Despite winning two straight games, Fullerton College Coach Hal Sherbeck isn't ready to pronounce his team recovered from its 1-3 start.
The Hornets (2-1, 3-3) are a game behind South Coast Conference leader Golden West, but so are three other teams, including Cerritos (2-1, 3-2-1), which plays Fullerton tonight at 7:30 in Cerritos Stadium.
Pasadena and El Camino also are 2-1.
At the start of fall practice, Sherbeck insisted that his inexperienced team might at times struggle. The Hornets returned only two starters--quarterback Richard Williams and safety Jeff Mahlstede.
But Sherbeck's fears apparently were ignored as Fullerton was ranked third in the Southern California preseason poll.
Fullerton opened the year with a 26-23 loss to Rancho Santiago, and the Hornets fell to ninth in the poll. A 51-27 loss to Taft the next week dropped them out of the poll.
Fullerton was finally able to get Sherbeck his 200th career victory, 17-13 over Bakersfield, the third week of the season.
The Hornets opened conference play by losing to Long Beach City, 24-16, a game that exposed Fullerton's struggling defense, which is second to last in the conference, giving up an average of 389.1 yards a game.
"We're young but the players are starting to learn what the coaches expect of them," Sherbeck said. "They're learning and becoming more accustomed to playing together."
Things have been looking better the past two weeks with victories over Mt. San Antonio (10-6) and El Camino (33-31).
"We've won the last two because we're playing very hard," Sherbeck said. "Cerritos is a big game for us. But they all are now. The key is to keep out of a hole.
"I don't mind punting on fourth and four, but we can't be punting on fourth and 20. It just seems like we've been in a hole like that all season."
In other South Coast Conference games:
Mt. San Antonio (0-3, 2-3-1) vs. Golden West (3-0, 6-0) in LeBard Stadium, 7:30 p.m.--The first-place Rustlers, who play Fullerton next week, can't overlook the Mounties. In last week's 45-21 victory over Compton, Golden West quarterback Eric Lawton set a school single-game record by completing 83% of his passes (15 of 18 for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns). After having his second pass of the season intercepted, Lawton has thrown 106 consecutive passes without an interception.
Lawton is 63 of 108 for 875 yards and 7 touchdowns this season. The Mounties have lost three straight and look to the quarterback combination of Rick Carter (54-105, 717 yards) and Dave Ruize (40-77, 443 yards) to stop the streak.
In the Mission Conference:
Saddleback (3-2, 4-2) at San Diego City (0-5, 1-5), 1:30 p.m.--The Gauchos established the run last week in upsetting Southwestern, 48-31. The Knights are last in rushing defense and total defense. San Diego City is allowing an average of 499.5 total yards a game and has lost five straight. Saddleback is two games behind Riverside with four to play.
Orange Coast College (2-3, 2-4) at Southwestern (4-1, 4-2), 7:30 p.m.--The Pirates will have to stop quarterback Brad Platt, who has completed 105 of 206 passes for 1,471 yards and 15 touchdowns. OCC will depend on sophomore defensive tackle Jeff Shanks, who had the flu last week and played less than half the game, to pressure Platt. OCC Coach Bill Workman says the Pirates will have to control the ball and can't risk getting into a high-scoring game. Quarterback Jon Nowotny has completed 61 of 107 passes for 721 yards. Dave Swigart has rushed for 307 yards in 94 carries.
Rancho Santiago (2-3, 3-3) at Palomar (4-1, 5-1), 1:30 p.m.--The Dons face the conference's top offense, led by sophomore quarterback Jonathan Mitchell. He has completed 130 of 224 passes for 1,633 yards and 15 touchdowns. Palomar, which averages 461.3 yards a game, is ranked 20th in the nation and fifth in Southern California.
Rancho Santiago's defense has been suspect at times and the loss of free safety Brian Leatherman isn't going to help. Leatherman, who injured his knee in the 45-7 victory over San Diego City, is out for season.