Ventura College could not have had a more convenient schedule if Coach Phil Passno had written it himself.
Just when the Pirates were struggling after 2 consecutive losses, along came West Los Angeles and Pierce.
Ventura outscored the 2 schools, 95-10, to snap out of its doldrums. Coming off those victories, the Pirates (3-2, 2-2) have renewed confidence and expect to contend in the Western State Conference Northern Division.
"We're looking at those wins as a springboard for us," Passno said. "Playing those teams allowed us to put in some things on offense and see how they work."
Passno is going with 2 running backs now instead of the single-back offense.
The emergence of Wayne Jones, who missed the first 2 games because of an injured shoulder, prompted Passno to adjust his offense.
Jones is 1 of the main reasons for Ventura's recent success. He scored 2 touchdowns and gained 137 yards in 23 carries against Pierce and has gained 230 yards in 40 carries and scored 4 touchdowns in the past 2 games.
Ventura had 419 total yards, including 206 yards rushing in its 42-10 victory over Pierce.
Jones leads the team in rushing with 275 yards in 48 carries. Sophomore Terrell Smith, who has been playing despite a sprained ankle, has 203 yards in 48 carries.
"The emergence of Wayne Jones has really made a difference," Passno said. "Jones is a very determined, smart player. His advantage is that he hits the hole extremely fast."
The consistent passing of sophomore quarterback Juan Moreno also has bolstered Ventura. Moreno has completed 63 of 117 passes for 782 yards and 5 touchdowns and thrown 7 interceptions.
The Pirates also have a strong backup quarterback in freshman Todd Paffhausen of Butte, Mont.
Paffhausen had his best outing against Pierce, completing 5 of 6 passes for 53 yards. He is 14 of 32 for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Moreno and Paffhausen offer Ventura contrasting styles at quarterback.
Moreno stays in the pocket; Paffhausen runs more and moves around in the backfield.
"We want to play off their different styles more in the second half, if we get the opportunity," Passno said.
The biggest difference over last season, however, is the leadership provided by Ventura's sophomores, Passno said.
Ventura averages 349.6 yards a game and the Pirate defense has given up an average of 180.6 yards a game.
Ventura will need consistency going into its final 5 games against powerhouse teams such as Moorpark and Glendale.
The Pirates play at Santa Barbara City College, their first WSC Northern Division opponent, on Saturday. Santa Barbara defeated Ventura, 16-13, last year. The 23-game series is tied, 11-11-1.
Passno said Ventura cannot lose another game and still contend for the division title.
"I feel like everybody is looking at the opening game as a way of getting back into the race," Passno said. "We're healthy now and I feel like we're in it for a division title."