Mark Ziegenhagen fell for one of the most common coaching tactics around.
The Golden West College staff thought that Ziegenhagen, a sophomore linebacker, had become complacent during the summer and wasn't working hard enough to keep his job. So, to motivate him, they threatened to remove him from the starting lineup.
After an average performance in a scrimmage against Citrus, Ziegenhagen was given one last chance to remain a starter. He had to play well in the season opener against Bakersfield or else.
But or else never came. Ziegenhagen had an interception and made 10 tackles in the Rustlers' 24-14 victory over the Renegades.
Ziegenhagen has started all season for undefeated Golden West, which is ranked No. 4 in the nation and leads Cerritos by one game in the South Coast Conference. The Rustlers (4-0 in conference, 7-0 overall) play Fullerton (2-2, 3-4) at Fullerton District Stadium tonight at 7:30. Ziegenhagen, admits that in August he feared he might be headed for the bench.
"Before the season started I was worried about getting my position taken," Ziegenhagen said. "I was reading a preview about our team in the paper and it said I was probably not going to start. That really made me work. I didn't want to lose my spot."
Last season, Ziegenhagen, 6-feet, 215 pounds, was one of two freshmen to be voted to the all Pacific-9 all-star team and was fifth in the conference among linebackers with 94 tackles. In August, the JC Grid-Wire made him a preseason All-American.
That honor may have gone to his head.
"We just though he cruised a little in practice," said Pug Pierce, Golden West's defensive coordinator. "He comes ready to the games, but we just wanted him to work harder in practice and he has started to. . . . Once he decided to concentrate in practice as much as he did in the games, he really showed how good he is."
Ziegenhagen, the defensive captain, leads the team in tackles with 55 and is tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3.
Ziegenhagen's statistics would be even better if Golden West had not built up big leads so early and often. With the Rustlers outscoring opponents, 120-20, in the first quarter and 64-3 in the second, Ziegenhagen and Golden West's other starters frequently have been taken out early.
But that doesn't bother the former Tustin High School star.
"Sure I'd like to play more," he said. "But it's good for other guys to play also. If we are going keep winning, we'll need everybody."
In the Mission Conference:
Citrus (2-4, 2-5) vs. Rancho Santiago (3-3, 4-3), Santa Ana Stadium, 7:30--The Dons upset Palomar last week, 30-9, but it was a costly victory. Rancho Santiago's best defensive player, linebacker Tim Lynch, suffered a knee injury and will be out for at least two weeks. Citrus is led by running back Paul Hewitt, who has run for 907 yards and 6 touchdowns in 120 carries. Glen Campbell, James Shipp, Mike Jones and Albie Anderman have combined to rush for 1,022 yards for the Dons, who have won two straight after losing three in a row.
San Diego City (0-6, 1-6) vs. Orange Coast (3-3, 3-4), LeBard Stadium, 7:30--The Pirates have been led by defensive back/kick returner Bart Recktenwald in recent weeks. Recktenwald has returned one kickoff and two punts for touchdowns this season, including a 99-yard kickoff return and an 85-yard punt return in the Pirates' 34-27 loss to Southwestern last week. Orange Coast wide receiver Junior Tagoloa has 45 catches and needs four to break the single-season school record of 48 held by Steve Monahan. The Pirates are down to one quarterback--Jon Nowotny--after Cary Conway left the team a week ago.
Palomar (4-2, 5-2) at Saddleback (2-4, 2-5), Saddleback Field, 7:30--The Gauchos have gone from needing a victory to stay in the conference race to needing a victory to have a chance at finishing at .500 after forfeiting three wins for using an ineligible player. This game features the two top receivers in the conference. Saddleback's Bret Mersola has 67 catches for 874 yards and 8 touchdowns and Palomar's Jerald Demery has 56 catches for 682 yards and 5 touchdowns.