HESPERIA • Sultana High School may lead the all-time Key Game series with 10 wins, but Hesperia's five series wins shows they know what it takes to win.
The game was first played in 1996. Sultana won 21-7 last year to snap a three-game losing streak in the series. The game has been decided by 14 points or fewer in 11 of the 15 games. The series has recently been one of streaks. Sultana won three in a row from 2004 to 2006, then Hesperia won three straight from 2007 to 2009.
Sultana has dropped its last two games by at least 20 points after starting 5-0 and needs a win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. Hesperia has lost 19 of its last 21 games, but has hung with good teams such as Palm Desert and Apple Valley in spurts this season. This game presents the best opportunity for each team to record an MRL win. Sultana has scored at least 20 points in every game it's played, while Hesperia is allowing more than 36 points per game.
"We've always tried to keep the Key Game as just another game, but it's not," said Sultana head coach Blake Robbins. "The kids get emotionally involved a lot more than some other games. We try to not make our whole season based around the Key Game, but obviously if you win, it does boost your team."
The Key is a six-foot wooden replica representing the key to the city of Hesperia. It was designed by then-Sultana parent Dan Pollack. He was helped by then-Sultana quarterback HR Lugo, who is now the Sultana vice principal of student activities. Robbins has been involved in every Key Game. He was an assistant at Sultana from 1996 to 2009 before becoming the head coach last season, and was a coach at Hesperia prior to Sultana's opening.
""There's just a buzz around campus, not only with the students, but amongst the staff," said Jeremy Topete, Hesperia head coach. "There's a lot of friends among the staff at both schools and it gets kind of heated. The students are really excited too, and it's a rallying point for the entire campus."