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Stakes Raised in College Rivalry : Ventura: The Pirates are banged up but they realize their season rides in the balance of this game.


Had Ventura College won last week, the Pirates would play for the Western State Conference Northern Division football title Saturday against arch-rival Moorpark. But Ventura lost, meaning it plays for the title anyway.


Despite the fact that Ventura was upset by Harbor, 26-20, to spoil the Pirates' perfect record, victories over Moorpark and Glendale the next two weeks are necessary for Ventura to win the division championship. Had the Pirates defeated Harbor, they still would have had to beat Moorpark and Glendale.

"As much as we would have liked to win last week, it really didn't matter," Ventura Coach Phil Passno said.

The Pirates, by their own admission, were looking past Harbor. Now they can focus on the game they were looking forward to all along.

Ventura and Moorpark meet at 7:30 p.m. at Ventura High. A Moorpark victory assures the Raiders of the division championship regardless of the final week's outcome. If Ventura beats Moorpark, but loses at Glendale (4-3-1 overall, 4-2-1 in conference play), Moorpark would be the champion.

"The whole season comes down to this game," Passno said.

Ventura is slowed by injuries, and defensive coordinator Steve Tobias refused to comment earlier this week regarding the extent of his defense's woes. "Let's just say we're not 100 percent healthy," Tobias said.

It will be the second consecutive week that Ventura will have players sidelined by health problems. Tackle Erin Powers (sickness), running backs John Johnson (quadriceps pull) and Ryan Rapoza (broken finger), wide receiver Keith Mims (slight shoulder separation), and linebacker David Nunnery (ill) were starters who sat out last week.

Mims and Johnson could have played last week, according to Passno, and will play Saturday. Rapoza has medical clearance to play if a cast can be developed to protect his finger.

Even with a healthy team, Ventura will have trouble stopping--or even slowing--Moorpark's powerful offense. The Raiders are second in the state in average yards a game (441.9) and they scored 31 points in the first quarter during last week's 47-27 win over Glendale.

Moorpark's offense is led in part by former Hueneme High star Freddie Bradley and quarterback Jason Merrill.

Moorpark's leading receiver, James Gambrell, strained the medial collateral ligament in his knee and may miss the remainder of the regular season.

The Raiders' defense is equally impressive with the state's fourth-best average in yards allowed per game (197.8).

"They are real a physical defense that attacks you and makes you make mistakes," Passno said.

Ventura will send, among others, Johnson and Ferando Green at the Raiders. Johnson has rushed for 553 yards in 98 carries and Green, filling in for Rapoza, rushed for 118 yards in 18 carries last week.

Quarterback Todd Paffhausen has thrown only one interception in 125 passes. He has completed 69 for 1,116 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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