Terry Henigan, the Irvine High School football coach, knows what to expect when his team begins play in the South Coast League in three weeks.
The six-team league has three teams--El Toro, Capistrano Valley and Mission Viejo--ranked in the Orange County Sportswriters' Assn. Top 10 prep poll. League teams have a combined record of 9-3 through the first two weeks of the season.
Henigan figures the best way to prepare his team for a rugged league schedule is to play quality nonleague opponents. So last year, he signed two-year contracts with University, Westminster, Tustin, Saddleback and Villa Park.
Phase 1 of the plan backfired as the opposition overwhelmed Irvine. The Vaqueros' lone victory was a 21-16 decision over Villa Park, the only nonleague opponent that failed to reach the playoffs.
The Vaqueros entered league play reeling with a 1-4 record, and Henigan decided to switch quarterbacks, replacing Jeff Jones with George Koutures. The move didn't help as the Vaqueros failed to win a league game, ending a forgettable year with a 1-9 record.
The competition remains the same in 1987, but there appears to be a new-found confidence at Irvine (1-1) as the Vaqueros prepare to meet Tustin (1-1) at 7:30 tonight in Irvine Stadium.
The Vaqueros are coming off an impressive 10-0 victory over Westminster, a team that beat them, 32-0, last season. Jones ranks among the county's top-rated quarterbacks after completing 20 of 30 passes for 258 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"The win over Westminster was encouraging, but I don't know if we've turned the corner yet," Henigan said. "I'm not sure what the Westminster win means. We'll know more about this team after we play Tustin."
The Tillers are coming off a 10-7 victory over Los Alamitos in which Jason Lavin kicked a 37-yard field goal with no time remaining. A week earlier, Tustin played El Toro evenly for three quarters before losing, 34-14.
"They're a typical Marijon Ancich (coached) team," Henigan said of Tustin. "(George) Menges is a really, really good quarterback, and they don't appear to have a weakness. They don't make mistakes, and their offensive line is good again."
Henigan said linebackers David Webb (6-3, 220) and Ki Soo Lim (6-0, 205) have made a big difference in Irvine's defensive play. The Vaqueros allowed an average of 35 points per game in league play last year.
"We held Westminster to 180 yards in total offense and they ran over 60 plays," Henigan said. "Our defense has improved, but when you see El Toro beating Fountain Valley and Capistrano Valley beating Edison, you start wondering if the league is going to be tougher this season."
In other games, also starting at 7:30 tonight:
Mater Dei (2-0) vs. Santa Ana (1-1) in Santa Ana Stadium: The Monarchs have outscored two opponents, 67-13, behind the passing of quarterback Mark Ramstack and the rushing of tailback Robert Clifford. Ramstack passed for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns against Fountain Valley, and Clifford rushed for 166 yards last week against Oceanside. Santa Ana tailback Robert Lee has gained more than 100 yards in two straight games, and wide receiver Royal Wilbon is a threat to score on any play.
Hiram Johnson (0-2) vs. Troy (0-2) in Fullerton District Stadium: Hiram Johnson, a Sacramento school, has experienced problems this year. Johnson lost to Lindhurst of Olivehurst, 26-15, last week when an opposing defensive end scored on two fumble recoveries and an interception return. As for Troy, in two losses, quarterback Sean Scanlon has completed only 15 of 42 passes and has not thrown for a touchdown.
Kennedy (0-2) vs. Anaheim (1-1) in Glover Stadium: Kennedy's new coach, Mitch Olson, is still looking for his first win. The Irish defense has allowed 51 points in the two losses. For Anaheim, junior Dan Pacillas will replace Robert Aldaz at quarterback. The Colonists have allowed only one touchdown but have had problems with center snaps on punts and field goal attempts. Colonist running back Joaquin Garcia has gained 195 yards.
Costa Mesa (1-1) vs. Rancho Alamitos (2-0) in Bolsa Grande Stadium: Rancho Alamitos already has surpassed its entire scoring production of last season (67) with 90 points in two victories. Tailback Robert Cheatham is the state scoring leader with 64 points and 9 touchdowns. Costa Mesa lost quarterback Rich Schones and defensive lineman Tim Felter with injuries last week in a 9-6 upset loss to Santiago, but both are expected to return tonight.