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Scorpions, Spartans gear up for gridiron battle

Boy is passing a ball.
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Kado Brown leads Rio Mesa in rushing and passing yards. © Acorn Newspapers
Philip Pizzo is a historian when it comes to the Camarillo- Rio Mesa rivalry.

A senior for Camarillo High football, Pizzo knows the answer to the place and score of the first football game between the schools without batting an eye.

“My father has told me the history,” said Pizzo, a wide receiver who leads the Scorpions with eight touchdown receptions.

“I grew up going to many Camarillo-Rio Mesa games.”

Pizzo’s father, Jerry, played in the inaugural ACHS-RMHS clash in 1975 for Rio Mesa. The Scorpions shut out the Spartans 28-0 with some assistance from quarterback Jack Willard, the current Camarillo defensive coordinator.

Jerry Pizzo will be in the Camarillo stands cheering on his son for the 38th meeting between the Scorpions and Spartans tonight at 7 at Rio Mesa High.

“He played for Rio Mesa,” Philip Pizzo said about his father, a former Spartan wide receiver. “He didn’t care where I played. He supported my decision to attend Camarillo.”

The Scorpions have not allowed more than 27 points in a single game this fall.

Jameson Sperling, a Camarillo senior defensive end, leads the charge in the trenches.

Sperling occasionally cracks jokes during practices and games. During rivalry week, it’s all business for Sperling and the Scorpions.

“Rio Mesa is going to do everything they can to ruin our season,” Sperling said. “I’m normally a funny guy, but for rivalry week I’m more intense and quiet.”

Rio Mesa (3-6, 2-2) is having a down year, but Camarillo will not take the Spartans lightly.

“Their mindset is totally different with us,” said Sperling, who has five sacks. “It’s not like they’re playing Thousand Oaks. It would suck losing to Rio Mesa in my senior year.”

Martel Tyler, a senior wide receiver/running back for Rio Mesa, wants to avenge last season’s 48-44 loss at Camarillo.

Spartan Jordan Nunnery fumbled the ball on the Camarillo 5-yard line with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter to seal the heart-stopping Scorpion victory in 2011.

Tyler, who twisted his ankle in the fourth quarter, remembers watching the key play from the sidelines.

“They were running my way the whole time I was out,” Tyler recalled about last season’s battle. “It hurt not being there.”

The Camarillo-Rio Mesa rivalry has been close.

Camarillo leads the all-time series, 20-17. Nine games have been decided in the final minute of regulation between the two crosstown foes.

Spartan senior defensive end Nicholas Holt said Rio Mesa will use its speed to stymie Camarillo’s high-powered offense.

“Our d-line needs to play its hearts out,” Holt said. “I think we match up evenly with them. I honestly think we can go out there and win.”

Holt’s older brothers, Eljin and Randall, also suited up for Rio Mesa.

Senior quarterback Travis Valdez leads the Scorpion offense. Valdez has completed 223-of-299 passes for 2,562 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Scorpion senior wide receiver Corbin Covey has racked up 1,067 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 110 catches.

Spartan senior quarterback Kado Brown will get his first taste of the rivalry tonight.

“I’m going to be nervous at first,” said Brown, who transferred from Ventura two years ago. “Once we get into the flow of the game, all the butterflies will go away.”

The Scorpions, No. 4 in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division, are also looking forward to the playoffs. They don’t want to let Rio Mesa hang around.

According to Sperling, last season’s 48-44 thriller mentally and physically drained Camarillo for the postseason. ACHS fell to San Luis Obispo 54-28 in the first round of the CIF-SS Western Division playoffs.

“We can’t think about the rivalry too much,” Sperling said. “We did that too much last season and our (team) kind of was out of it for the playoffs.

“The rivalry affected us because we thought it was the game of our life.”

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