Familiarity has found its way to the Central Conference championship game, Saturday at 7:30 at Anaheim's Glover Stadium. The game matches Orange League rivals Valencia of Placentia and Anaheim high schools, and it hasn't so much bred contempt as it has fear on both sides.
For Mike Marrujo, Valencia coach, the scenario is all to recognizable.
Last season, Valencia cruised into the Central Conference final, only to find Bolsa Grande as its opponent. Valencia had beaten Bolsa Grande, 33-10, during the regular season, and most people expected more of the same in the final. Instead, Bolsa Grande beat Valencia, 24-7.
This season, Valencia beat Anaheim, 21-0, during league play.
How much can you draw from that game? Well, depending on who you talk to, all or nothing.
"We know from last year how much it means to beat someone during the regular season," Marrujo said. "Not much. I don't think that game has anything to do with the game coming up."
Another opinion comes from Ted Mullen, Anaheim coach.
"Their defense just dominated us, shut us out," he said. "That remains our biggest challenge in this game. Just to score against their defense."
It was the only shutout suffered this season by Anaheim, 10-2-1. The Valencia defense, which allowed an average of 6.8 points a game during the regular season, effectively contained Joaquin Garcia, Anaheim's exceptional running back, limiting him to 75 yards in 17 carries.
Garcia, who has rushed for 1,563 yards in 258 carries, is the key to Mullen's run-oriented offense.
"He's an exceptional player and a great athlete," Mullen said. "When you have a kid like that, you tend to work things around him."
That translates to Anaheim quarterback Robert Aldaz throwing an average of seven passes a game during the regular season. Against Valencia, Aldaz threw for just 31 yards and had 4 passes intercepted.
However, in the semifinals against Saddleback, Aldaz had his best game to date, completing 7 of 9 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. He also threw for a two-point conversion and kicked a 20-yard field goal.
"Their quarterback is really playing well," Marrujo said. "He won't be the same guy we saw during league."
Valencia (11-2) isn't the same run-till-you-drop team, either. In the past, with backs such as Ray Pallares (state rushing record-holder) and Tony Goulet, Valencia hugged the ground.
But this season, the offense has opened up. Quarterback Robert Navarette has passed for more than 1,000 yards, and Mike Edwards, who also plays tight end and free safety, has become one of Orange County's top wide receivers.
Valencia still runs, and runs well. Keef Leasure rushed for 1,012 yards during the regular season, averaging 7.6 yards a carry.