The welcome wagon is out at Pierce College, where Coach Bob Enger is attempting to resurrect a once-proud football program from a two-year death sentence imposed by Los Angeles Community College District budget cuts.
"Everywhere I go on campus people are coming up to me and saying, 'Gee, we're really glad to have football back,' " Enger said.
The reception might not be as warm for the Brahmas once play begins in the newly aligned Western State Conference. The two-division conference brings all four Valley-area teams under one umbrella. Pierce, Valley, Bakersfield, Santa Monica, Compton and West Los Angeles form one division; Glendale, Moorpark, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Harbor and L. A. Southwest form the other. Each team will play nine conference games and one pre-conference game.
Pierce won three consecutive Southern California Conference championships before the program became a victim of budget cuts after the 1985 season. The cuts prevented the hiring of a replacement for Coach Jim Fenwick, who left to become an assistant at Cal State Northridge.
Pierce will operate out of a multiple-set offense for Enger, who prefers a strong running game but said his personnel is better suited to a pass-oriented attack.
Freshman quarterback Ronnie Lopez, an All-City Section selection who led Franklin High to the 3-A Division championship, likely will give opponents problems. Ray Daniels from Taft High also will see action.
Desmond Wells from Dorsey and Wes Bender from Burroughs are leading candidates for starting positions in the backfield.
On defense, freshmen Mark Phelan and Eric Fiori anchor the line. Rick Martin, Denver Ball, Patrick Johnson and Ernie Baraza form the linebacking corps.
Glendale, which has won or shared five of the past six WSC titles, might find the going a bit rougher this season.
Coach Jim Sartoris begins his 17th season with the Vaqueros and has just seven starters back from last season's team that finished 6-4 and tied Bakersfield for the conference title after an 0-4 start.
"We don't have the luxury this year of practice games," Sartoris said. "If we want a chance at the conference championship, we have to put it together by the first game."
Fullback James Bledsoe and wide receiver Brian Kaloustian are the only returning starters on offense.
Quarterback Keith Fitzgerald and tailback Ernie Mathis, both of whom were backups last season, probably will move into starting roles this season.
Sophomore tackle Rene Williams is the lone returning starter on the offensive line.
Valley Coach Chuck Ferrero has only three returning starters, but many of the players who were used in reserve roles last season gained experience in the blowouts that helped Valley to an 8-2 record.
Sophomore quarterbacks Todd Studer and Rusty Wilson are competing to replace Barry Hanks, who passed for 1,810 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Roman Carter, a redshirt, and freshmen Todd Coefield, Cliff Robinson, Luis Vann and Allen Moore are candidates to replace tailback Dondre Bausley, who rushed for 1,454 yards and 22 touchdowns.
A quartet of sophomores--Chad Pasqua (6-4, 265), Matt Graham (6-4, 270), Joe Marty (5-10, 245) and Mike Caspino (6-1, 250)--anchor an offensive line that Ferrero, in his 10th season with the Monarchs, characterizes as the team's strength.
The defensive line is led by sophomores Bill Atwood and Greg Wilson, both of whom were second-team all-conference selections last season.
Moorpark already has dropped one game--the Raiders' opener against Taft was canceled because of a misunderstanding about the starting date for practices. Coach Jim Bittner also is concerned about the loss of running backs Dana Griffin and Mike Daniels, who rushed for a combined 1,422 yards and helped Moorpark post a 7-2 record last season.
Sophomore Larry Roberts (5-10 1/2, 184) is the only returning back. Cal Lutheran transfer Kevin Ochs and freshmen John Brown and Noel Baker also will see action.
All-conference lineman John Goslin (6-3, 252) and nose guard John Ruiz (5-8, 278) are the only returning members of the defense.