As one might imagine, there are a lot of story lines heading into Friday night’s inter-district battle between Calabasas and Agoura.
“It’s a rivalry game,” said Agoura head coach Charlie Wegher. “We don’t know as many kids over there as we used to. But its Calabasas and they’re in our district and we always get excited to play them, just like they get excited to play us.”
Christian Pierce, the Calabasas head coach, agreed.
“Agoura is the other high school in our district,” he said. “So we’re pulling from the same gene pool – the kids that play for our school or that school – so the kids know each other. It should be a spirited game.”
One thing he feels he must guard against, Pierce said, is letting the familiarity with the other team somehow cause a letdown.
“I don’t want that familiarity to take the edge off,” he said on Sunday. “I’ve got to keep them sharp this week, that’s going to be the trick. When you’ve got a school that you’re playing and you know everybody, you want to keep them sharp.”
Agoura (2-6 overall and 0-3 in the Marmonte League West) will celebrate homecoming on Friday night. Calabasas (1-7, 0-3) will try to dampen the festive atmosphere for the home team and its fans.
“It’s nice, it’s homecoming, so we’ll have a big crowd,” Wegher said.
Of course, scheduling an opponent on your homecoming can be a double-edged sword. It sometimes suggests to your foe that you expect to win that game. And indeed, Agoura hasn’t lost to Calabasas since 1998, when the Coyotes won 14-13.
“They scheduled us for their homecoming, so we’re going there pretty excited to play and hopefully we’ll come out with a win,” said Calabasas’ standout senior linebacker Jordan Pierce.
Wegher said Pierce and Martin Barboza, in particular, stood out when watching film of the Coyotes’ defense. Barboza, a junior, is also a linebacker.
“I’m looking at them on film right now and they’re athletic,” Wegher said on Sunday. “They’re big and they’re fast and they’re much-improved. So we’re going to have our work cut out for us this week.
Another player who will cause concern for the Chargers is Ike Fuchs, the Coyotes’ senior quarterback.
“He’s scary because he can run around, he can throw and he does everything for them,” said Wegher. “He plays quarterback and he’s their kicker and punter. He’s a good athlete and he looks like he’s a pretty good leader, too.”
When Coach Pierce looks at the Agoura team on film, he sees something familiar.
“They’ve got an offense pretty similar to the one that I ran the last four or five years – that spread offense,” he said. “They’re a good team. Charlie Wegher has done a great job and he’s a good coach and he’s always going to field a real competitive team.
“They will fight you till the end, and that’s what we’ve got to be ready for and try to match.”
Both head coaches have a similar message they impart to their players
“The constant emphasis is just on getting better,” Wegher said. “We’re not going to dwell on things that we have no control over. But we have control over improvement and our effort and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
“We don’t really focus on what the other team does. We simply control what we can control. The last two weeks we were really focusing on competing one rep at a time, one practice at a time, at game speed. If we do that we’re going to be in a good position.”
Whereas Calabasas felt its morale lifted by a good effort against perennial powerhouse Oaks Christian last week, Agoura was hampered by injuries and was left somewhat disappointed after a loss to Thousand Oaks.
However, Wegher said the Chargers should be a lot closer to full strength injury-wise than they were in recent weeks.
“Other than (Luke) Pedroza and (Bryan) Hochberg, I think they’re all going to be back,” he said of his recently injured players, such as Tristram Gillette, a senior who was sorely missed at linebacker last week.
The Chargers linemen, Caleb Maxey, a senior, and juniors Robert Webb, Sam Ruben and Josh Housemen, should be at full strength to fortify the battle at the line of scrimmage.
“Our line has got a little depth now,” Wegher said. “We had some kids out with injuries, but those guys played last Friday and did well.”
Last year, the Chargers won 24-17. Calabasas made a frantic second-half comeback in that contest. A couple of late officiating calls stood out, including a Coyotes’ touchdown on an interception that was called back.
“Yeah, there were a couple of controversial calls,” said Jordan Pierce. “We had a pick-six return called back. That gives us a lot of motivation because they (the Chargers players) kind of bragged about the win for a while.”
Wegher said the return of his injured players and the need for a good week of practice would be keys to how the game transpires.
“We’ve got a few guys back and we’ll see if we have a good week of practice,” Wegher said on Sunday. “We should play well.”
Pierce wants the effort against Oaks Christian last week to carry over to Friday night.
“(Agoura) is a good team and we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can and hopefully we’ll come out with a ‘W.’”