There's a new look to Westside community college football this fall.
After assisting for many years at Santa Monica College, Ralph Vidal is now head coach of the Corsairs, in charge of a staff of nine. He is not fazed by the title. "All that means is that I get to do the dirty work," Vidal said.
Work is the operative word at West Los Angeles College, where everybody and everything are new, from the head coach to the ball boys.
As head man, Dick Jones must build a program dormant for two years. Budget cuts by the Los Angeles Community College District forced the discontinuance of football, along with other sports.
The Oilers last fielded a team in 1985, when they went 7-2-1.
West Los Angeles College obviously has unique problems. Virtually all players are freshmen. There are only 48 players out for the team, and many linemen have to play both ways. The team had one tight end in the Victor Valley game, a 38-14 loss.
Adding to the Oiler woes is that the college reinstated football last April and the first coach they selected, Steve Bresnahan, resigned a few weeks later. Jones was hired in May, leaving him three months to recruit players.
Jones brings extensive college coaching experience to West L.A. Last year he was the running back coach at Cal State Long Beach, and he coached previously at Bakersfield Community College, Oregon State, Chico State and Weber State in Ogden, Utah.
Santa Monica has an established program. Vidal's challenge is to mold a big, strong team into a Western State Conference contender. Last year the Corsairs won four games and lost five, tying for third place in the conference.
Like West Los Angeles, Santa Monica's Corsairs lost their opener, a 32-21 decision to Sacramento City College.
Sacramento was highly regarded in the preseason polls, ranked ninth nationally by the junior college football wire and fourth in the state, Vidal said.
The Corsairs played well but lost a lead in the fourth quarter. Santa Monica was one play away from tying the contest, but a bizarre play put them 10 points behind. A Sacramento defender caught a missed field goal that landed at the Sacramento 3-yard line and ran it back 78 yards to the Corsair 19. Sacramento scored a few plays later.
Vidal was encouraged by his team's performance: "We made a good team effort."
However, Vidal said it will take more games before he knows how good his team is.
The West L.A. Oilers did not perform well against Victor Valley, but Jones was pleased by some individual efforts. Safety Kevin Bowers intercepted three passes, one setting up a score. Myron Phillips out of Verbum Dei High rushed for 62 yards on eight attempts, despite joining the team just a week before the game. Linebacker Cedric Brown made 14 tackles and was the team's outstanding defensive player.
Santa Monica also has some outstanding defensive players, especially at linebacker. Vidal considers his linebackers the strength of the defense. "They run and hit real well, and they're aggressive," Vidal said.
Ken McKyer, a transfer from the University of Texas at Arlington, is regarded as an excellent defensive back. He intercepted a pass against Sacramento, as did Naim Shah.
Offensively, Vidal said the Corsairs have some size and talent. Included in this group are 6-6, 300-pound tackle Ed Vega, a sophomore who transferred from Cal Berkeley; quarterback Daryl Hobbs, who passed for 1,439 yards and 11 touchdowns last year; sophomore running back William Harris, who rushed for 556 yards last season, and freshman back Phillip Frazier, who scored a touchdown against Sacramento. Santa Monica could have the size and speed to contend in the Western State Conference. The Corsairs play at Moorpark at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
West L.A. lacks the depth of Santa Monica, but Jones, who works as a counselor at the school during the day and evening, is optimistic. The next game for West L.A. is Saturday night at Glendale College at 7:30.
But the Oilers won their biggest victory last April when the Los Angeles Community College trustees gave more money to intercollegiate athletics, resurrecting the football program.
Jones welcomes the challenge: "We're just trying to stay alive and get a representative, competitive program here."