CARSON — There will be plenty of eyes on Modesto Christian today in the CIF Small School Bowl, and not just because it's the ultimate game for a school yearning to escape the shadow of its parochial peer across town.
The Crusaders will get plenty of attention from fans hoping to see a reversal of Southern California's dominance in the bowl games and their religious brethren looking for a private-school sweep of the five bowls.
The most important looks, however, might be from college recruiters looking to complete their Christmas shopping by spotting a few diamonds in the rough. Their job is to spot kids who have been overlooked, but have the potential to pay off for a college program — and it happens each year.
It could be MC's Kevin Roya, a slippery slot receiver who has been tearing it up in the playoffs, or noseguard Tyler Jameson, a 6-foot-4, 255-pounder who has potential to grow given more time in the weight room.
Everyone, it seems, has something to play for today.
The Crusaders (14-0) kick off against Parker of San Diego (11-2) at 4 p.m. at the Home Depot Center. Comcast will televise the game live.
SoCal has dominated the bowl games since they were launched three years ago, winning nine of 11. Grant in the Open Bowl last year and De La Salle in Division 1 in 2007 are the only NorCal teams to win.
The so-called experts believe MC could start the weekend on a positive note for NorCal. The top three football writers at CalHiSports.com picked MC to win — the predictions were 49-42, 52-48 and 42-38 — and CalHi's informal poll of prep writers give the Crusaders a slight edge.
Not that Parker cares what folks believe will happen.
The Lancers feel they have something to prove, after being denied the berth last year in favor of St. Margaret's of San Juan Capistrano.
Of course, MC has been looking for respect for years.
The Crusaders have spent the last decade in the shadow of Central Catholic, but began to emerge from it two weeks ago when they beat the Raiders 40-21 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 semifinal.
They now have played as deep into the season as Central Catholic did in 2007, when the Raiders reached the Division 3 Bowl and lost to St. Bonaventure. MC already has one edge over that team with its 14 wins — one of only eight teams in section history with a 14-0 record — and a victory today might threaten the balance of power between the parochial rivals.