It seems strange to think of Sweetwater High School as an underdog.
Sweetwater has won two CIF San Diego Section 3-A titles and has gone 55-5-1 since 1982.
Sweetwater has a good team this year too. The Red Devils are 8-2 and are ranked No. 5 in San Diego County by The Times.
They will even be playing at home Friday against Morse in the section quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m.
But Sweetwater will not be favored.
Morse (8-3), ranked third in the county, seems to have everything going for it. Take a look:
- Running backs: Morse's Larry Maxey is the county's second-leading rusher. He's gained 1,271 yards and scored 19 touchdowns.
Sweetwater's performance against two top running backs this season seems to make Maxey more of a threat. Lincoln's Darrin Wagner rushed for 173 yards on 17 carries at Sweetwater. Chula Vista's Marquis Howard rushed for 93 yards in 12 carries.
"Maxey is similar to Wagner," Morse Coach John Shacklett said. "They'll have a tough time defending against him."
Sweetwater's Pierre Jones of Sweetwater has rushed for 1,007 yards and 16 touchdowns. But Jones has been bothered by a sore back and has not been as effective during the latter part of the season.
Sweetwater does have three other good backs, tailback Jaime Romero and fullbacks Juan Price and Tana Lepule. But none of them is the threat of Jones when he is healthy.
- Common opponents: Both schools have played No. 4 Lincoln and No. 1 Point Loma.
Sweetwater led, 21-0, in the first half against Lincoln. Lincoln came back to win, 22-21. Point Loma's defense dominated the Red Devils en route to a 10-0 victory. Both were at Sweetwater.
The week after Lincoln beat Sweetwater, Morse destroyed Lincoln, 40-12. Morse led, 13-0, after one quarter against Point Loma. The Pointers eventually won, 14-13, but needed two second half touchdowns and a missed Morse field goal to do it.
Five of the teams Morse has played made the playoffs. Vista was one of the others. Not counting two teams from Mexico and one from San Francisco, only three of Sweetwater's opponents made it to the playoffs.
- Last week: Sweetwater was given a bye in the first round. Morse destroyed Granite Hills, 45-7, in its first-round game. Shacklett figures that gives his team an advantage.
"I'm glad I didn't have an off week," said Shacklett, who has been at Morse for 17 years. "The kids get lethargic. I'm just trying to keep my kids calm."
Add the fact that sophomore Art Saenz will start at quarterback because Danny Aina has been dismissed from the team because of "disciplinary reasons," and it makes it a tough game for the Red Devils.
But Shacklett said there is still a mystique about Sweetwater.
"I think our kids realize that Sweetwater is not Granite Hills," he said.
And who knows how Sweetwater's players will react to being an underdog? They have not been in that position often.