CONCORD -- De La Salle High doesn't have a natural rival, and Monte Vista's fiercest foe is always San Ramon Valley.
But when the Spartans and Mustangs get together in any sport, it often doesn't feel like just an ordinary game.
So expect an intense, emotional football contest Friday when De La Salle (7-0) hosts Monte Vista (6-1) at 7 p.m.
"It's a definite rivalry," said De La Salle linebacker Michael Hutchings. "Ever since I've been on campus as a freshman, this is the rivalry they've stressed. We're friends with those guys, a lot of guys that go here are from the Danville/Alamo area. ... It's always one of the most exciting games of the season and one of the most competitive, too."
"Our kids know each other," Monte Vista coach Craig Bergman said. "They've played Little League together. They've played Pop Warner together, youth basketball, and so they've known each other for a long time -- not all of their players but a lot of their players. So there's a lot of familiarity between the two schools."
De La Salle coach Bob Ladouceur also has some history at Monte Vista. He began his coaching career as an assistant for the Mustangs in the late 1970s, and his brother, Tom, also spent time as a coach at the school.
Ladouceur agreed there is a little more intensity in the air leading up to the Monte Vista game, especially in years like this one when the Mustangs are playing at a high level.
Monte Vista, which is tied for first in the East Bay Athletic League, will come into Owen Owens Field with a dynamic offense and a solid defense.
Junior quarterback Nikita Zamora has thrown for more than 1,500 yards, and he'll test a De La Salle pass defense that has been inconsistent in recent weeks. Zamora has plenty of weapons at his disposal in receivers Jalen Avery and Marco Zamora and tight end Mason Melin.
De La Salle is unbeaten and averaging 40 points a game, but Ladouceur feels the Spartans haven't progressed as quickly as he would have liked. Injuries, especially to the defense, have been a factor.
"This is going to be the crucible for our team," Ladouceur said. "The next three games coming up we'll see what we're made of. Taking a step backward is not an option for us anymore."
Tensions between the schools rose in the offseason after an incident at an August graduation party. A fight between students from the two schools sent at least one person to the hospital, but the animosity seems to have simmered over time.
"There was no football players involved in that, they were all senior kids that had graduated," Bergman said. "That has not come up one time. Our kids are just preparing to play a football game."
Staff writer Matt Schwab contributed to this story. Follow Stephanie Hammon on Twitter at Twitter.com/stephhammon.