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Arellanes Finding a Lot to Smile About at Valley : JC football: Transfer quarterback becomes WSC's leading passer for undefeated Monarchs.


VAN NUYS — Every chance he gets, Jim Arellanes laughs.

Tell him a silly little story and he breaks up. Throw a marginally amusing anecdote his way and there he goes again. Crack a joke and, well, forget it.

It's the contagious glee of someone basking in life's sunny side.

Arellanes has gone from near-neglect at Northern Arizona, where he redshirted one season and played infrequently the next, to overnight stardom at Valley College.

"Oh, yeah. It's been good, definitely," he said.

For the past two months, Arellanes has been one of the top quarterbacks in the state and the catalyst of the nationally ranked Valley team that is bidding for an unbeaten season.

He has shredded opposing defenses by executing the run-and-shoot--an offense unfamiliar to him until this season--with remarkable precision.

After seven games, Arellanes leads the Western State Conference with 2,082 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and a 61.4% completion rate (143 of 233). He averages 297.4 yards passing and with three conference games remaining and an anticipated bowl appearance, Arellanes is on track to surpass the school single-season mark of 3,134 yards passing set last year by Sean Fitzgerald.

But before he even begins to think about that, Arellanes has more pressing matters at hand.

The Monarchs (7-0 overall and in the WSC), ranked fourth in California and ninth in the country by USA Today, will face their stiffest test tonight at 7 when they play host to Bakersfield (6-1, 5-1), ranked ninth in the state and 17th in the nation. Each is 3-0 in South Division games and the outcome probably will determine the division champion.

It will be the first encounter with Bakersfield for Arellanes (6 feet 4, 212 pounds), yet he claims not to feel any added pressure even though the Renegades are two-time defending division champions and a traditional power. Valley, in fact, has a 12-game losing streak against Bakersfield.

"We know what we can do," Arellanes said. "We have an attitude that nobody can stop us if we execute."

Many have tried to halt Arellanes and the Monarchs this year but none have succeeded.

There was Santa Barbara, for instance, in the opener. Arellanes riddled the Vaqueros for 402 yards passing and three touchdowns in a 41-24 victory. Against Hancock three weeks later, he threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-25 victory. Later, in a 28-14 victory over Moorpark, Arellanes was 29 of 51 for 379 yards and three touchdowns.

Arellanes has been so consistent that he didn't threw an interception until the fifth game and more than 130 pass attempts. Altogether, he has been picked off three times.

"We provided an opportunity and he has worked hard," said Jim Fenwick, the Valley coach. "He has been a gem as far as coaching because he is willing to learn."

Always a quick study who excelled in football, basketball and baseball at El Rancho High in Pico Rivera, Arellanes accepted a scholarship to Northern Arizona in 1991 after passing for 1,545 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior season. But he soon realized Flagstaff was not for him.

"When they recruited me, they said I would have an opportunity to start," Arellanes said.

But that turned out not to be the case. When senior John Bonds was injured last season, freshman Jeff Lewis became the starter ahead of Arellanes.

"I thought it would be best for me to go elsewhere," Arellanes said.

Arellanes transferred to Valley after Steve Axman, the Northern Arizona coach, recommended him to Fenwick. In his first few spring practices, Arellanes wondered whether he would adjust to the run-and-shoot quick enough to battle Davis Delmatoff for the starting position. At El Rancho, Arellanes had worked from the wing-T formation and Delmatoff, who transferred from Pierce after passing for 1,961 yards last season, knew the run-and-shoot well from his days at Hart High.

To compound things, people compared him to Fitzgerald, the former Agoura High quarterback now at Pittsburgh. Fitzgerald led the Monarchs to a 9-2 record and a last-second, 21-19 victory over Moorpark in the Western State K-Swiss Bowl.

"It kind of got to the point where there was a little bit of pressure," Arellanes said. "Everyone thought everything would be like last year, without missing a beat."

So far, it has turned out better than than.

"He puts the ball basically where the defensive back is not going to catch it," said Brian Comer, the school's career leader in receptions with 107.

Arellanes hopes that his play will earn him another shot at a Division I program. He says Memphis is pursuing him and that other schools have shown interest. His goal is to move on after the season, like Fitzgerald did last year.

"I was hoping I could come in here and put up the good numbers," Arellanes said. "I thought there would be attention here from recruiters because of Sean."

There is, and that's reason for Arellanes to laugh some more.

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