Something old and something new characterize South Bay community college football, which gets under way Saturday.
The new is El Camino College Coach John Featherstone, who begins his reign with a 7:30 p.m. opener at Saddleback. Featherstone, a former wide receiver at El Camino, says the Warriors will maintain a wide-open offense but hints that the once pass-happy team will try to implement a more traditional ground attack to compete in the tough Pac-9 Conference.
Featherstone, who comes over from Santa Ana College, will have few returning players from last season (in which the Warriors ranked last in the Pac-9) particularly on defense. However, the talent at the skill positions looks deep and the defense had a successful scrimmage over the weekend.
"We've got to realize we're playing some sophomore teams," Featherstone said. "We're young and inexperienced. But the kids want to win. They've got a ways to go but they have potential. We're excited as a (coaching) staff. I can tell you this--we'll go into every game ready."
El Camino has had a long line of record-setting passers, but the Warriors should have a slightly different look with Ron Barber at quarterback. Barber comes from a veer-attack background at Banning High and figures to be less of a drop-back quarterback than his predecessors.
"He may drop back, bootleg, pass on the run, we'll do it all with him," Featherstone said. "He's a great athlete." Barber will be backed up by letterman Aladd Teofilo and freshman Craig Kennedy.
Featherstone has four running backs he hopes will help the team maintain field position: fullbacks Joe Wilson and Vea Manu and halfbacks Chris Vogeler and David Young.
Featherstone claims "a plethora" of wide receivers, including Connecticut all-stater Shawn Hodges and local products Michael Wimberly, Mike Willis and Tony Nettles. Tight end should be well-manned with converted linebacker Calvin Guillory and freshman Darren Madison.
The line has only one returner, Kose Godinet, who will be joined by four freshmen. Ernie Villarreal will be the center.
The linebackers will be the key to the defense while the inexperienced line gets its feet wet. All-conference sophomore Alondra Johnson and returning starter Scott Vincent are on the outside, with Andres Ornels and Dennis McConnaghy pushing Vincent for the job. Andrew Tuiasosopo and Darrell Robinson are on the inside, with Ben Lee, Derek Viena and Pete Ruiz all expected to see playing time.
Bernard (Tex) Bonner anchors the line at 6-2, 235. Bonner, who bench presses 450 pounds according to defensive coordinator Walt Justice, is the team's most physical player. Farzam Ghamarifard (6-3, 240) also returns.
The secondary appears to be Cedel Bush and Rodney Fisher or Robert Justin at the corners, Harry Curry at free safety and Marcus Moseley at strong safety, with Anthony Iacono pushing Curry.
"We'll run multiple defenses but the linebacking crew will be on the field as much as possible," Justice said. "The defense will be very aggressive."
The old are some familiar names at Harbor College--veteran Coach George Swade and two blasts from the past: running back Michael Alo and lineman Jerald Browner.
Alo, the former Los Angeles City player of the year at Banning High, has been out four years since suffering a spinal injury at USC. Swade said the 5-11, 240-pounder has been cleared to play and "it's a matter of getting it all together. . . . If he's well, we know he's a winner."
Browner is the youngest brother of the football family that has sent three players to the NFL, including all-pro lineman Ross and former USC star Joey. A one-time high school All-American lineman, the youngest Browner is also the largest--by far--at 6-3, 350. He'll play nose tackle for Harbor. "He's awesome but he needs to get into shape," Swade said.
Swade's only returners on a very green team are linebacker Rex Zumwalt and cornerback Alex Jaco on defense and all-league running back Ken Abercrombie and wide receiver Bill Coats on offense.
The quarterbacking situation provides another interesting diversion for Swade. David Felando, Lance Blair and Craig Elam have performed about equally in practices and scrimmages, so Swade will settle the matter by starting a different quarterback in each of the first three games. The most impressive will start the fourth. "It's a tossup. They're all different. They all have strong arms," Swade said. "The only fair way was to toss a coin."
Among the more impressive newcomers are linebacker Ty Bradford, strong safety Greg Hokuf, cornerback John Russell, offensive linemen Charlie Johnson and Tony Jackson, defensive lineman Tony DeMeglio and defensive backs Sparrel Honaker and Michael Land. "But they're all suspects," Swade said. "We don't know what we have."
Swade tabs Pierce College the favorite in the Southern California Conference, with Valley right behind. "They're both loaded. The rest of us are trying to catch up," he said.
Harbor opens at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Moorpark, which features a standout passing game.