Saturday will mark the first time the UCLA and Nevada football teams have ever met.
Their players aren’t as unfamiliar with each other.
Four years ago, Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo led Anaheim’s Servite High to the CIF-SS Pac-5 finals. On the other side was UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, then a star for Edison High — located 15 miles south in Huntington Beach.
Zumwalt’s Chargers were undefeated heading into that rainy December night at Angel Stadium. It was their seventh all-time CIF final appearance, and they were angling for their first championship since 1985. They had beaten Fajardo’s Friars almost two months earlier, registering a comfortable 23-9 victory.
It turned out to be Servite’s only loss of the season.
Anchored by a stout defense, the Friars ended Edison and Zumwalt’s season with a 16-6 win, securing their first title since 1983. Fajardo led a 10-play, 70-yard drive that stretched the lead to 10-0 early in the second half. Zumwalt scored his team’s lone touchdown with a one-yard catch, but the extra point was blocked.
“I got the best of him,” Fajardo said during a press conference this week. “He’s probably looking out to get the best of me this time.”
Zumwalt hasn’t forgotten it either. “There’s a little animosity, a little wanna-be payback kind of thing,” he said Wednesday, smiling.
The Orange County Register named them Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. They took pictures together at ESPN Zone in Anaheim — the extent of their relationship off the field.
While they don’t know each other well, Zumwalt said he’ll seek out Fajardo after the game and shake hands. A win at the Rose Bowl this week, though, wouldn’t entirely make up for the championship he missed out on in high school. His eyes are set on bigger prizes.
“If I got a ring, it would make up for it,” he said.