May 22, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Brothers battle: Kickers Nick and RJ Lopez on opposite sides of the field Friday for Mater Dei-Mission Viejo CIF playoff game

The Lopez brothers RJ (left) and Nick will be kicking in Friday’s CIF playoff game at Mission Viejo. (Photos courtesy Lopez family).

When the parents of the Lopez family arrive for Friday night’s CIF Division 1 football playoff game between Mater Dei and Mission Viejo they plan to wear T-shirts which read, “a house divided,” on the front.

On the front of the T-shirts will be the logos of the Mater Dei and Mission Viejo football teams since they will have an interest in both teams.

To see the slide show, please click on the photo

One of the sons is Nick Lopez, a senior place-kicker for Mater Dei and the other is RJ Lopez, a junior place-kicker for Mission Viejo. The T-shirt message is a good-natured joke as the parents will be rooting for both sons to do well in the game at Mission Viejo.

“There is anxiety but it’s a healthy anxiety,” said the father, Richard Lopez. “The most important thing that my wife (Sandy) and I want for our boys is, it’s not important who wins, but we want them both to do well and be the best that they can be that night.”

Adding to the fun, Sandy Lopez will wear one red shoe (representing Mater Dei) and one yellow shoe (in honor of Mission Viejo).

Nick Lopez, who has made 56 point after kicks and two field goals this year, has had some fun with his younger brother this week after the two found out they would be on opposite sides of the field for the quarterfinal game.

Nick Lopez had thought about the possibility a couple weeks ago and when Mater Dei defeated Valencia 44-6 and Mission Viejo topped Bishop Amat 24-7, the game was a reality.

“My dad said that this was his wish when my brother transferred to Mission Viejo (that the two brothers would meet),” Nick Lopez said.

“I’m trying to treat it just like any other game, but my brother is having a little fun with it. I got home Sunday night from an unofficial to the University of Oregon, and after he asked me how it went he says,  ‘How does it feel to be playing your last high school game Friday night?’

“I said I should have him clean my room when we win, but he’s not that good at it. Ha ha.”

Lopez said he and his brother have been kicking well going into the game.

“We are both peaking at the right time of the season because we have been at 100 percent touchbacks for the past four or five games now, so we’re both in good form,” Nick Lopez said.

“(It) should be fun, and I’m really happy for my parents because they put in a lot of time and effort into our football.  My dad says all he wants is a family photo after the game, and my mom says she wants us to tie.”

RJ Lopez transferred from Mater Dei in the middle of his sophomore season and became eligible with Mission Viejo in the middle of the season, sharing the duties with junior Dylan Widner.

“Dylan was our kicker for the first six weeks,” said Mission Viejo Coach Chad Johnson. “Since RJ has become eligible, he and Dylan have shared the extra points and field goals.  RJ has taken all of the kick-offs. RJ is a great weapon as a kick-off specialist and is very accurate in kicking his field goals.  Both Dylan and RJ are great kids and we are happy to have both of them in our program.”

RJ Lopez’ father said his son has been kicking well since joining the Diablos.

“He’s already had five field goals; the longest one is a 41-yard (field goal),” Richard Lopez said.

During the season, Richard and Sandy Lopez attended all of Nick’s Mater Dei games but when RJ became eligible, they went to his games.

Richard Lopez was a professional soccer player and both his sons have played soccer in high school. But he figured there were more opportunities in football and so the two have focused on football.

The decision looks like it’s paid off as the two are playing with two established Division 1 programs. Mater Dei enters the game 9-2 while Mission Viejo is 6-5.

“They both have really powerful legs,” he said of his sons.

Nick and RJ are supportive of each other.

“They always ask how the other one is doing,” Richard Lopez said. “And they motivate each other. When it’s not football season, they train with me every day and so they push each other. It can be a week or a couple weeks when one is kicking better than another. It’s kind of like a golf swing, where you have a little glitch and you help each other get through it and it seems right now they’re both peaking because they’re really kicking deep into the end zones and both the coaches are happy.”

Lopez said he predicted that such a match-up would happen.

“That was my pipe dream when I transferred him,” he said. “I said, ‘I think we’re going to meet Mater Dei in the playoffs. That’s what I envisioned and here we are.”

And when the night is over, Richard Lopez said he has a major task to complete.

“My main focus is that I want that family picture after the game,” he said.  “That picture is going to be in our house for the rest of our lives.”

Along with the memories.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;