There is only one place good enough, or appropriate enough, for the 10th anniversary of the Valparaiso Bowl.
It isn't Menlo High School.
Or Sacred Heart Prep for that matter.
Nope, version 10 of Knights versus Gators belongs in one place: primetime.
And so, all of Valparaiso will pack into cars and buses and head over to Woodside High School in Redwood City and play under the Wildcats' lights in a game where the teams will contribute to that never-ending debate of what happens when an unstoppable force (like the Menlo offense) meets an immovable object (like the SHP defense).
"They have a great defense," said Menlo head coach Mark Newton. "They have really solid players at each position. They're coached really well. They tackle well and really fly to the ball. They do a pretty good job of coverage."
"They have the whole package," said SHP head coach Pete Lavorato. "We're working really hard on our secondary coverage. We're working really hard on our pass rush lanes. We're kind of approaching them a little bit like Terra Nova who also likes to spread it out."
Statisically, this game is a fan's dream. In Menlo, you have an offense that looks near unstoppable when its clicking. And in the Gators, you have a defense that Lavorato has called, on more than one occasion, the best he's ever had.
The Daily Journal Game of the Week, in all it's Rivaly Week glory, is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
"We don't have any problem getting up for this game, just like them," Lavorato said. "It's a rivalry game. We're only a stone's throw from each other on Valparaiso. There's bragging rights and all that good stuff. So, it'll be a solid football game. It's going to be a hard-fought battle. We have a lot of respect for Menlo and the job Mark Newton does there. It's going to be fun."
Fun because the teams enter the 2012 Valparaiso Bowl pressure-free ? come the Central Coast Section playoffs next week, the Knights and the Gators are in.
"Even if the playoff seeding wasn't involved, the game is big for both schools and for all the kids," Newton said. "We're not too terribly concerned about that. We're just focused on Prep and what a solid team they have.
"For us, it's about executing (on offense) the way we've executed against teams with good defenses and good players ? keep our execution high and play smart football. That's what we need to do against Prep. The bottom line, it'll come down to pretty basic aspects of football ??making our blocks and when we get some creases, get some positive yards running. Throw the ball well and catch it."
Pulling the strings on offense is Jack Heneghan, arguably the most gifted quarterback the heralded SHP defense has seen all year long. It's a defense allowing less than seven points a game this year. Menlo's offense comes in averaging 52.
"He's a pretty good runner, too," Lavorato said of Heneghan and his 25 touchdowns and only one interception. "A part of it is understanding that he's going to complete his passes and we can't get down on ourselves because he completes a ball. We just have to be disciplined in our pass-rush lanes and read our keys in the secondary. The one thing we need to do really well is tackle when they catch the ball because they make a lot of yards after the catch as well. It's going to be tough, but we're going to try and slow them down."
And regardless of seeding come CCS time, there is a little thing known as momentum. For both teams, a win on Friday night is a step in the right direction come playoff time.
"Of course, if you win, it's going to give you confidence," Lavorato said. "But most importantly, it's if you play well. We know Menlo is a really good team so we're not going to go in the tank if they beat us. Certainly a win would be a tremendous thing for us going into the CCS playoffs."
"We have done a phenomenal job of protecting the ball this year and creating turnovers," Newton said. "Playing a great team, like Prep is, that becomes exponentially important. We just want to execute the way that we've done. That's more difficult when you play a good team and a defense like Prep has."