For the first half of the season the Glendale Community College football team's mantra has been improvement from week to week.
There's certainly been progress, as the Vaqueros' two wins so far have already matched the team's win total of the previous two seasons combined, but it's on the heels of back-to-back losses that Glendale enters its bye week with a record of 2-3 and 0-2 in the Pacific Conference American Division.
Still it's with a glass-half-full attitude that the Vaqueros are approaching the week in which they've had a chance to heal up while reflecting on the past five weeks and looking ahead to the home stretch of conference games, as even the team's losses have offered glimpses of things to build on.
"We have felt that even though we had a two-game slide, we felt that those teams were the top two team in our conference," said Glendale Coach Rome, whose team has opened conference with losses to Antelope Valley and defending-champion Santa Monica by a combined 15 points. "We wanted to use those teams as a yardstick and wanted to know how well we could compete with them and of course we competed very well with both of them.
"We feel we can use this week to take a big step forward."
Glendale came tantalizingly close to knocking off Santa Monica, ranked 20th in Southern California, in its last game on Sept. 29 when sophomore running back Collin Keoshian was stopped feet short of a first down that would have continued the Vaqueros' attempted go-ahead drive deep in Corsairs territory inside the final two minutes.
"I think we've done really well," said Keoshian, one of the team's expected cornerstones going into the season, yet one of its biggest surprises, as well, as he leads the conference in rushing (140 yards per game) and rushing touchdowns (eight). "Our losses have been really close. We beat ourselves in those games."
By using this week to tie up the loose ends and get some much needed rest, the Vaqueros hope to hit the ground running refreshed when the season resumes at 6 p.m. on Saturday against West Los Angeles at Sartoris Field.
"You have to kind of balance [practice]," Rome said. "You certainly want to get healthy, you certainly don't want to bang your kids around, especially when you don't have a lot of them. What we wanted to do was get our freshmen more acclimated to the techniques that we teach and get their fundamentals of the game a little bit stronger going into the second half of the season."
Added Keoshian: "We want to make sure we don't make any more mistakes. Penalties have killed us."
Indeed, flags have been an issue for Glendale, which is averaging over 100 yards in penalties per game, which the Vaqueros can ill afford on the offensive side where the team averages just over 280 yards of total offense per game. The team had a whooping 173 yards of penalties levied against them versus Santa Monica.
One obvious strength has been the running game, which has been solid and is ranked 17th overall (917 yards) and 10th in the conference (332). The passing game looks to be improving bit by bit as freshman Nick Blackmon settles into the quarterback role. He has only been intercepted twice and was a tidy 11 of 22 for 142 yards and two touchdowns against Santa Monica, but the Vaqueros still average less than 100 yards passing per game.
"We need to build on the running game," Keoshian said. "Our offensive line has been great and our defense is slowly building up, too."