2016-11-04 / Sports

Time of your life

RIVALRY WEEK /// Simi Valley vs. Royal Dads, sons share Simi Valley-Royal football rivalry
Jonathan Andrade
@J_ Andrade_ on Twitter


BLAST FROM THE PAST—Ron Hunt, above, a 1985 Simi Valley grad, helped the Pioneers win three of four football games against Royal. He was a four-year varsity standout. Below, Nick Villamizar played two years of varsity football for Simi Valley in 1990 and 1991. Villamizar and the Pioneers made the playoffs in ‘91. BLAST FROM THE PAST—Ron Hunt, above, a 1985 Simi Valley grad, helped the Pioneers win three of four football games against Royal. He was a four-year varsity standout. Below, Nick Villamizar played two years of varsity football for Simi Valley in 1990 and 1991. Villamizar and the Pioneers made the playoffs in ‘91. Few things compare to the Simi Valley-Royal high school football rivalry.

From the thunderous cheers to the electrifying energy, the storied showdown is a unique on-field experience.

Simi Valley High sophomores Riley Hunt, Nicholas Villamizar and Sean Weber will finally understand what their fathers, Ron Hunt, Nick Villamizar and Joe Weber, experienced as Pioneer football players decades ago.

“It’s hard to put into words how proud I am of my son wearing a Pioneer jersey,” said Nick Villamizar, a 1992 Simi Valley graduate who played defensive back and wide receiver. “I have to admit, my eyes have watered with pride when I see him on the field.”

The proud feeling is mutual with the Pioneer fathers, who know all too well just how important this yearly showdown is to the Simi Valley community.

Ron Hunt, a 1985 Simi Valley grad, suited up at free safety and wide receiver for four seasons with the Pioneers.

Joe Weber, a 1995 Simi Valley graduate, suited up at linebacker.

The fathers have told their children stories about their years in maroon and gold, but the time has come for the boys to create their own memories in the next generation of this storied rivalry.

Riley Hunt, a first-year varsity player who lines up at free safety and wide receiver, grew up cheering his three older sisters, Kelsey, Jennifer and Hayley, in their various athletic pursuits at Royal. His mother, Alisa Hunt, is also a Royal graduate.


GENERATIONS—Ron Hunt, left, played football at Simi Valley High in the early 1980s. His son, Riley, is a Simi Valley sophomore safety and wide receiver. Riley wears No. 80, just like his dad did with the Pioneers. 
JAMES SHORT/Acorn Newspapers GENERATIONS—Ron Hunt, left, played football at Simi Valley High in the early 1980s. His son, Riley, is a Simi Valley sophomore safety and wide receiver. Riley wears No. 80, just like his dad did with the Pioneers. JAMES SHORT/Acorn Newspapers For Ron Hunt, who helped the Pioneers win three of four games against Royal as a two-way starter, cheering on his former rival left a sour taste in his mouth.

“It’s nice to be back cheering for Simi,” he admitted.

Riley Hunt, who wears No. 80, just like his father did, was destined to become a part of the rivalry. He enjoyed the banter between student sections so much as a kid that he couldn’t possibly miss the opportunity to be on the field trying to silence Royal’s student section.

“It’s really fighting for this whole town,” Riley Hunt said of the rivalry. “It’s like backyard football against those guys you grew up with.”


LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON—Nicholas Villamizar, left, is a kicker for Simi Valley. His dad, Nick, suited up for the Pioneers in 1990 and 1991. 
JAMES SHORT/Acorn Newspapers LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON—Nicholas Villamizar, left, is a kicker for Simi Valley. His dad, Nick, suited up for the Pioneers in 1990 and 1991. JAMES SHORT/Acorn Newspapers The sophomore is ready to leave his mark.

“It’s cool to hear my dad’s stories,” Riley said. “I want to also do the same for my kids.”

Nicholas Villamizar isn’t used to playing in front of large crowds. The multisport athlete, who plays soccer and suits up at kicker, is in for a treat tonight.

“It’s a pretty big deal for the whole valley,” he said. “It’s about getting respect from the whole city. Everyone talks about it. I do not want to disappoint anyone.”

Nick Villamizar said it was bittersweet to lose his only two games to Royal in 1990 and 1991.

“They spoiled our chance to share the league title,” he said, “but we still made the playoffs (in 1991), which was a huge accomplishment.”

The sting from the losses has faded, but the memories last forever.

Nick said it feels like yesterday when he and his teammates took an eerily silent bus ride to Moorpark College for the big game. It was the quiet before the storm.

“That was just mind blowing seeing the whole town drive into a different town to watch a couple of rivals play each other,” he said. “That was a huge stadium and there were still people on the side because there was no room to sit. It was overwhelming.

“The build up to the game was intense. To the city, this was USC-UCLA, Bears-Packers, USA-Russia. Stats and records didn’t matter.”

Nick said Simi Valley has made such a big impact that he and his wife, Maria, also a Simi Valley graduate, took location into consideration when they moved back to their hometown from Northridge.

“When my wife and I moved back to Simi Valley, we made sure we were on the east side of town,” he said. “We still don’t wear a lot of green to this day.”

Sean Weber, a first-year varsity linebacker, said he’s ready for a wild game.

Joe Weber talked to his son about what to expect tonight.

“It’s pretty intense,” he said. “No matter which team is doing good or bad, it’s always a great game.”

The younger Weber will have to get used to the rowdy fans.

“More and more people are coming every year,” Sean said. “Everyone hears about it. It’s a lot of weight on our shoulders.

“I definitely want to get the win.”

BLAST FROM THE PAST

When Royal and Simi Valley meet on the football field, carnage ensues.

“It has the same intensity that it had in the ’80s,” said Mike Hansen, a 1984 Royal graduate who played on the offensive line and at outside linebacker. “Back then there were probably more pranks being pulled by the schools.”

The rivals shared Simi Valley’s home field back then. That didn’t stop some Highlanders from leaving their mark. . . . literally.

“Somebody poured grass killer on the field and spelled something out on the grass,” said Hansen, the father of junior varsity player Jacob Hansen. “I don’t want to say what it was.”

Jeff Hoover, a 1984 Royal graduate who played cornerback, shared a memory.

“Simi had a pool at the time so somebody also threw something in there to dye the water green,” said Hoover, whose son Mike Hoover is a JV Royal player.

Jeff Hoover said either a goat or sheep, decked out in Simi Valley colors, was left on Royal’s campus by the Pioneers.

“You always waited to see what the prank was going to be because every year it got bigger and bigger,” he said. “That’s what happens when it’s at the end of the season on a Saturday. Having that Friday night to pull the pranks was as big as the game itself. Everyone wanted to outdo each other. Sometimes it got a little crazy, but nobody ever got hurt. It was all in good fun.”

For Highlander parents, the rivalry remains a blast, even from the stands.

“I have friendships on the other side of the field,” said Hansen, a Simi Valley Vikings youth football coach. “As a parent, it’s a fun rivalry now. A lot of my close friends are Simi High parents. We have a lot of back and forth throughout the season.”

Email Jonathan Andrade at jandrade@theacorn.com.

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