First published in the Oct. 23 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
The Glendale and Hoover varsity football teams will meet on the gridiron for the first time since 2017 in the highly anticipated rekindling of the intracity rivalry game at Moyse Field this Friday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m.
The Tornados won the most recent game, 35-25, nearly four years ago. The series debuted in 1930, the year after Hoover High School opened. It was uninterrupted for 68 years — even through World War II and the Korean War, according to local sports historian Patrick Lancaster — until a highly publicized Hoover campus brawl reportedly over racial tensions canceled the game against the Nitros in 2018. Hoover did not have a varsity team for the following two years, although both schools’ JV and frosh/soph teams have met in recent years.
Hoover moved to 6-3 overall after defeating Los Angeles Contreras, 18-7, while Glendale is 1-8 overall. This regular-season finale will officially be a nonleague game because Hoover is playing a “freelance” schedule this year.
“We are preparing our guys in the sense that this is the last time you guys are going to play together as a team. We’re just reminding them to cherish [this last week],” said Azad Herabidian, Hoover’s head coach. “We’ve had two of our best practices these last two Mondays, and they’ve been fun. The atmosphere in practice has been better than it has been in the entire season so far.”
Glendale’s second-year head coach, Jacob Ochoa, has similar excitement about the matchup. The Nitros had a bye week, which gave them extra time to prepare for the game.
“There’s a buzz,” Ochoa said about the atmosphere around practice. “A lot of these guys have grown up together. Some of these guys talk every day and have hung out for years, so there is a lot of familiarity with our team and [Hoover’s] players. From the beginning of the season, we had this circled as ‘the game’ and the game that we need to play our best.”
Hoover’s Herabidian, coaching his first game in the rivalry, is excited for his seniors — especially Marcus Bailey, Gabriel De La O and Kevin Amiri — to experience the moment. De La O and Amiri, two seniors who have stuck with Hoover through its entire rebuild, will finally participate in the intense game after it was canceled their freshmen years.
“[De La O and Amiri] have been absolute studs and they have been there for us since the beginning,” Herabidian said. “They are going to close out their senior years with their first-ever 10-game season, so I am excited for those guys.”
De La O recorded 18 total tackles (six solo, 12 assists) and two sacks at defensive tackle, while Amiri has 15 total tackles (10 solo, five assists) and one sack as a defensive end. The pair has also combined for seven fumble recoveries, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
Bailey, who has missed nearly six games due to injuries this season, is slated to play his final match with the Tornados after receiving an extra rest day against Contreras. In three games, he has two receptions for 36 yards with one receiving touchdown. He also has eight solo tackles defensively.
Glendale’s Ochoa is also excited to see some of his seniors take the gridiron to celebrate Glendale’s homecoming and Senior Night. One such player is Dennis Perez, who completed 19 of 39 passes for 260 yards and has rushed a team-high 82 times for 292 rushing yards. He also added six receptions for 34 yards and four touchdowns.
“We nicknamed [Perez] ‘The Sprinkler’ because we ask him to just spread the ball around,” Ochoa said. “He’s played running back, he throws a little bit for us as a quarterback and he’s done an outstanding job for us all year.”
Ochoa is also excited for Keirson Florita, who has completed 21 passes in 36 attempts for 339 yards in eight games. He also has recording 451 rushing yards and 21 receptions for 290 yards, with a team-leading eight touchdowns.
Another outstanding senior has been wide receiver Dino Villalobos. He recorded 25 receptions for 395 yards, both team-highs, with four touchdowns and eight carries for 15 yards in seven games. Villalobos also has 23 total tackles (10 solo, 13 assists) as a strong safety.