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Thursday, November 13, 2008

MC football rivalry ties generations

By Joe Curley (Contact)
Thursday, November 13, 2008

The 21-year-old story is now part of Moorpark College lore.

The star linebacker was juggling football season with a full class load and providing for a new family that included two young children.

Which buried the beginning of practice on Miller Aupiu's list of priorities until Citrus Cup week, when Aupiu wanted to start as much as coach Jim Bittner wanted to start his top defensive player.

That week, practice didn't start until the coach and the linebacker arrived together in an old Rambler.

"So I'd pick him up at work and bring him to practice, so he could start and be the captain," said Bittner. "He would sing (Samoan) songs to me the whole way."

That Saturday night, with his 2-year-old namesake in the stands, Aupiu had 16 tackles and an interception in a 51-7 Moorpark win over cross-county rival Ventura.

"My dad has told the story of his first Ventura game plenty of times," said Miller Aupiu Jr., whose mother Valerie dressed him up in a Raiders uniform for games. "I was the mascot."

More than two decades later, the sons of two of the Moorpark College football team's greatest players, linebacker Miller Aupiu Jr. and receiver Justin Bradley, will take the field Saturday as the Raiders visit Ventura in the 41st Citrus Cup game.

Which pleases Bittner more than winning 19 of the 22 Citrus Cup games since Aupiu Sr.'s senior season at Channel Islands High.

"It's the biggest compliment you can ever receive as a coach," said Bittner. "It tells you that the fathers enjoyed their time at Moorpark and respected the type of football we play and the way we treat people."

Aupui Jr. has been just as important to this defense as his father was to his. Despite being slowed by shoulder and ankle injuries, the 23-year-old is tied for second on the team with 39 tackles. The Raiders remain a much better defense when Aupui Jr. is healthy.

"Miller Jr. has the same instincts at linebacker," said Bittner. "He has the same mentality, the same quiet confidence. He's as tough as you can be.

"You can see a lot of his father in him. He's a chip off the old block.

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