Before choosing a college, Scott Patchett first consulted a map of Ventura County.
For unlike many football players who consider a team's record or its ranking when deciding on a college, Patchett's main concern was how far he would have to commute.
"The school I was closest to was the one I was going to go to," said Patchett, a freshman tight end at Ventura College.
Patchett, however, is typical of Ventura County high school football players who go on to play at either Ventura or Moorpark College.
Convenience is just one of a variety of reasons offered by players for choosing Ventura over Moorpark, or vice versa. Some players want to attend the same college as their girlfriend or play on a team with their friends.
A player's parents can also be a factor in choosing between the schools.
"The biggest selling job is the parents because they're footing the bill," Moorpark Coach Jim Bittner said. "I wish I knew all the reasons why a player decides to go to one school over the other."
A key recruitment tool for both Bittner and Ventura Coach Phil Passno is the annual Ventura-Moorpark game. Winning that game can help a coach's recruiting efforts the following season. Ventura visits Moorpark on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
"The players know each other and the coaches know each other," Passno said. "That game has a lot to do with bragging rights in Ventura County when you go out and recruit.
"It has been a fairly healthy rivalry. I think the players really look forward to winning this game."
This year's game has more at stake than usual, especially for the Raiders. A loss to Ventura on Saturday could spoil Moorpark's chances of earning a berth to the Potato Bowl, the premier junior college postseason game in the state.
Coming off a 20-13 victory over previously unbeaten Glendale, Moorpark needs victories over Ventura and L. A. Southwest to clinch the WSC Northern Division title. The Raiders (8-0, 7-0 in conference play) could post their first undefeated season in school history.
For Ventura (4-4, 3-4 in conference play), defeating Moorpark would be the highlight of a so-so season.
The Pirates lost to the Raiders, 51-21, last year and have not beaten Moorpark since 1985, but they hold a 15-5 lead in the series.
"We could knock them out of a championship," Passno said. "There's a lot on the line for a game like this."
Moorpark, ranked fourth in the state by the JC Athletic Bureau, is Ventura's toughest opponent since Bakersfield, which defeated the Pirates, 35-9, on Sept. 24. The Pirates snapped a 2-game losing streak last week with a 50-15 victory over L. A. Harbor.
Still, the Raiders have all the momentum coming into Saturday's game at Moorpark. They have limited opponents to 147.9 yards a game and lead the state and WSC in team defense.
The Raiders have outscored opponents, 274-56, and average 247.8 rushing yards a game, tops in the WSC.
In addition, Moorpark is coming off its biggest win of the season.
"I think they win as a team because I don't see any outstanding stars on either side of the ball," Passno said. "They don't make a lot of mistakes, in terms of turnovers and things like that."
Despite its record, Ventura has not struggled offensively. The Pirates have outscored their opponents, 237-131, and are averaging 361.9 yards a game. Ventura's defense allows 203.1 yards a game.
The Pirates start 17 freshmen, however. Wayne Jones, a freshman, leads Ventura in rushing with 549 yards and 5 touchdowns in 113 carries.
Freshman Todd Paffhausen has taken over at quarterback for sophomore Juan Moreno. Paffhausen ran for 3 touchdowns and passed for another in his first start last week.
On the season, Moreno has completed 80 of 152 passes for 1,003 yards and 6 touchdowns. Paffhausen is 38 of 86 for 625 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Moorpark has gone with freshman quarterback Jayson Merrill, who took the job away from sophomore David Sommer at the start of the season. Merrill has completed 50 of 96 passes for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
Merrill engineered the game-winning drive against Glendale and capped it with a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darren Romano in the fourth quarter.
Fullback Larry Roberts anchors the Moorpark offense. Roberts led the WSC in rushing until separating his shoulder on Oct. 8 and has scored touchdowns in each of Moorpark's last 2 games. He leads the team with 648 yards in 113 carries and 8 touchdowns.
Yet despite Moorpark's strong offense and its advantages on defense, Bittner is not taking the Pirates for granted.
"I think they have a much better team that their record indicates," Bittner said. "We know all of their players because we recruited all of them."