As the junior college football season hits the halfway point, El Camino College would appear to have found itself, while Harbor College is still searching.
El Camino entered the season with a new coach, John Featherstone, a new quarterback and a new plan--establish a running game. After beating Cerritos, 34-27, last week to improve their record to 3-1, the Warriors apparently have been successful in integrating new personnel into a new system.
The Warriors also bear the burden going into Saturday's home game against Fullerton of being a giant killer. Cerritos had been ranked No. 3 nationally. "We've been telling the kids all week we don't want to fall in the penthouse-to-outhouse syndrome," Featherstone said. "This week we'll be the hunted instead of the hunter. We may have woke up some sleeping giants."
Fullerton brings a deceptive 1-2 record into the game, has a strong running attack and is considered a typical Pac-9 opponent--typically tough. "There are no easy games in the Pac-9," Featherstone said.
'Excited and Proud'
The Warriors would be in good shape with a victory this week because they have a bye the following Saturday. They would boast a 3-0 conference mark.
"We're pretty excited and proud of the kids," Featherstone said. "They're still young at every position so we're continuing to coach the heck out of them."
Traditionally a quick-strike passing team, El Camino is mixing it up this season with good results. The Warriors are averaging 150 yards rushing and 235 passing per game. Quarterback Ronnie Barber, who ran the option at Banning High, is becoming comfortable as a drop-back passer, and running backs Chris Vogeler, Joe Wilson and Vea Manu have done well. When Vogeler, the leading rusher, was hurt last week, David Young came in and gained 80 yards.
Wide receiver Sean Hodges has 13 receptions and flanker Michael Wimberly has 17.
Won't Abandon Pass
"We'll always hang our hats on the pass," Featherstone said, "but in this conference you've got to eat up some clock. (Being more balanced) is what we wanted to do going in. Barber is playing tremendous--he and Vogeler have been our most consistent."
Vogeler will be back in the lineup this week.
The defense has a revamped line featuring Andrew Tuiasosopo, Tex Bonner and Purvis Nolan, and the coaches singled out linebackers Alondra Johnson and Neff Siu as the stars last week. Siu had nearly a dozen unassisted tackles, while Johnson had 8 solo tackles, 4 assists, 2 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. "He got the highest defensive rating ever at El Camino," said defensive coordinator Walt Justice.
Bonner, one of the few veterans, added three quarterback sacks.
The Warrior staff expected Cerritos, coming off a big win over Fullerton, to take El Camino somewhat lightly. That won't happen anymore, and the coaches say the key now is not to allow El Camino to suffer a letdown. "If we stay emotional we'll be all right," Featherstone said.
But, they warn, don't expect any easy games from the Warriors. As Justice said emphatically, "Cerritos was no fluke."
Kickoff for the Fullerton contest is 7:30 p.m.
Harbor is taking this week off to lick its wounds and get ready for Southern California Conference play.
The Seahawks have lost all four non-league contests and have generally been worn down by superior numbers. Opponents have outscored them, 113 to 48.
The team has made some progress, however. Coach George Swade has juggled the offensive line in the face of injuries, but Ken Abercrombie has still established himself as a front-line running back. Swade started the season undecided among three quarterbacks but appears to have settled on David Felando for the present. And in last week's 26-10 loss to Grossmont, Bill Coats returned a kickoff 95 yards and Steve Kightlinger kicked a 49-yard field goal.
Jerald Browner, youngest and largest brother from the family that has produced three NFL players, has missed most of the year with an injury, and fullback Michael Alo, trying to come back after four years, hasn't gotten in gear.
At least Harbor should be in better shape for the conference with two weeks to heal injuries. Nobody said it would be easy.