It isn’t the new conference that has Fullerton College Coach Hal Sherbeck concerned. It’s all the new faces.
The Hornets, who will be playing in the revived South Coast Conference because the Pacific-9 was disbanded, return only two starters and 18 lettermen from a 1985 team that went 8-3, won the conference title and earned a berth in the PONY Bowl, where they lost to eventual co-national champion Saddleback.
This is about the closest Fullerton, 46-7-1 with four bowl appearances since 1981, will come to a rebuilding year. And it’s why Sherbeck, 57, who is one victory short of 200 as he begins his 26th year at the school, is picking his team to finish fourth behind Cerritos, El Camino and Pasadena City.
“This is the most inexperienced we’ve been in a long, long time,” Sherbeck said. “We lost a lot of people, a lot of good people. The group we have now has a good attitude, but they have a lot of work to do before they become a good football team. We’re going to have to be patient with them.”
Despite the lack of experience, Sherbeck admits that the Hornets still could contend for the conference title if some of the newcomers develop and if sophomore quarterback Richard Williams, the only returning starter on offense, has a big year.
Williams (6-feet 1-inch, 180 pounds) shared playing time with Mike Zorn last year but he still managed to complete 70 of 118 attempts for 1,173 yards and 4 touchdowns.
He will have several talented receivers to throw to, including sophomores Earl Jones (5-9, 177), Jason Franklin (6-4, 205) and Scott Prochaska (6-0, 180). The trio makes up what Sherbeck said may be his best receiving corps ever.
Fullerton’s running game doesn’t seem as formidable as it has in the past. John Green, who rushed for 1,033 yards last year, the third-best season total in Fullerton history, is gone. Sophomores Charlie Santagado (5-10, 190) and Robbie Stamps (6-0, 180), a transfer from Riverside City, will try to replace him.
Gone, too, are All-Pacific-9 offensive linemen John Katnik, Mike Knutson and Steve Anderson, but Sherbeck says the line could be a strength for the Hornets. Guard Phil Nauahi (6-3, 245), who played a lot last year, will be joined by former La Habra High School star Craig Lashley (6-3, 265), Russ Stange (6-6, 240), Paul Yunigez (6-3, 257) and Lance Roney (6-0, 235).
Sherbeck isn’t sure how well the Hornets will be able to stop the run, but he is confident that they’ll play well against the pass. The other returning starter is safety Jeff Mahlstede (6-3, 195).
Over the years, Fullerton has been known for its strong defensive lines, but Sherbeck says that “we’re a little thin there this year.”
Last year, Fullerton got off to its worst start in 23 years by losing two of its first three games. Then the Hornets rallied to win seven straight, including a 20-6 victory over defending national champion Taft at Taft, to win the conference.
“Our start last year made us have to push extremely hard to win the championship,” he said. “It made things difficult and we were all beat by the end of the year.
“I want to get off right this year, or who knows, the fans might start saying that Sherbeck is getting too old.”
South Coast Conference Notes There isn’t a consensus on a conference favorite, but Cerritos and El Camino appear to be the teams to beat. Cerritos, 6-2-1 last year, returns four starters on offense and four on defense, plus several sophomores who saw considerable playing time as reserves. “With only eight starters, you wouldn’t think we are very experienced, but we are,” ninth-year Falcon Coach Frank Mazzotta said. “We have a lot of guys who played a lot last year even though they weren’t starters.” As usual, Cerritos is expected to have a strong defense. Among the returning starters are tackle Scott Zowada (6-3, 260), linebacker Chris Nichols (6-2, 220) and safety Rick Castillo (5-11, 175). A surprise addition is sophomore linebacker Larry Muno (6-2, 225), a transfer from Taft. Freshman Andre Wooten (5-10, 180) and sophomore Sidney Simpers (5-11, 185) are two of several talented Cerritos running backs. Sophomore quarterback Stuart Betty (5-11, 165) will be protected by a big offensive line that includes sophomore tackles Anthony Pena (6-6, 295) and Darren Bruce (6-4, 265).
El Camino, 5-5 last season in Coach John Featherstone’s first year, returns seven starters on offense. The Warriors, who employ a sophisticated passing offense, have three good sophomore receivers in Mike Wimberly (5-9, 180), who had 57 receptions last year; Shawn Hodges (6-3, 180) and Tony Nettles (5-11, 177). The quarterback will be redshirt sophomore Craig Kennedy (6-0, 185), who played at Katella High School. El Camino has a large veteran offensive line anchored by tackle Keith Gibson (6-3, 265). Sophomore fullback Vea Manu (5-10, 235) and freshman Earl Saunders (6-1, 185), the City’s 4-A Player of the Year in 1985 at Banning High, will give the Warriors a formidable running game.
Taft and Bakersfield are no longer in the same conference as Fullerton, but the Hornets will still face both this year because they couldn’t find anyone else to play. Fullerton plays at home against Taft (the national champion in 1982 and 1984) on Sept. 27 and then travels to Bakersfield the next week. Fullerton Coach Hal Sherbeck said, “The schedule is no easier--it’s just that Bakersfield and Taft are no longer conference games.” . . . Pasadena City, which opened last year with three losses before winning six of its last seven, is playing another tough nonconference schedule. Coach Bill Sandstrom’s Lancers’ nonconference opponents include perennial power Tyler, Tex., and Glendale, which defeated Taft last season in the Potato Bowl. . . . Long Beach City, coming off a 1-8-1 year, should have a strong running game. Returning is sophomore Stephen Shaw (6-2, 220), the former Santa Ana High School star who rushed for 425 yards and 3 touchdowns last year. Sophomore linebacker Derek Santifer (6-3, 220) should be the Vikings’ top defensive player. . . . Fullerton, which doesn’t have a roster limit, suited up 122 players the first week of practice. Golden West suited up 95.
Coach: Hal Sherbeck, 26th season
Career Record: 199-53-6
1985 Record: 8-3
Returning Starters: offense-2, defense-1
Returning lettermen: 18
Sept. 20--Rancho Santiago
Oct. 4--at Bakersfield
Oct. 11--x Long Beach City
Oct. 18--x at Mt. San Antonio
Oct. 25--x El Camino
Nov. 1--x at Cerritos
Nov. 8--x Golden West
Nov. 15--x at Compton (1:30 p.m.)
Nov. 22--x at Pasadena City
x--South Coast Conference game
Home field: Fullerton District Stadium