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Rancho Alamitos' Line Pulls Its Weight, and Then Some : Football: Front men are large, athletic and the big reason the Vaquero running backs have so much success.

September 16, 1993|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GARDEN GROVE — The photographer was having a difficult time including all five large bodies and the coach in the frame. So he'd fidget with his camera before every shot and ask the large bodies if they wouldn't mind squeezing in a little closer.

But the coach, who was having a hard time wiping the smile off his face, didn't seem to mind that he was beginning to sweat or that the photo session was cutting into practice time. For this, Dean Jacobs, Rancho Alamitos' offensive and defensive line coach, could wait.

Jacobs, who played on the offensive line at Rancho Alamitos in the mid-1980s, knows linemen don't get opportunities like this often.

Running backs have received much of the attention at Rancho Alamitos, largely because Vaquero backs have won three Orange County rushing titles in four seasons.

In that time, the offensive line has been overlooked but never underappreciated. But this year, the line is kind of hard to overlook, or look over, or even look around.

They average 6 feet 1, 261 pounds, but Jacobs warns that they are not just a bunch of big lugs. True, they do enjoy eating a good meal, but Jacobs said his line actually spends more time in the weight room than at the dinner table.

For two players, the hard work is paying off. Left tackle Jeremiah Ross (6-5, 280) and left guard Adam Maldonado (5-11, 230) are being recruited by many Division I colleges on the West Coast. Maldonado, an All-Southern Section selection last year, is being recruited as a defensive player.

The others--center Justin Volkmann (6-1, 250), right guard Jose Bolanos (6-1, 225) and right tackle Nestor Alvarez (6-0, 320)--have a chance to be noticed if the holes remain as large as they were last week. Three Vaquero running backs combined for 258 yards in a 27-17 opening-game victory over Troy.

Jacobs, who has been line coach the last five years, was beginning to wonder if anyone would ever realize why the Rancho Alamitos backs ran for so many yards.

"The guys up front are usually overshadowed," he said. "Nobody's ever taken the time before to look at them. I asked a (reporter) once to take a look at our line, and he said, 'I don't think anybody would be interested in that.' "

Jacobs and first-year Coach Doug Case think so much of this year's line that they have already named them, "The Herd."

Friday, the Rancho Alamitos student body will be formally introduced to "The Herd" at a pep assembly.

"We're going to bring them out there with cowshirts and cowbells," Jacobs said.

"Yeah, they don't know that yet," Case yelled from his office.

Jacobs said he's confident his guys will take the publicity stunt in stride.

"They kind of like it," he said. "They know they're huge, so they're kind of into that now."

The biggest of the bunch is Alvarez, the only junior of the group. For once, Alvarez said he doesn't have to worry about being called "fat."

"It's nice for a change," he said. "But I've always been big. You get used to the kidding. You don't listen after awhile."

But Ross acknowledged that the line's girth is an advantage, but it's not enough these days.

"We're big, but we're athletic," said Ross, who also starts on the basketball team and puts the shot. "That's what separates us. Most big lines will just come at you, but they can't move around. We work on our footwork all summer. I believe we work the hardest of anyone on the team. We put in the time in the weight room during the off-season."

Ross said everything is done together.

"I feel like our whole football team's a family, but then our line's a family inside a family," he said.

The family also plays on the other side of the ball. Ross starts at defensive tackle, Maldonado at linebacker, and Volkmann and Bolanos split time at defensive tackle. With only 26 healthy players on the Vaqueros' roster, the five linemen account for eight of the 22 starting positions.

"By having one, it's like having two," Case said. "But then if I lose one to injury, it's like losing two."

If any of the starters go down with an injury, Case said he has capable backups in senior Steve Perez (5-11, 180) and junior Jose Castro (6-1, 200), who obviously have missed out on some of the group meals.

What about the meals? Any favorite courses?

"I just eat," Ross said. "I never thought about enjoying it or anything. If it's good, I eat it."

Said Alvarez: "I just like home cookin', all Mexican dishes."

Jacobs said he has never seen one of his linemen turn down a Big Mac either.

"Half the time, I have to feed them," he said. "They have a steady diet of Big Macs. I've probably spent half my check over the last four years buying Big Macs for these hosses."

Jacobs awards his players Big Macs for sacks, fumble recoveries, batted-down passes and for not allowing sacks.

"I'll get these guys coming off the sidelines saying, 'You owe me two Big Macs,' " Jacobs said.

Said Ross: "I'm not going out there to get a sack for a Big Mac. I'm going out there because I want that sack. But it's a nice little added incentive."

No Big Macs were given to the offensive line after last week's game, in which sophomore quarterback John Frank was sacked four times.

"Troy was small and quick and they blitzed their linebackers," Jacobs said. "We like to play a team that's about our size. If we match up with someone our size, we're going to dominate the line of scrimmage."

Jacobs said Friday's opponent, Costa Mesa, will be a better size matchup. But Jacobs doubts whether another Rancho Alamitos line will ever match up with this year's group.

"It seems like the last few years, everyone has gotten bigger, but I think this one is going to top it out," Jacobs said.

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