When old rivals like University High and Episcopal meet in football, the saying goes, you can throw the records and rankings out the window.
This time, however, it’s best to bring the records and rankings along.
University and Episcopal are ranked in the Class 2A state poll, the Cubs third and the Knights sixth. Both teams are unbeaten and have won all five of their games by 21 points or more.
Add in the fact that Friday night’s game at Episcopal is the District 7-2A opener for each team.
Yeah, this one’s big.
“Even if it were two teams not having success this season, it’s a game both schools and both teams look forward to,” Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois said. “The way everything has evolved this season with both teams being ranked and undefeated, it certainly adds a little extra flavor to the rivalry.”
Neither team had much trouble reaching the 7-2A starting gates unbeaten: U-High outscored its opponents 212-40 in nondistrict, with a 27-6 victory over Newman its closest call; Episcopal won its five games 192-49, getting its most resistance in a 49-28 victory over Christian Life and a 35-14 defeat of Many.
All the while, none of the other four teams in 7-2A got out of nondistrict play with a winning record.
A district championship game? In the first week of league play?
Not so fast, Bourgeois said.
“If you think Week 1 of the district is for the district title,” he said, “I think you’re in for a rude awakening. I think our district’s going to be very competitive.”
U-High coach Chad Mahaffey agreed.
“Each one you win kind of gets you further along toward that goal of winning a district championship,” Mahaffey said. “I think it’s hard to say this one game is for the championship, but it’s certainly a big step along the way.”
Both defenses will be tested by a bevy of playmakers.
For Episcopal, quarterback Vincent Dellocono has passed for 675 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception. Mike Henry, with 533 yards on 55 carries, leads the ground game.
Brad Bridgewater, one of the state’s top basketball talents, has 14 catches for 380 yards and four scores.
For U-High, quarterback Kyle Crifasi has thrown for 591 yards and seven scores with three interceptions. Nick Brossette has rushed for 522 yards on 87 attempts. Tristan Cooper, who last week returned a fumble 99 yards for a score, has 13 catches for 278 yards and five touchdowns.
“The kids know each other. There’s no bad blood,” Bourgeois said, “but there’s a lot
of pride on the line Friday night.”
Episcopal ended 14 years of frustration against U-High with a 7-6 win last season, the first victory for the Knights against their crosstown rival since 1996. Episcopal players gave their coach a Gatorade shower as they celebrated on U-High’s home field.
The Knights won their next four games, too, en route to the school’s first 9-0 start.
“If we need that to motivate us, it probably means we’re not in the right frame of mind,” Mahaffey said. “There’s plenty enough at stake and plenty enough good things going on to really not have to worry about last year.”