Chris Ferragamo's first victory at Harbor College figured to be an exhilarating experience, but it turned out to be more of a relief for the new coach and his team.
The Seahawks beat San Bernardino Valley College, 10-3, Saturday before an enthusiastic crowd that had a distinct Banning High flavor. The defense was hard-hitting and rose to the occasion on every big play after having allowed 28 points in its first game.
But even though the victory improved Harbor to 1-1 and got the Seahawks off to a 1-0 start in Southern California Athletic Conference play, Ferragamo was frustrated as he watched his offense sputter in the second half with the exception of one play--a 99-yards-plus burst up the middle by Jonathon Jackson that was the difference in the game.
Wide receiver and part-time quarterback William Pope, who was used to blowing out opponents at Carson High, summed things up when he came off the field after the game and told a friend, "We won. It doesn't feel right but we won."
For Ferragamo, the move up to junior college from Banning High has held some surprises--and unexpected frustrations.
It has been a test for his enthusiasm and for his coaching regimen, which has not had to deal with the prospect of losing (except as an occasional accident) since the early 1970s.
As the players doused Ferragamo with a celebratory water bucket shower and his brother Vince dropped by to tell him, "Nice win, Chris. It's the first of many," the coach said with a tight-lipped smile, "All I know is (it's) very seldom we have to rely on defense. I'm happy the guys won--we needed the win--but I'm disappointed inside because we can't get our offense to jell. . . . We've gotta get our act together on offense. We have the makings."
Thanks perhaps to the opening-game 28-0 pasting the Seahawks took at Moorpark, Ferragamo's home opener had a less festive atmosphere than anticipated. However, the Banning High band and pep squad were hand, Harbor had its own cheerleading squad for the first time in years and a late-arriving crowd eventually filled most of the Harbor side of the stands. Ferragamo's stats crew from Banning was keeping the charts and fans in Banning jackets were evident throughout the crowd. The coaches looked spiffy in matching blue polo shirts and black slacks.
They saw Harbor give a portent of the game's less spiffy plot line when quarterback Jeff Sullivan fumbled at his own 27 on the team's second series. Harbor's defense made its first of a game-long series of stands, holding San Bernardino to two yards and throwing a fake punt play for a loss. Later in the quarter the defense blocked a punt and gave the offense the ball inside the 50. On third-and-long, Sullivan threw an interception.
And so it went. The Seahawks scored their first points of the season on Luis Solorio's 37-yard field goal early in the second period. But after a clean first quarter, the offense began collecting delay-of-game penalties. The defense held off a late San Bernardino drive to maintain the shutout at the half.
Ferragamo decided to open the second half with Pope at quarterback, and things deteriorated rapidly. Pope fumbled on the first play to give San Bernardino the ball at Harbor's 23. The defense produced a loss of 13 yards. Harbor took over and running back Alvin Goree fumbled. San Bernardino had the ball at the 31. The defense forced a punt.
Taking over at its own one-yard line, the Seahawks lost a foot. Then tailback Jackson produced the Seahawks' first touchdown of the season, taking a pitch, cutting back inside, emerging from the pack and speeding down the left sideline for the score.
A few minutes later, Harbor's Archie Jean danced his way through San Bernardino's defense for a 75-yard scoring punt return, perhaps the most electric moment of the game. But a clipping penalty pulled the plug on that one and neither team came close to scoring a touchdown again.
Things reached bottom for Harbor when the Seahawks drew a delay-of-game penalty after a timeout in the fourth quarter.
Afterward, Ferragamo couldn't even take credit for Jackson's 99-yard bolt--because, he said, it was an uncalled play. The coaches had reached the point where they told the quarterback not to call a specific play, but just to pitch to a back and let him try to find a hole. Jackson had made the right choice on his own.
Ferragamo said part of the problem is that Sullivan is unfamiliar with the option game, while Pope has an option background but is primarily a receiver. "Jeff's not an option quarterback; we're trying to teach him the game," Ferragamo said. "I'm surprised they haven't taken to it thus far."
The Seahawks travel to Victor Valley College (0-2) for another conference game Saturday. Victor Valley, a new addition to the conference, lost last week to Antelope Valley, 70-0. On paper, it would appear to be a built-in victory for Harbor. But Ferragamo said conference races, at this point, are far from his thoughts. "I don't even care about the conference right now," he said. "My concern is grooming an offense, moving down the field. That's all I'm worried about."
After winning eight Los Angeles City titles in 11 years, that's a strange and unwelcome feeling.