When they played the first time, when Ventura St. Bonaventure drove down the field on its opening possession and scored, when Santa Margarita Catholic answered on its final drive of the night, the two private school powerhouses waged a good battle for game of the year.
Santa Margarita, ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time, won the battle then and hopes it can win the rematch on Friday when the Eagles (9-2) try to beat St. Bonaventure (10-1) in the second round of the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs.
St. Bonaventure is ranked No. 6 in the state heading into the game while Santa Margarita is ranked No. 12. SMCHS is the defending Pac-5 and State Division I Bowl champion.
The winner will advance to the semifinals against the survivor of the Mission Hills Alemany-Mater Dei quarterfinal at Santa Ana Stadium. Mater Dei (10-1) is ranked No. 7 in the state and Alemany (9-2) is No. 20.
When Santa Margarita and St. Bonaventure played on Sept. 21, it was the last game that Nebraska-bound quarterback Johnny Stanton played for the Eagles. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in his team's 35-27 victory. At the time, St. Bonaventure was No. 9 in the state. The Serapsh scored on their first three possessions and led at halftime, 21-14.
Santa Margarita, which outgained St. Bonny, 447-399, scored on its first two possessions of each half. The Seraphs had a chance to take the lead with with 2:50 remaining but came up short on a two-point conversion and trailed, 28-27. Ryan Wolpin, who rushed 23 times for 200 yards, scored his second touchdown on a 50-yard carry with 1:30 left in the game to ice it.
Stanton, who began limping in the first quarter, ran 15 times for 97 yards and a touchdown, and completed seven of 11 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
There is a 30 percent chance of rain on Friday, and the game won't be played at Saddleback College—homefield for the Eagles—but at Trabuco Hills, which has an all-weather field.
According to Athletic Director Rich Schaaf, the change of venue was Coach Harry Welch's idea.
"He feels this gives our kids the best opportunity to win," Schaaf said. "We practice on synthetic turf."
So, too, does St. Bonaventure, which also plays its home games on the synthetic turf of Ventura College.
Tickets are on sale Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., on the third floor of the athletic building at Santa Margarita. General admission for adults is $8 and for students $5.
For those who don't get tickets, or who don't want to venture into potentially inclement weather, the game will be shown on Cox3 on Friday, 11:30 p.m.
Other broadcasts will be Saturday, 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.