On paper, the Glendale College football team improved Tuesday.
The Vaqueros climbed to fifth in the state poll by the J.C. Athletic Bureau after beating Santa Monica College 21-17 last Saturday night..
Moving one notch closer to being the best community college football team in California is nice, but coach Jim Sartoris keeps the big picture in focus.
"They (ratings) don't help you win championships or beat opponents," Sartoris said. "We know that ratings are for publicity purposes."
That doesn't mean Sartoris is embarrassed to have the Vaqueros rated among the state's elite.
"We're a smaller school than many community colleges in the state, so it's nice to get that recognition," he said. "It's just a matter of emphasis. We talk to our team about the reality of the situation and emphasize that we have to play good football."
Plenty of Offense
And Glendale is doing just that.
It has outscored the opposition 188-81, roughly an average of 38-16.
The offense has generated 2,026 total yards in 361 plays for an average gain of 5.6 yards.
On defense, the Vaqueros have allowed 1,116 yards on 293 plays.
In addition, they have four more take-aways than turnovers, including two fumble recoveries that led to come-from-behind victories.
All of which adds up to a 5-0 record.
"If you're going to win five games without a loss, you're going to have to have some luck along the way," Sartoris said. "But we don't feel that lucky."
Yet there have been two close calls.
Against Valley College in the second week of the season, Glendale trailed 15-0 after three quarters. Then it got interesting.
Seized the Opportunities
The Monarchs fumbled twice in the fourth period, leading Glendale to a pair of touchdowns and a 16-15 lead.
Valley regrouped on its final possession and drove to the Vaquero 16. On third down, Coach Chuck Ferrero called for a run up the middle to set up the game-winning field goal.
His plan went awry when the snap from center went through quarterback Neisoa Morris' legs. Tailback Elvin Ware ran down the ball and looked to pass.
He found Glendale linebacker Bill Stokes, who returned the interception for a touchdown to cap a 23-15 Vaquero victory.
"It was a dead-even deal," Ferrero said of the game. "We were two dead-even teams, but we turned the ball over in the fourth quarter and they capitalized."
A late turnover last week against Santa Monica also allowed Glendale to remain unbeaten.
Was It Luck?
Trailing 17-14 with just more than one minute remaining in the game, the Vaqueros prepared for one last drive as the Corsairs went into punt formation.
The drive turned into a short one when the snap from center was fumbled and Glendale recovered at the Santa Monica one. Tailback Kevin Sterling scored the winning touchdown on the next play.
Sartoris offered no excuse for good luck.
"It all evens out," he said. "Santa Monica had gone ahead on a long desperation pass that we were in position to intercept but mistimed. So we don't feel that lucky."
There was no luck involved in Glendale's other three victories.
In between the come-from-behind wins, the Vaqueros outscored Antelope Valley and Rio Hondo by a combined 106-37. The other win was a 38-14 job on Pierce in the season-opener.
Wear Teams Down
Big wins. Big numbers. Big team.
"If you can't stay in there physically with Glendale, they will just wear you down," Ferrero said. "Pierce and we are about the only ones they've played who have been able to do that.
"They have some big, strong players on offense, and on defense their front seven are very good players."
The pillar of Glendale's high-powered offense is the line where sophomores Dan Waters, Robert DosRemedios, Brian Manley, Mark VanKempen and Jeff Brown average 6-2, 240 pounds.
The baby of the group, freshman Bill Schultz from Kennedy High of Granada Hills, is 6-5, 290.
"They are the strength of our offense," Sartoris said. "They allow us to do a lot of things you've got to have to be good on offense."
Frosh at Quarterback
The line also makes up for a relative lack of experience elsewhere on offense, where three starters are in their first seasons.
At the helm is Rob Huffman, a freshman from Verdugo Hills who has thrown for 792 yards and 7 touchdowns to exceed Sartoris' expectations.
"I didn't think we'd have that much early success because whenever you go with freshman, it usually takes a while for them to adjust," the coach said. "But our experience in the offensive line has allowed the freshmen in the backfield to perform."
The other freshman in the backfield is Sterling, but he's no youngster. Originally from New Jersey, Sterling is 25 years old.
"He had been working for about three to four years, and when he moved to California, he decided that he didn't have football out of his blood yet," Sartoris said. "He ran in our track program last year and told me he wanted to give football another shot."
Scored 7 Touchdowns
Instead, Sterling has given the Glendale offense a sense of balance, rushing for 310 yards and 7 touchdowns on 67 carries.
Sophomore Jeff Jackson is in his third year in the Vaquero program, but it is only his first season as a wide receiver. After two injury-filled seasons as a defensive back, Jackson was moved to offense to save wear and tear on his body.
He has responded with a team-leading 20 catches for 457 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman Doug Hooker is next with 18 receptions for 265 yards and four touchdowns.
The big-play capability of the offense has put Sartoris in a unique position. Whereas some defenses are overworked because the offense doesn't produce, the Glendale defense gets plenty of work because its offense scores so fast at times.
"We score a lot of points and that gets us some headlines," Sartoris said. "But the defense is what keeps us in there and gives us the opportunity to win."
Hail the Defense
Linebacker Stokes keys the Vaquero defense, with support from sophomore cornerbacks Carver Russaw and Nate Harris and linemen Sean Williams (6-5, 230 pounds) and John Bavaro (6-2, 25) of La Canada High.
It is a group Sartoris believes will play a big role in Glendale's drive for a fifth conference championship in eight years.
"You get headlines with offense, you win championships with defense," he said.
With both, Glendale is getting better ratings--and rave reviews.
"They just don't make a lot of mistakes," said Pierce Coach Jim Fenwick. "They do a little bit of everything, and being a mature team, they know where they are going."
With each victory, the direction is straight up--in the polls. The ascension also increases the pressure to win.
"One thing it does do is make us, as players and coaches, realize that when you're rated high, everyone plays their best against you," Sartoris said. "Another team can get recognition if they beat a rated team, so we have to be prepared every week.
"It's going to be a battle every week. It's just a matter of whether we can handle the pressure."
Not to mention the ratings.