In handicapping the race for the Channel League football championship before the start of the season, Oxnard was among just about everyone's favorites.
The Yellowjackets went 10-1 in 1986 and were unbeaten in seven league games. And when Oxnard won its first two games this season, defeating Camarillo and Long Beach Poly, Coach Jack Davis' team became an odds-on choice to capture back-to-back titles.
A midseason slump, however, has stung Oxnard badly. So badly that it may finish out of the playoff picture. The Yellowjackets have lost their past four games--three against league opponents.
"The world caved in on us," Davis said.
A 31-3 loss to a strong Channel Islands team started the slide. Then there was a 14-12 loss to 10th-ranked Hueneme, followed by a deceiving 27-13 loss to San Marcos. "We kicked San Marcos all over the field and still lost," Davis said. "Over the years, we've won those games."
Perhaps the most disappointing loss occurred last Friday when Oxnard dropped a 34-13 decision to Rio Mesa. The Yellowjackets were penalized 13 times--including nine times for being offside. "Our defense hadn't jumped offside nine times in 10 years before that game," Davis said.
Oxnard starts five sophomores, but Davis refuses to use their inexperience as an excuse. "It's not their fault," he said. "It's probably mine. It's not the young kids making the mistakes."
Part of the problem, Davis believes, is that the team lacks senior leadership at the skill positions. He said there also has been some bickering among older players when younger players have made costly mistakes.
The season hasn't been completely void of highlights, however, many of which have been supplied by one of those youngsters, 15-year old quarterback Johnel Turner.
Turner has completed 39 of 89 passes for 630 yards and is the team's leading rusher with 287 yards. He also plays defense and returns punts and kickoffs.
"He's our best offensive back and our best defensive back," Davis said. "He's played strong safety, cornerback and this week he'll probably start at free safety."
Add 'Jackets: Brent Jacques, an all-county offensive tackle last season, suffered knee ligament damage in Oxnard's loss to San Marcos. The 6-foot, 3-inch, 255-pound junior is out at least three weeks and probably for the season.
All in the family: When Bishop Diego played Santa Paula last Friday, it matched father against son. Sam Cathcart is the head coach of Bishop Diego. His son, Sam, is the defensive coordinator of Santa Paula.
The younger Sam came out on top as Santa Paula won, 39-6, in a Tri-Valley League game.
On Monday, the director of media and public relations for the Southern Section gave his version of the outcome: "I think they tried to take at easy on Bishop as much as they could," he said.
And how would this person know?
He is Scott Cathcart, son of the Bishop Diego coach and brother of the Santa Paula defensive coordinator. Scott wasn't at the game--he was officiating a game between Artesia and Mayfair in Lakewood--but he heard about it over the weekend.
Scott didn't say who he was rooting for, but the odds are he was siding with Santa Paula. He was a roommate of Mike Tsoutsouvas, the Cardinals coach, at Fresno State.
Gut check: Never mind the opponent. A 42-point loss can demoralize a team no matter what the circumstances. And that makes Santa Clara's performance last Friday even more impressive.
The Saints, 56-14 losers to nationally ranked Crespi the week before, defeated Calabasas, 40-22, Friday behind a 204-yard passing performance by sophomore quarterback Tim Gutierrez and four field goals--measuring 26, 25, 32 and 37 yards--by John Weich.
Gutierrez, a sophomore, became the starter when senior Mike Teron suffered a knee injury in the Saints' season opener. He has passed for 820 yards this season.
Percentage points: Bill Bell and Gil Valencia combined to score six touchdowns for Camarillo in a 43-6 victory over El Camino Real last Friday. Bell, however, worked considerably harder for his three scores, rushing 24 times for a school-record 229 yards and touchdowns of 3, 44 and 89 yards.
Valencia, a wide receiver, caught the only six passes Camarillo quarterbacks completed--half of them for touchdowns. But if you think that's a good percentage, consider the performance of Donald Dodson, the Scorpions' starting quarterback. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 86 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Steve Dominguez was the recipient of the Jerry Dann Memorial Award as the most outstanding player in the St. Bonaventure-Fillmore football game.
Dominguez, the quarterback for St. Bonaventure, completed 4 of 10 passes for 64 yards and rushed 7 times for 29 yards to lead the Seraphs to a 10-7 victory last Friday.
Dann was football coach at St. Bonaventure from 1979-81 and before that had been principal and coach at Fillmore. He died in 1983 of cancer at age 48.