Mission Prep’s football team has been to the dance before and left broken-hearted.
This time around, the Royals want to cakewalk back into town after a trip to downtown Los Angeles tonight.
Mission Prep (11-2) will face Bishop Mora Salesian High (11-2) at 7 p.m. tonight for the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division title.
The game will be streamed live on FoxSportsWest.com’s Prep Zone.
All season long, the Royals’ fire has been fueled by the 28-21 loss in the division final last year to Rio Hondo Prep.
Despite the graduation of 21 seniors, much of the current situation is familiar.
Mission Prep is still the last football team standing in the playoffs from San Luis Obispo County.
Once again, the Royals are hitting the road as a freelance team to play for a division title.
And fast forward a year from that bitter defeat on a muddy field in Arcadia against Rio Hondo, the Royals have maintained, if not developed more of an edge.
“Knowing that we lost last year, we have 10 times the drive to win,” senior defensive back Calvin Levisay said. Salesian players “are talking a lot. We’ve seen some stuff they’re saying on social media. … We’re going to let our actions speak louder than words.”
Levisay said he and teammates have been in touch with some of the standouts from last year’s group whom they played alongside — Tyler Baty, Joey Hall and Andrew DeSesa.
“We’ve had nothing but the utmost support from them,” Levisay said. “They want to see us do this more than anyone.”
In many ways, the Royals, the division’s No. 1 seed, are a stark contrast to the star-studded Salesian team, which was the Santa Fe League Champion and the division’s third-seeded team.
Mission Prep relies on toughness, smarts and team-oriented approaches to survive.
Salesian features quickness, athleticism and players with Pac-12 offers.
Three senior players — linebacker Damardre Cobb, linebacker and tight end Marquis Ware and defensive back Rodney Carr — have already committed to Arizona.
A fourth, junior safety Kyavha Tezino, reportedly has an offer from UCLA.
Tezino, Carr and Ware also share duties running the ball and have combined for about 950 yards on the ground.
“We know they’re fast; we know they’re athletic,” Mission Prep coach Chad Henry said. “We have to make sure to swarm them on tackles and take away big plays. We know they thrive on big plays. We can’t turn the ball over or give them extra yards on penalties.”
But playing against that core group last year, the Royals won 54-26.
This year, the Royals have been bolstered offensively by running back Patrick Laird, a 3,068-yard rusher with 36 total touchdowns.
And sophomore quarterback Patrick Miller has played well to complement Laird’s rushing attack, throwing for 1,346 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions.
Henry said Mission Prep has seen it all among some of the best teams in the division this year.
Mission Prep beat Rio Hondo Prep 24-21, edged St. Genevieve 36-33 early in the year before a 41-16 rout in the playoffs, and then beat Desert 51-30 in the semifinal.
All this came after a crushing 42-0 loss to open the season against Christian of El Cajon.
“We’ve played against many different offenses and defenses,” Henry said. “We’ve been up big, we’ve been down and had to come back, we’ve won close games, we lost huge to start the season and showed resiliency. We’re battle tested. This team finds a way. However they need to do it, they find a way.”