De La Salle High football coach Justin Alumbaugh and his staff weren't the least bit surprised to see this week's opponent, Servite-Anaheim, having a bounce-back year.
When the Friars finished 3-7 and missed the playoffs last season, their coach at the time, Troy Thomas, visited De La Salle, got to know the coaching staff and observed the Spartans for a week during their postseason run.
The coaches became friendly, and Thomas talked about the talented freshmen, sophomores and juniors in his program. A trip to visit the 2013 Friars sounded like a good fit to De La Salle.
Thomas has since become the head coach at Crespi-Encino, but Servite has indeed rebounded and could be a legitimate threat to the Spartans' 31-game winning streak.
Servite (3-1) is ranked No. 71 nationally by Rivals with its most significant victory coming Sept. 6 against Long Beach Poly, which played in last year's Division I state bowl game.
The 7:30 p.m. Saturday game at the Santa Ana Bowl will be a rematch of the 2010 Open Division state bowl game that the Spartans won 48-8.
This meeting should be less one-sided. Alumbaugh said slowing the Friars' spread offense, with mobile quarterback Cody Pittman and four big receivers, will be a challenge.
"Their offense is pretty dynamic, they present a lot of problems for us," Alumbaugh said. "They move the ball well and have threats to score all over the field. It's going to be a real tough test for us defensively."
The Spartans (5-0) will be bolstered by the return of running back/defensive back Dasmond Tautalatasi. The third-year varsity player, who has committed to Arizona State, dislocated his elbow during De La Salle's second game but has been practicing this week and is expected to play Saturday barring any setback.
"It's good timing," Alumbaugh said. "He's a boost for us, for sure. He has a real feel for the game back there."
Rival signal-callers shine: Senior quarterbacks Andrew Zolintakis and Drew Anderson grew up playing flag football against each other, battled again during lower-level high school games and now will take center stage at 7 p.m. Friday in one of the East Bay's most heated rivalries.
Zolintakis' Campolindo squad is 5-0 and the two-time defending Diablo Foothill Athletic League champion, but Anderson's Miramonte team is also in the midst of a fine season. The two QBs have been a big part of their teams' success.
Despite playing through pain from a stress fracture in his throwing arm, Zolintakis has completed 64 percent of his passes for 962 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in four games.
He was limited in training camp and missed the first game of the season because of the injury, but he hasn't shown much rust.
"I've been playing with my receivers for four years now, so I still had the timing down and everything, just my arm strength was the only thing that was affected," Zolintakis said.
"He's been solid, and I think as his arm gets stronger and he gets a better grip on the ball, he'll have more confidence," Campolindo coach Kevin Macy said. "He's very poised in the pocket, he can find his receivers, he can make extra time in the pocket. He's just hungry to play right now."
Anderson's numbers are just as impressive. Known for his strong arm, the senior has thrown for 1,359 yards and 11 TDs in five games, completing 85 of 154 passes and throwing just two interceptions. He's led Miramonte to four straight wins.
"He has accuracy and velocity on the ball, but what really separates him is he's always keeping his eyes downfield," Miramonte coach Jack Schram said. "He's got the arm strength, so it doesn't matter if he's throwing off his back foot or going left or right. He can rifle the ball downfield at any angle."
All-American honors: Freedom running back Joe Mixon and El Cerrito linebacker D.J. Calhoun were presented with their U.S. Army All-American jerseys at school ceremonies this week.
Mixon plans to announce his college commitment during the Jan. 4 game at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Calhoun pledged to USC in July, though his commitment is considered soft.
It's the first time two East Bay players have been invited to the national all-star game in the same year since 2006 when McClymonds teammates Josh Tatum and Derrick Hill were selected.
Other East Bay products to play in the game included De La Salle's Kevin Simon (2001), Cameron Colvin (2004) and Michael Hutchings (2013), Monte Vista's Kyle Wright (2003), St. Mary's Lorenzo Alexander (2001), Campolindo punter Jackson Rice (2009) and Granada's George Atkinson III (2011).