There was little hype leading up to last year's nonleague football game between Campolindo and El Cerrito high schools. But both coaches look back at that mid-September contest knowing the major impact it had on each teams' seasons.
The Cougars pulled out a 16-13 comeback victory, then went on to win game after game after game. What Campolindo gained in that narrow win, it used to launch a perfect regular season and magical playoff run that culminated in a Division III state bowl game appearance.
"It definitely made us toughen up and find something," Campolindo coach Kevin Macy said.
When the Cougars (3-0) and Gauchos (3-0) square off again at 7 p.m. Friday in Moraga, Macy just hopes the roles aren't reversed.
"I think (El Cerrito's) probably feeling that this is their year, and this is a game that can launch their season," he said.
Macy looks at the El Cerrito roster and sees nearly all of the same players that gave his team such a battle last year. He sees speed and athletes capable of breaking big plays.
Cornerbacks Marcellus Pippins and Adarius Pickett have Division I offers and YouTube highlight videos that have caught the Cougars' attention.
Their play-making ability in the secondary will be key against a Campolindo team whose biggest strength is in veteran quarterback Brett Stephens and the passing game.
But while the Gauchos might be Internet stars with the Cougars, Campolindo was the team playing on TV last December.
"You couldn't help but watch that team," said El Cerrito coach Kenny Kahn. "I even said to Coach Macy that I was a fan of the Campolindo Cougars by the end of that."
Now Kahn hopes his team can earn a signature win against the only East Bay team other than De La Salle to ever earn a CIF bowl game berth.
Friday's contest should also play into Division III seeding, but the overall impact could be even bigger.
"This game was a turning point for both of us (last year) and I think it could be a turning point again," Kahn said.
Flip the script: The fact that both California and Monte Vista have started 3-0 isn't surprising given the strength of the two programs in recent years.
The surprising part is each seems to be following the other's usual approach.
Monte Vista, long known as a quarterback paradise, has relied on its defense to spark early success. After allowing 22 points in an opening-week win at Castro Valley, the Mustangs shut out Berkeley and held Pittsburg to just 14 points.
That has let new quarterback Nikita Zamora operate with a little more of a cushion, and running back Zack Chang has also responded with 427 yards and seven touchdowns over the first three games.
At California, an explosive offense has helped the defensive-minded Grizzlies pull out a stretch of shootouts.
The fireworks started with a 40-34 win over Pittsburg in week two. That carried over to last week's win over Castro Valley, which ended as a 42-34 barnburner in favor of California.
The Grizzlies' ringleaders have been quarterback Cameron Owen and running back Karris Johnson. Owen has thrown for 419 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and Johnson has racked up 370 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns.
Both Monte Vista and California have bye weeks this week and open East Bay Athletic League play Sept. 21. California hosts Amador Valley and Monte Vista travels to Foothill.
Staff writer Ben Enos contributed to this notebook. Follow Stephanie Hammon on Twitter at @stephhammon and Ben Enos at @ben_enos.