Sherman Oaks Notre Dame coach Kevin Rooney used an odd word choice to describe his team’s game against Crespi of Encino on Friday night.
The two teams open Serra League play with championship aspirations. All five teams in the Serra League appear in the ESPNLA top-25 prep football rankings. Rooney takes his No. 24 Notre Dame team on the road to play No. 16 Crespi and said it will be a “fun” way to open Serra League play.
“In our league, every game is critical,” Rooney said. “Crespi is a top team and our rival. It will be a tremendous challenge. It’s kind of fun it starts this way. It’s critical that each team wins every game they can.”
Notre Dame (4-1) lost its first game of the season to Chaminade, 36-32, last week. The Knights erased an 18-point, first-half deficit and took an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. But Chaminade scored 14 points in the final two minutes to win it.
The winning drive started when Chaminade recovered an onside kick. Running back Terrell Newby scored the winning touchdown with 15 seconds left.
“It was a tough loss,” Rooney said. “There were a lot of good things we did in the game. We’re past that and getting ready for Crespi.”
Notre Dame running back Khalfani Muhammad has emerged as one of the top running backs in the San Fernando Valley. He rushed for 84 yards and scored two touchdowns against Chaminade.
Quarterback Kelly Hilinski threw for 225 yards, completing 14 of 18 passes, and scored on a one-yard run in the second half.
Crespi (5-1) is coming off a 56-7 drubbing of Woodland Hills Taft. Quarterback Cody Cordell threw for three touchdowns and 155 yards in limited action. Receiver Christopher Harper caught two touchdown passes and finished the game with three catches for 64 yards.
Crespi won its first four games of the season and had outscored its opponents, 194-34. The Celts’ only loss came against Vista Murrieta, 38-20, two weeks ago.
“You always learn more from a loss. I feel they outprepared us,” Crespi coach Jon Mack said. “The boys are playing well. We’re pleased how the season is going.”
Notre Dame went 2-8 and won only one league game last year. The team has made quite a turnaround, winning its first five games of the 2011 season and entering Serra League play as a championship contender.
“They’re a year older,” Rooney said. “Most of them played last year. Experience helps keep them on the right path. We’re trying to learn from everything that has happened.”
Here’s a look at some of the other top games in the L.A. North:
Simi Valley (4-1) vs. No. 3 Westlake (5-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – Westlake is on a roll and it starts with quarterback Justin Moore. The Simi Valley defense will have its hands full trying to contain Moore, who rushed for 226 yards against Oaks Christian last week. The Simi Valley offense has some weapons though. Quarterback Jake Maranto threw for 269 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-6 win over Calabasas last week. Receiver Eric Pinkston caught seven passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. Pinkston also had an interception playing defensive back.
No. 4 St. Bonaventure (4-1) vs. Newbury Park (2-3), Friday (7 p.m.) – The St. Bonaventure running attack is tough to stop. Shaun Wick and Zack Green combined for 180 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-17 win over Moorpark. Newbury Park snapped a three-game losing streak with a 31-21 win over Agoura last week. Quarterback Ben Okun threw for four touchdowns and rushed for one.
No. 22 Alemany (4-2) vs. No. 7 Bishop Amat (5-1), Friday (7 p.m.) – Alemany opens Serra League play on the road against Bishop Amat. Alemany beat Amat, 38-30, last season to complete an undefeated run through the Serra League. The Warriors are coming off a 48-12 win over Beverly Hills. Quarterback Devon Dunn threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, all to receiver Steven Mitchell, against Beverly Hills. Bishop Amat’s only loss came against No. 1 Servite, 49-14, in the second week of the season.
Royal (2-3) vs. No. 15 Oaks Christian (3-2), Friday (7 p.m.) – Both teams are coming off tough Marmonte League losses. Oaks Christian lost to Westlake, 43-21, and will need some help to catch the Warriors for first place in the Marmonte League standings. Royal lost, 34-14, to Thousand Oaks and is tied with Newbury Park for seventh place in league.
Saugus (3-2) vs. No. 20 Canyon (5-0), Friday (7:30 p.m.) – The high-powered Canyon offense starts Foothill League play against an unpredictable Saugus team. Canyon is coming off a 42-0 shutout on the road against Dos Pueblos. Quarterback Jonathan Jerozal threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns. He also scored on a rushing touchdown. Saugus should be well-rested. The Centurions had a bye last week, but lost to Woodland Hills Taft, 28-21, blowing a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter on Sept. 30.
St. Paul (5-0) vs. No. 23 Chaminade (4-1), Friday (7 p.m.) – The top two teams in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division poll face off in the Mission League opener. St. Paul is the No. 1 team in the Western Division and beat Schurr, 28-6, last week. Chaminade is No. 2 and won a thrilling, come-from-behind, game, 36-32, over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. The Eagles erased an 11-point deficit in the final two minutes to win the game. Chaminade running back Terrell Newby scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run with 15 seconds left.