In recent seasons, the Rancho Santiago College football team has shown a peculiar talent for being a middle-of-the-pack team.
The Dons, coached by Dave Ogas, are 18-22 overall and 14-14 in the Mission Conference the past four years.
After starting the 1985 season by upsetting Fullerton, 27-24, and beating Golden West, 9-7, the Dons won only three of their last eight games to finish 3-5 in conference, 5-5 overall. Rancho Santiago opens this season again with Fullerton on Sept. 20.
Ogas, considering his returning players and a solid recruiting season, says the team is ready to move toward the top. There's something standing in the way of his goals, however. The list of teams to climb over got longer in the off-season.
Foothill Conference champion Grossmont joins the Mission Conference, which has been dominated by Saddleback the last nine seasons. Saddleback has won or tied nine consecutive conference championships and are again the favorites.
Bill Workman, the former Edison High School coach, took over at Orange Coast and is expected to rejuvenate the Pirates, who were 2-7-1 last season and have not had a winning record since 1978.
"We've been a middle-of-the-pack team and it's starting to get monotonous for the coaches and the players," Ogas said. "We have a real chance to break out of the pack if we don't get too many kids hurt and if they just come around."
For the Dons to move up in the already crowded Mission Conference ladder, sophomore quarterback John Cook will be counted on.
Cook, a 6-foot 2-inch graduate of Saddleback High School, completed 25 of 35 attempts, for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns in limited action behind Silvio Delligatta.
"He (Cook) is an excellent athlete and just a natural leader," Ogas said. "He was on the honor roll and the school president at Saddleback (High). He is an outstanding athlete and should really help us."
Rancho Santiago has always been a strong passing team and averaged 230 yards a game last season. This season the Dons hope to balance the attack with three returning runners and a top Orange County recruit.
Sophomores Sean Sawyer, the leading rusher last season with 585 yards on 120 attempts and Wellington Bennett, who ran for 145 yards on 19 attempts, are back, as is Mike Jones, who was redshirted last season.
Glenn Campbell, who rushed for 1,212 yards in the regular season to help lead Saddleback High School to the Central Conference championship, is one of eight Rancho Santiago recruits who played in the All-Star game.
The Dons' defense was the best in the conference last season against the pass, allowing only 134 yards a game. Rod Corn, Doug Rodgers and Brian Leatherman all started at times in the defensive secondary last season and all return. Pat Kyle and Eric Carter return on the defensive line and Tim Lynch and Joe Valencia return as linebackers.
Said Ogas: "We are not giants on defense but we should be able to play with anybody in the conference." Coach: Dave Ogas, 5th
Career Record: 18-22
1985 Record: 5-5
Returning Starters: offense-4,
Returning lettermen: 22
RANCHO SANTIAGO COLLEGE
Sept. 20-- at Fullerton
Sept. 27--x Orange Coast
Oct. 4--x at Riverside
Oct. 11--x San Diego Mesa
Oct. 18--x at Southwestern
Oct. 25--x San Diego City
Nov. 1--x at Palomar
Nov. 8--x Citrus
Nov. 15--x at Grossmont
Nov. 22--x Saddleback
Home field: Santa Ana Stadium