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Rivals band together to make up South all-star team

December 14, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

Throughout the high school season the Calexico, Central Union and Southwest high football teams competed against each other in the Imperial Valley League like mortal enemies.

Central and Calexico have a rivalry dating back to when high school football in the Valley began. Central and Southwest have grown into city rivals as less than five miles separates the El Centro schools. And Calexico and Southwest are beginning to develop a fierce rivalry.

But Saturday, all rivalries will be put aside as members from all three teams and the Vincent Memorial High team compete in the second annual Imperial Valley Football Coaches Association's North/South all-star high school senior football game.

"When we all first got out here, there wasn't really that whole rivalry thing. Yeah, Central and Calexico have had their own rivalry, but we don't even look at it like that," said Central's Victor Cesena, who will be playing linebacker. "We've been out here and we've talked to them and they're all pretty cool. So no, there's none of that rivalry stuff between anybody."

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While there is no tension among the players, some admitted to feeling a little awkward about teaming with players from opposing squads.

"It was pretty weird at first. I'm just so used to lining up next to my teammates that I've always lined up next to. Then there I am lining up next to someone from another team," said Calexico offensive tackle Kevin Carvajal. "But the way I look at it is that we're all out there to do a job. We're all on the same team now and we're trying to win. The South won it last year and we just want to keep that going this year."

While winning is obviously a priority for most of the players — especially for those who could be playing their last organized football game — winning isn't everything. The players also want to have fun playing one final high school football game.

"This really isn't a big thing, as far as being a real competitive game. This is just something for us to have fun with," said Cesena. "We do want to win, but we want to have fun doing it."

As much fun as the players are having, the coaches are having an even better time coaching players whom they've schemed against. The coaches for this year's South squad are from Central, led by head coach Joe Apodaca.

Instead of coaching against a player like Carvajal, whom he said he has lots of admiration for, or watching someone like Vincent linebacker Manuel Padilla, Apodaca will have the luxury of being their coach.

"Coaching against a guy like Carvajal … he's a guy that I've always thought was a really good football player," said Apodaca. "Then you've got a guy like Manuel Padilla, who is just awesome out there. That guy is an awesome linebacker. Coaching guys like that, and just everyone on this team, is a real pleasure.

"My hat really goes off to all these players' coaches. Their coaches have really gotten them ready with what they've taught them throughout the year," said Apodaca. "It's really good to watch these guys play and also to coach them. This whole thing has just been great."

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