Mostly groans were heard from Fillmore when the Southern Section announced last month that the Flashes must step up from the Tri-Valley League to the Frontier League next year.
Tiny Fillmore compete against Santa Clara in basketball? Against Nordhoff in volleyball? Against Santa Paula in soccer?
And what about football? Why, Fillmore can hardly suit up 20 players. Pass the aspirin and bundle up for a long cold spell.
An interesting thing happened this nonleague season, however. Fillmore handed out headaches on the football field, opening with a 5-0 record that includes two victories over Frontier League teams. The Flashes opened the season by shocking Santa Paula, 15-8, and they buried Nordhoff, 48-0, last week. Perhaps Fillmore will be able to hold its own in Frontier football.
"We haven't mentioned much about changing leagues to the players," said second-year Coach Curtis Garner. "We're concentrating on this year."
And for good reason. Fillmore, in its final Tri-Valley season, is poised to challenge perennial league power Carpinteria for the championship. The Flashes open league action Friday night at 7:30 by playing host to Bishop Diego (2-3).
No touchdowns have been scored on the Fillmore defense, and the offense is moving well behind quarterback Chad Van Winkle and tailback Tory Cabral.
Five nonleague wins or no, a new season begins this week. The Flashes got the message.
"We had a 2 1/2-hour workout in full pads Monday, a day we usually have a light workout," Garner said. "We needed to set a tone that this week we step it up."
Garner added that his players are taking the success in stride. After all, he points out, the juniors did not lose a league game as freshmen or sophomores, a streak that includes two victories over Carpinteria.
"I think we are ready for the challenge," he said.
News Flashes: Bishop Diego employs the run-and-shoot offense, which will be nothing new for the Fillmore defense. Paraclete and Nordhoff, Fillmore's last two opponents, also used the run-and-shoot. Nordhoff quarterback Rob Fournier was sacked five times last week.
"The best defense against the pass is to rush the quarterback," said Garner, who noted that outside linebacker Hugo Virto leads the team in sacks.
Fillmore's defensive strength is its secondary, however, a group that has had opponents mostly run-and-shooting blanks. Cornerbacks Art Sosa and Mike Thompson, and safeties Van Winkle, Ken Zell and Pokey Sanchez are quick and aggressive.
Sosa, in particular, has been a bright spot. Last week, the junior returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown and caught a 76-yard halfback option pass from Cabral for another score.
All-points bulletin: Channel Islands' 31-15 victory over Westlake last week did more than even the team's Marmonte League record at 1-1. It marked the first time the Raiders have held an opponent under 20 points. Channel Islands is 3-2, having fallen only to county powers Oxnard and Thousand Oaks, largely on the efforts of an offense that has scored 129 points.
The average score of a Channel Islands game is 26-24.
"We have lots of inexperience on defense, but several players are showing rapid improvement," Coach Joel Gershon said.
Arturo Hernandez, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound junior defensive tackle, is becoming an especially fine player. Hernandez is the brother of former Raiders Fernando Hernandez, now at Eastern Oregon, and Carlos Hernandez, a sophomore lineman at Moorpark College.
Gershon said that defensive ends Al DeLaCerda, Randy Corona, John Garcia and Augustine Baroso are also playing well.
Long distance hook-up: Besides a potent running game that has racked up 670 yards, Channel Islands boasts one of the premier big-play passing combinations in the county. Quarterback Mark Contreras has connected with wide receiver Shawn Young 15 times for 366 yards and five touchdowns. Young averages 24.4 yards a catch.
It's a combination that goes way back.
"Contreras and Young have worked together for about six years," Gershon said. "They won a flag football title in junior high and they are both three-year varsity players. They have a close relationship on and off the field."
Young, in Gershon's view, is a tremendous all-around receiver.
"He's very fluid and difficult to cover," he said. "He goes to the ball with great courage and he has great hands."
Deceptive numbers: Ventura College's 40-0 win Saturday at West L.A. wasn't the statistical fiesta it could have been.
The Pirates scored during their first three series and led, 28-0, in the first quarter. Coach Phil Passno emptied his bench, and 11 Ventura running backs carried the ball and seven Pirates caught passes. Also, the clock wasn't stopped in the second half.
"We weren't building stats, but the important stat is the W," Passno said.
Several players missed Saturday's game because of injuries or disciplinary action.