High. Esperanza, which tied Cypress, 13-13, last week, is 3-2-1, 0-0-1.
Larry Anderson, Katella's first-year coach, brought a winning tradition from Lynwood, where his teams lost only one league game in five seasons.
Anderson's influence at Katella has been considerable. He installed a veer offense, and the Knights have been off and running.
In last week's league opener, Katella led El Dorado, 13-10, before the Golden Hawks rallied to tie with a late field goal. It was one of the Knights' most impressive games this season.
"You could call it a moral victory, but after the game, there were kids with tears in their eyes," Anderson said. "We knew we should have won. I was glad to see the kids weren't satisfied with a tie. It was a game we thought we should have won."
Running back Joey Pastorello led the Knights with 113 yards rushing on 21 carries. Jeremy Sherman added 109 yards on only 7 carries, and quarterback Jeff Yourstone gained 47 yards on 8 carries.
"I'm having a lot of fun," Anderson said. "This is a great challenge. The most gratifying thing is that the kids have worked so hard in practice and the results are beginning to show."
In other key games:
Irvine (3-3, 0-1) at Mission Viejo (5-1, 1-0)--Last week, Irvine came close to upsetting Capistrano Valley, the county's top-ranked team. The Vaqueros have another tough South Coast League test against the Diablos, who won their league opener over El Toro, 9-7, last week.
It was not a particularly impressive victory, however, as Troy Kopp threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Steve Miller to pull out the victory in the final minutes. Kopp was only 4 of 11 for 36 yards.
Mission Viejo's defense has limited opponents to 59 points in six games, an average of 9.8 points a game.
The victory moved Mission Viejo from eighth to sixth in the Orange County Sportswriters Assn. poll.
Jeff Jones, Irvine quarterback, fared better. He completed 11 of 25 passes for 155 yards and also ran 56 yards for a touchdown.
Edison (1-5, 1-0) at Westminster (3-3, 0-1)--Edison got its first victory of the season with a 21-0 shutout of Marina in their Sunset League opener last week. The Lions are one of the county's mystery teams. Westminster flopped last week, losing to Huntington Beach, 20-3, after impressive victories over Foothill and Esperanza.
Edison has been riddled by injuries this season. The most notable has been to running back/linebacker Kaleaph Carter, the Chargers' leading rusher last season, who has been sidelined with back spasms and a pinched nerve in his neck. Greg Angelovic has thrown for more than 800 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Westminster relies on a bruising defense, anchored by Ray Smith, a three-year starter at middle linebacker.
Santa Ana Valley (2-4, 1-0) vs. Villa Park (4-2, 1-0), in Fred Kelly Stadium--Although the Falcons have won only twice this season, their 7-0 victory over Foothill last week sent a warning in the Century League. Quarterback Steve Calhoun had his best game of the season, completing 7 of 13 passes for 171 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the third quarter.
The Falcon defense held Foothill's Johnny Mountain, the county's No. 2 rusher, to 17 yards on 14 carries.
Villa Park needs a victory to stay in contention in the league race. The Spartans play Foothill and Santa Ana, thought to be the league's top team, after Santa Ana Valley.
John Genova is the Spartans' leading rusher with 436 yards. Quarterback Rob Davey has thrown for 559 yards.