It has been 10 years since the Coachella Valley Unified School District introduced Desert Mirage High School and a host of students and coaches went from the oldest school in the Coachella Valley to the newest.
The school opened in 2004, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the Rams won their first varsity football game. Three years later, they finally beat Coachella Valley in what has grown into the Date Bowl — perhaps the most under-the-radar rivalry in the valley.
A big reason for that is because neither team has had a winning record since 2010, when Coachella Valley went 6-5. Since then, both teams have suffered through winless seasons and some coaching turnover.
But on Friday, the two teams face each other in what should be the most appealing of any of the meetings between the two teams in at least five years.
Both teams have a 2-1 record — marking the first time since 2009 that both have had a winning record entering the game — with the winner taking a 3-1 mark into their league slate.
This year’s Date Bowl will be more meaningful than simply having East Valley bragging rights.
“The kids really talk about this one,” first-year Coachella Valley head coach Brett Davis said. “They know all about it, the history. There’s been a lot of excitement this week.”
Like most rivalries in the valley, the majority of players on both sides grew up together. They played on the same youth football teams and ultimately had to decide which high school to attend. Friendships were often divided.
“They’re more than friends; they’re family,” Desert Mirage head coach Jeff Tebelak said. “You’ve got family members, cousins and at times even brothers that go to the two schools. So yeah, they know each other well.”
In spite of that, Tebelak tries not to get his players too excited for this annual game.
He said building it up creates a distraction and causes players to focus on things outside of what they can control on the field.
“It’s a bigger game for them than it is for us,” Tebelak said. “We see it as a game. They like to build it up more than it is.
“But anytime you can come out and go 3-1, that would be great.”
Coachella Valley leads the series 5-1 in a game that decides who gets to keep the Date Bowl trophy in its trophy case for the year. In 2012, the Arabs won the game to end a 13-game losing streak and take the trophy back after the Rams won it for the first time in 2011. Desert Mirage has yet to win in back.
This year appears to provide the best shot of ending that streak. The Rams enter the game averaging almost 350 yards per game rushing, and have a defense that just allowed 166 yards in its only loss of the season.
That defense will be tested early and often by the Arabs, who average 393.3 yards per game using a run-and-shoot hurry-up offense.
“Our offense is much faster, more explosive this year,” Coachella Valley senior lineman Fernando Lopez said.
Last year’s game was close for the first half before the Arabs dominated the second half en route to a 44-6 win at Desert Mirage.
Lopez said players still talk about it, but have shifted their focus, with the talk around Thermal centered on this week’s game.
“You definitely see it in the community and everywhere I go around town,” Davis said. “It definitely is a big deal in the community and people take pride in it.
“This is what high school sports are all about. It’s about the rivalries.”
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
All games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted
• Temescal Canyon at La Quinta
• Palm Springs at Murrieta Mesa
• Palm Desert at Redlands
• Cathedral City at Shadow Hills
• Desert Mirage at Coachella Valley
• San Jacinto at Indio
• Rim of the World at Desert Hot Springs
• Rancho Mirage at Tahquitz
• Upland Christian Academy at Desert Christian Academy
• Palm Valley at Cornerstone Christian, 3:30 p.m.
• Lucerne Valley at Desert Chapel
• Xavier Prep at Seattle Prep
FRIDAY NIGHT HERO
You voted on Facebook, and this week’s winner of the Friday Night Hero brought to you by Desert Regional Medical Center is RYAN REYES of Indio High School. Next week’s candidates will be revealed Saturday. Vote at desertsunsports.com/facebook.