Vince Bonham came to Golden West College with little fanfare in the fall of 1986. He was just another good tackle out of high school trying to make it on the community college level.
It took a switch to center--after two games last season on the bench--for Bonham to receive some attention.
Last season, Bonham, who is 6-feet 1-inch tall and weighs 290 pounds, was the only freshman lineman to be a first-team all-South Coast Conference selection. This season, he has become the leader of one of the best lines in the state.
Dennie Dixon, Golden West offensive line coach, recalled that last season, "I just walked out to practice on Monday, handed him the ball and told him he'd better get over with the quarterbacks and start hiking it because he was going to be the starting center Saturday night. He was my fifth best lineman and I had to find a place for him."
Bonham, who was a three-year starting tackle at Los Amigos High School, had played center before . . . when he was 8 and played Pop Warner football.
"At first, I didn't want to play (center) at Golden West," Bonham said. "I was playing guard and wanted to see what that was like. But when coach told me about starting at center at practice I was sort of happy because I was knew it meant I would be starting. Now I'm really glad I did."
Golden West, which averages 250 yards a game rushing, plays at Mt. San Antonio tonight at 7:30 in a South Coast Conference game. Golden West (4-2, 3-0) has won four straight and is tied for first place with El Camino. Mt. SAC is 2-4, 0-3.
Golden West's rushing numbers are impressive, considering that the Rustlers have lost tailbacks Blaise Bryant (ankle) Tony Garrett (knee) and John Fischbeck (knee) to injuries.
The offensive line also has suffered its share of injuries.
Starting guards Randy Gones (hand) and Kevin Fairman (ankle) and starting tackle Glenn Parker (knee) were all out at times this season, which meant that freshman guards Todd Little and David Lannon and tackle Mike Hopper played more than expected.
Now, all are back, and the freshmen work in a rotation.
"He is really doing a great job helping the freshmen along," Dixon said. "He makes a lot of the calls (blocking assignments) and just doesn't make mistakes. We have had the quarterback sacked only twice all season."
Said Coach Ray Shackleford: "He is doing a super job for us. He has quick feet and strong balance. He replaced all-conference center Rob Goff, who went on to Mississippi, where he was all-Southeast Conference last season. Vince is a much better player than Rob, and that's saying something."
In another South Coast Conference game:
Cerritos (4-2, 2-1) vs. Fullerton (3-3, 2-1) at Fullerton District Stadium, 7:30 p.m.:
This game, featuring the conference's two best runners, should end any title hopes for the loser.
Both teams' stars have struggled recently. Andre Wooton of Cerritos has rushed for 609 yards in 105 carries, but he missed a game three weeks ago because of a foot injury and has been slow coming back. Andrew Greer of Fullerton has rushed for 508 yards in 107 carries, but he fumbled twice last Saturday in Fullerton's 27-26 loss to conference-leading El Camino.
Fullerton remains the worst offensive team in the conference, gaining 298 yards a game. Its defense is second from the bottom, giving up 326 yards a game.
In the Mission Conference:
Southwestern (3-3, 2-3) at Orange Coast (5-1, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.--OCC is averaging 35 points and 401 yards a game; Southwestern is averaging 26 points and 325 yards a game. Southwestern, which has a three-game losing streak, has the edge on defense, giving up 315 yards a game to 334 for OCC.
Bart Recktenwald of Orange Coast leads the conference in rushing with 908 yards in 158 carries. Darrell Crain of Southwestern is fourth with 513 yards in 83 carries. They were teammates at La Quinta High School in 1985, when La Quinta lost to Saddleback in the Central Conference championship game.
San Diego City (0-5-1, 0-4-1) at Saddleback (4-2, 4-1), 7:30 p.m.--Saddleback leads the conference in scoring, averaging 37 points a game. San Diego City is giving up 31 points a game, worst in the conference.
But Saddleback isn't looking past City.
"There is no easy game in this conference," Saddleback Coach Ken Swearingen said. "San Diego City is greatly improved over last season."
Saddleback wide receiver Scott Miller, who tied the Orange County record last week with 12 catches, has moved to second in the conference in receptions with 36. Junior Tagaloa of OCC leads with 42.
Palomar (3-2-1, 2-2-1) vs. Rancho Santiago (3-3, 2-3) at Santa Ana Stadium, 7:30 p.m.--Rancho Santiago, which lost three in a row earlier this season and appeared headed toward the bottom of the conference, has turned its year around with two consecutive victories.
Rancho Santiago has the best offense in the conference, averaging 408 yards a game. Quarterback Rick Burns is fourth in the conference with 1,340 passing yards.