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Wilson's Recovery Complete


The fact that Ernie Wilson of Rancho Santiago was healthy enough to play last week was as surprising to Coach Dave Ogas as it was to trainer Gary Kinney.

Wilson wasn't shocked at all when he took the field against Riverside.

The doubt started in the Dons' Sept. 24 game against Palomar at San Marcos High School. Wilson, a sophomore running back, took a direct hit on his left knee from a helmet. He was hit from behind at the same time, so his knee didn't give at all. Kinney and his staff rushed onto the field, but Wilson was able to stand.

"I got up and walked to the sideline," Wilson said. "It didn't seem like it was hurt that bad."

But the sideline diagnosis wasn't encouraging.

It was estimated that Wilson would miss at least two, most likely four, and possibly six weeks. But two days after the injury, Wilson was able to jog and had full flexibility of his knee with no pain.

He wore a brace for a week and missed the Long Beach game the next week, but he returned last Saturday. He gained 112 yards and scored two touchdowns as Rancho Santiago won, 47-24.

"I just want to contribute," said Wilson, 20. "I know they wouldn't miss me. We have some good backs and the line is doing a great job."

The Dons average 237 yards per game rushing, second best in the Mission Conference. Wilson leads with 305 yards. Kevin Pola has 244, including 103 against Riverside. Ace Riggins, who replaced Wilson, has 173 yards rushing, including a 74-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game against Riverside.

"This is the best backfield I've ever been part of," said Wilson, a three-sport standout at El Modena.

Although not afraid to take on a defender, Wilson is better known for his speed. He gained 815 yards as a freshman last season but also was a standout kickoff returner. He returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown this season.

Last spring, Wilson was part of the Dons' 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams that won Orange Empire Conference titles.

In today's Mission Conference Central Division games:

Golden West (1-3-1, 1-0) vs. Rancho Santiago (3-1, 1-0), Santa Ana Stadium, 1:30 p.m.--Rancho Santiago, which started the season unranked in any poll, is third in Southern California and ranked 18th in the nation by the J.C. Grid-Wire. The Dons piled up 610 yards in total offense in a 47-24 loss to Riverside last Saturday. Golden West broke out of an early-season tailspin with a 7-6 victory over Orange Coast. Mark Crowley of Golden West rushed for a career-high 147 yards against OCC.

Saddleback (0-3-1, 0-0-1) vs. Fullerton (1-2-1, 0-0), Fullerton District Stadium, 7 p.m.--Fullerton moves back to its former home field for homecoming. The Hornets have been playing at Cal State Fullerton for the last three seasons. Saddleback leads the all-time series, 5-4, winning the last four. Fullerton wide receiver Steve Correa has 25 catches for 480 yards and two touchdowns. Saddleback defensive backs Scott Patton and James Ligons each have three interceptions.

Orange Coast (0-4) at San Diego Mesa (2-2), 6 p.m.--OCC running back Jeff Clayton needs six yards to become the Pirates' all-time rushing leader. He has 1,868 yards and has had more than 100 yards in 10 of his 15 games in two seasons at OCC. The Pirates have beaten San Diego Mesa four of five times under Coach Bill Workman.

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