Sporting goods stores in Glendale have not been overrun with requests for Glendale Vaqueros T-shirts. Or cardinal and gold pompons. Or any of the other paraphernalia usually available for rabid sports fans when their team is the best in the United States.
In fact, one of the few signs that Glendale College is the No. 1-ranked junior college football team in the nation is a congratulatory message on the marquee at a local car wash.
But if the Glendale football team is suffering from a lack of recognition within the community, Coach Jim Sartoris says he doesn't feel bad about it. Sartoris has been coaching at Glendale for 15 years. He knows that on Saturdays more people will line up at cash registers in the Glendale Galleria than at the ticket window at Glendale High, where the Vaqueros play home games.
"I think that, generally, the people of Glendale are aware of what we're doing," Sartoris said. "I get a real good feeling from people I come into contact with. This is the best support we've ever had."
This is also the best Glendale team ever assembled.
There will be no debating that point if Glendale beats Riverside Community College on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Pony Bowl at Orange Coast College.
At stake for the Vaqueros (10-0) is a national championship and undefeated season, two firsts for Glendale.
"We don't talk much about national championships," Sartoris said. "Everyone knows what's riding on this game. We just want to be ready for Riverside. The main thing we don't want to do is play beneath our ability."
The Pony Bowl matches Glendale against a Riverside team that is ranked eighth in the nation. The Tigers (9-1) are champions of the Mission Conference.
"It would be a tremendous feather in our cap if we can beat Glendale," Riverside Coach Barry Meier said. "They're one of the few teams on the junior college level that has everything it takes. They pass and run effectively, they have a great defense and a good kicking game. Usually you can find a weakness, but they don't seem to have one."
Saturday's game features two of the best junior college quarterbacks in the country.
Glendale is led by sophomore quarterback Rob Huffman, the Western State Conference player of the year. Huffman has passed for 1,405 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.
The impressive thing about Huffman is that he compiled those statistics in a limited role. The Vaqueros, who averaged 370 yards and 36 points a game, routinely blew out opponents. Huffman, who will visit the University of Miami next week, spent lots of time on the sidelines relaxing during the second half.
Riverside quarterback Keith Widener was the Mission Conference MVP and led an attack that averaged 34.8 points and 402 yards a game. Running a veer offense, Widener passed for 1,453 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns.
Each has an exceptional running back.
Glendale's Gene Harlin, who rotated at tailback with Donnel Pumphrey, has rushed for 781 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Riverside's Michael Moore rushed for 1,425 yards, including a 305-yard performance against Rancho Santiago. Moore has scored 11 touchdowns.
The Glendale defense is two--and in some cases three--deep at every position. That has afforded Sartoris the luxury of constantly rotating fresh players. The result: a defense that has given up an average of just 196 yards and 8.5 points a game.
Riverside's defense is similarly impressive. The Tigers have all-conference linebackers in Wade Lee, Shawn Ramirez and Tim Hardin, and they lead a unit that has surrendered 258 yards and 13.5 points a game.
Huffman, trying to win his 21st game in 22 starts at Glendale, said being No. 1 has already brought recognition to the Vaqueros. A triumph Saturday could bring more than simply star billing at the carwash.
"People look at No. 1," Huffman said. "It's already helped a lot of our guys get recruited to four-year schools.
"We know if we win Saturday it means a national championship and an undefeated season. I think that will bring a lot more recognition to Glendale."