It’s understandable why the Moorpark football team regards Friday night’s match up with Thousand Oaks as a big game.
In the second round of the CIF playoffs last year Thousand Oaks beat Moorpark, 21-14.
The Lancers had already defeated the Musketeers, 27-24, in the first Marmonte League game of the 2011 season.
During the 2010 season, in the last game before the playoffs, Thousand Oak was victorious, 29-28, against Moorpark.
Three defeats in two years by a total of 11 points.
“This game is huge,” said Aaron Stanton, Moorpark’s senior running back “It’s been a while since I’ve beaten T.O. and they’re a really good team. So to beat a great team, we’ve got to play great.”
The Musketeers head into the contest, which begins at 7 p.m. at Moorpark High School, 4-1 overall and 1-0 in league play after last week’s Marmonte League West Division win over Calabasas, 51-18.
“It’s always a fun game and it’s always a real focused week of practice and a real enthusiastic week of practice,” said senior quarterback Austin Cole. “We’ve been really live and excited about this game and we’re getting after it this week.”
Thousand Oaks (3-3, 0-1) comes in struggling somewhat.
The Lancers lost last week’s league opener to perennial powerhouse Oaks Christian, 36-6. That loss came on the heels of a somewhat stunning 29-21 defeat at Nordhoff, in Ojai, on September 21. (Nordhoff is 6-0.)
But the Moorpark players don’t think that matters.
“Regardless of how (good) the team is that year, it’s always going to be a tough game,” said Cole. “They can be way better than us and we’ll give them a game. Or we could be way better than them and they’ll give us a game.”
Stanton agrees with his teammate.
“They’re definitely a team you can’t overlook,” he said. “In past years we’ve gone into this game, I think, probably with the wrong attitude. That has a lot to do with how you play in the game.”
And with only five Marmonte League games this year, compared to nine the past two years, each game is vital.
“This is a big game,” said Tim Lins, Moorpark’s head coach. “This is a game with playoff implications. There aren’t as many opportunities to make up for mistakes, so every game is real important.
“In the past, everybody had to play nine games and maybe somebody would stumble down the road, which would open the door that had previously been closed. It’s interesting. It’s exciting. But games are big.”
Thousand Oaks, under head coach Mike Leibin, now in his sixth season, is led offensively by senior quarterback Clark Abourisk, who is averaging 235 yards passing per game, and senior running back Nathan Debeikes.
“They’re a good team,” Lins said. “They’ve handled us the last three times we’ve played them. Mike Leibin is a fantastic coach and he’ll have his guys very well prepared for this game, here in this stadium. We’re expecting a battle.”
Stanton, a three-year starter for Moorpark, and linebacker Tony Mack, who was All-County last year, are among the Musketeers who experienced last year’s two losses to Thousand Oaks, including the one that ended their season.
But as Cole noted, that is not the case for all the Moorpark players.
“A lot of these kids have been waiting for the chance to start and now they’re starting,” said the quarterback, who played behind Grant Rohach last year. “We’re ready to take it to them this year.
“This is the game we’ve been waiting for.”