SAN MATEO -- When Serra plays host to De La Salle on Saturday in its football opener, it will be the seventh time the schools have met since Patrick Walsh, a former star running back at De La Salle, took over as the Serra coach.
The Padres are still looking for that first win.
Nothing unusual about that. It's news whenever De La Salle, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps, loses to anyone.
Serra has come close to knocking off the Spartans on two occasions, losing 14-7 in 2009 and 29-28 in 2008.
But the chances of getting that first win this time around are not looking very promising after Walsh went over his team's injury report.
Safety Hamilton Anoa'i is out. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior suffered a torn ACL against Archbishop Mitty last season and is not ready to return.
"Hamilton got injured on Oct. 4 and had surgery on Thanksgiving," Walsh said. "We have a bye week next week, so this will give him two more weeks to heal. It's kind of RG3ish."
Defensive end Matt Dickerson and safety Tyson Terreros are both doubtful, with what Walsh called a 10 percent chance to play. Those are three of Serra's top players. Dickerson (6-5, 275) has already given an oral commitment to Notre Dame.
"Those are Division I-type players who match up with the kind of athletes De La Salle has," Walsh said. "We're not going to put their health behind a big game. We'll play with the kids who are healthy and able to play."
De La Salle also has already played a game, defeating defending North Coast Section Division II champion Clayton Valley 34-14 in the inaugural game for new coach Justin Alumbaugh.
"They looked real big and real fast to me," Walsh said. "We will not be the beneficiary of any first-game mistakes.''
The coaching change from legend Bob Ladouceur to Alumbaugh, a former De La Salle player and assistant, appears to be going smoothly.
"It's all the same, only the names have changed," Walsh said.
Walsh downplays the significance of the game for him personally.
"This is the seventh time we've played them, that luster has basically worn off," Walsh said. "It was special the first time we played in 2005 and the first time we played them here in 2006. I just had my 20th high school reunion this summer. It's been a long time since I was a Spartan. But all my roots and belief system were created at that school and by Coach Lad. I'll be forever indebted for that."
Serra has new personnel at the skill positions on offense. Matt Fa'aita won the starting nod at quarterback with his play in fall practice.
"He won the job with his athleticism," Walsh said. "Running our system, which is based on the option, we need an athletic quarterback. Matt played running back last year.''
So in his first game as a varsity quarterback, Fa'aita gets to go against the De La Salle defense.
"We have to approach it like any other game," Fa'aita said. "Come out hard, come out fast and strong. We've got to protect the ball, no errors by the offense. We've got to execute."
Right guard Ryan Rudolph (6-2, 265) is one of the few returning starters on offense.
"I'm excited,'' Rudolph said of playing De La Salle. "We get to play against the best and see where we are.''
Regardless of Saturday's outcome, Serra should be ready for the rest of its schedule after playing the gold standard for high school football in its opener.
"In those six times we played them we had the two could've-wons," Walsh said. "We had one other close game and got blown out three times. In all circumstances we've learned a lot about ourselves. No team creates more adversity than De La Salle. I believe we learn the most about ourselves through adversity."