As the 2011 season begins, both Aragon and San Mateo high schools enter with something to prove after they each finished last in their respective leagues and were dropped into lower divisions.
The two meet in each’s season opener Friday at 7 p.m. at San Mateo in what could be the beginning of a redemption season for either team.
“Our kids have worked hard all summer without a lot of success [last year],” San Mateo coach Jeff Scheller said. “It would be huge for their confidence.”
“There are going to be some kids that will want to prove this isn’t a team that loses,” Aragon coach Steve Sell said.
Aragon, now in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division, dropped out of the PAL Bay after finishing in sixth place, falling in the standings for the third consecutive year.
San Mateo went winless in the Ocean, a year removed from finishing 4-1 in league, prompted them to fall into the Lake.
This marks the third straight year San Mateo and Aragon have opened their seasons against each other in what has become the renewal of an old intercity rivalry.
The rivalry filled the bleachers at Aragon last year with only standing room available by kickoff, Scheller said.
As recent as the 2006 season, San Mateo and Aragon were both in the Bay Division.
The Bearcats dropped into the Ocean following that season and didn’t see the Dons for another three years.
Many of the players on both teams went to grade school or middle school together, making this a bragging rights game in San Mateo, the coaches said.
“It’s going to be a passionate game,” Sell said.
They split the meetings the past two years, with San Mateo winning last year’s game at Aragon 27-15.
“We’re both trying to establish [ourselves],” Sell said. “It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.”
Aragon will be going with Dominic Proia at quarterback, who is quick, fast and brings a different element to the Dons’ offense, Sell said.
Running back Davarian Redd, wide receiver James Egan and lineman Keenan Woodard highlight a core of players returning for the Dons.
“Aragon is always going to have that feel about them,” Scheller said of the former Bay champion. “They’re big and they execute.”
Sell said his defense has some young and enthusiastic players and “they’re going to make mistakes, but that’s OK.”
Scheller called San Mateo’s scrimmage against Los Gatos, which finished tied for second in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division last season, last Thursday a “wake-up call” and said although the offense struggled, his team understood what needed to be done.
“We need to hit our timing a lot better,” Scheller said.
San Mateo returns all-league wide receiver Andrew Ho and will also rely heavily on running back Michael Latu and tight end Alex Strathern.
Sell is most concerned about Latu.
“If you don’t stop him, everything else won’t matter,” Sell said.
WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: San Mateo High School
LAST YEAR: San Mateo defeated Aragon 27-15
NOTES: Friday is the season opener for both teams. ... San Mateo is playing in the PAL Lake Division this year after going winless in the Ocean last year. ... Aragon is playing in the PAL Ocean after dropping down from the PAL Bay.