Occidental College’s football team, on top of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings 5 weeks into the season, has bordered on overwhelming with 4 consecutive victories, including a 70-16 win over Pomona-Pitzer Saturday.
In addition, the point total against Pomona-Pitzer was the most Occidental scored against the Sagehens since the series began in 1895 and the most Occidental scored in any game since it defeated Caltech, 75-0, in 1959.
It was the most points Occidental has scored in a game in Dale Widolff’s 7 seasons as coach.
With eight starters on defense and three top running backs returning from last year’s SCIAC co-championship team, Widolff may have seen this coming. “You could say I’m pleased, but I’m not surprised,” he says of his team, which is 4-1 overall and 4-0 in conference.
In their first 5 games, the Tigers have outscored their opponents, 141-46, and have a 128-29 difference in conference play. They also lead the conference in total offense at 317.8 yards a game and total rushing at 230.8 and are second in total defense at 239.6.
But Widolff said he isn’t quite ready to place this year’s team on the level as the teams that made the Division III playoffs from 1983-85.
“In terms of being as good as some of the teams that made the playoffs, the jury is still out,” he said. “We haven’t done what they’ve done yet.”
The coach said he was encouraged by his team’s offensive performance despite a 17-13 season-opening loss to defensively strong Azusa Pacific on Sept. 10.
“I was encouraged in that I thought they (Azusa Pacific) were a very good defensive team and our offense did a good job,” he said. “I was disappointed that we didn’t win but pleased with the way we played.”
Occidental has been unbeatable since then and Widolff said the success has a lot to do with its running game, which returned tailbacks Mike Sandlin and Kevin Vegas and fullback George Conahey.
Vegas, a reserve, is leading the conference in rushing with 405 yards and 5 touchdowns after a 203-yard effort against Pomona-Pitzer, and Conahey is fourth with 343 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Tigers do not pass much, but they have an accurate quarterback in Tony Werbelow, who has completed 31 of 44 passes for 405 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions.
Occidental has a plus-12 turnover rating with only 3 fumbles in its first 5 games. “We’ve been pretty consistent,” Widolff said. “We haven’t beaten ourselves and we don’t have any glaring weaknesses.
“If you ask the coaches we played what our weaknesses are you’d probably get five different answers and if you asked them what our strengths are you’d probably get five different answers.”
While the coach says he is pleased with his team’s start, he is quick to add that the toughest part of Occidental’s schedule is ahead. “We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “We’ve got four of our hardest games yet to go.”
The Tigers, who are not ranked in Division III but are listed No. 6 in the Division III West Region, face the University of San Diego Saturday and Menlo, Redlands and Whittier in their last 3 games.
“Basically I’m of the opinion that if we win the rest of our games, we’ll make the playoffs and if we lose we’re out,” Widolff said. “That’s one of the tough things about small-college football.
“There are over 200 Division III teams, and only 16 make the playoffs. If you lose more than one game, you’re probably out.”
Not to mention that it has been difficult for West Coast teams to receive high rankings.
“There’s an image (in Division III) that they play good football only in the Midwest and East, and out here it’s not the same,” Widolff said.
But the coach is hoping that the continued success of his team will bring about a change in attitude.
Cal State Dominguez Hills men’s soccer team wasn’t helping itself.
The Toros spotted Cal Poly Pomona a 2-0 lead midway through the first half last week when defender Martin Mira was ejected from the game with a red card.
That meant Dominguez Hills would have to play the rest of the game at a 10-on-11 disadvantage.
But in the second half it didn’t look like a handicap.
First, midfielder Joe Flanagan scored twice to tie the game.
Then, after Pomona lost one of its players because of a red card late in the second half, midfielder Pat Fitzgerald booted in the winning goal 7 minutes into overtime.
The ending was even more unlikely considering that it was Fitzgerald’s first goal ever at Dominguez Hills. But the unusual was the pattern for this game.
The Occidental men’s soccer victory, 1-0, Saturday was its first over Claremont in the last 6 seasons.
The Stags have a 68-2-2 SCIAC record over the last 6 years and have won or shared the title in each of those seasons. Claremont entered the match ranked No. 12 in the NCAA Division III.
While Occidental’s football team has flourished this season, Claremont-Mudd has struggled. The Stags, who won the SCIAC title in 1986 and were co-champions with Occidental last season, are off to an 0-5 start including a 20-17 loss to La Verne Saturday. . . . Nick Mateljan of UC Riverside defeated Mark Hansen of Saddleback College in two straight sets to win the college division title of the Rolex-Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn. Region 8 Championship at Pomona College last week. The win qualified Mateljan for the national college division finals Feb. 14 in Minneapolis. . . . Kevin Wilson, who has been coach of the Chapman men’s basketball team the last 4 years, has announced that he will resign after next season. Wilson’s resignation will take effect Aug. 31, 1989. Wilson, 40, has a 51-59 record at Chapman including a 16-11 mark last season. . . . Steve Clark, a former assistant coach at UC Davis and UC Irvine, has been named men’s tennis coach at Chapman. He replaces Mike Edles, who resigned to accept a similar position at Cal State Hayward. . . . After its best start, a 10-0-1 overall record and 2-0 in the CCAA, the Cal State Bakersfield men’s soccer team lost conference matches to Cal State Northridge and first-place Cal Poly San Luis Obispo last week. . . . Defending champion Portland State stayed alone in first place in the Western Football Conference with a one-sided 45-13 victory over Cal State Northridge on Saturday. Portland State (3-2-1) was ranked No. 11 in the NCAA Division II entering the game and Northridge (5-2) was No. 6.