Respect has been slow in coming to the Rancho Santiago College football team this season despite its position among the five undefeated community college football teams in Southern California.
Part of the Dons’ problem in the early going was their weak schedule. Rancho Santiago went 4-0-1 against teams with a combined record of 10-21-1. Only Long Beach, which tied Rancho Santiago, 17-17, is better than .500.
Rancho Santiago did gather a measure of respect with a 36-22 victory over Riverside (4-2 overall) last Saturday.
“Not to slight anyone’s program, but there is no question our schedule helped us to this start,” Rancho Santiago Coach Dave Ogas said. “We were able to get some things going the right way from the start and we built on it each week.”
Rancho Santiago (5-0-1 overall and 4-0-1 in Mission Conference play) plays at 7 tonight against Golden West (3-2-1, 2-2-1) at Santa Ana Stadium. Rancho Santiago is 1-0 in Central Division play, and Golden West is 0-1.
Rancho Santiago entered the Southland Poll for the first time 3 weeks ago as the No. 9 team, but has moved up to No. 4. The Dons also are ranked No. 17 in the J.C. Grid-Wire poll. It’s the first time the Dons have been in the top 20 in the nation in 7 years under Ogas.
“I thought I would hear more about the ranking from the kids than I have,” Ogas said. “But no one is talking much about it. But it’s nice because it shows what we have accomplished so far. We just need to try and stay calm and focus on what we have to do this week.”
Rancho Santiago is leading the conference in total offense, averaging 404 yard a game. The Dons are showing good balance with 194 yards per game rushing and 210 yards per game passing.
In other Mission Conference Central Division games:
Orange Coast at Fullerton, 7 p.m.--OCC’s impressive defense will gets a serious test. OCC is second in total defense, allowing 229 yards a game. But the OCC offense has done little to help, gaining 228 yards a game.
Fullerton, the top-ranked team in Southern California, second in the state and fourth in the nation, is impressive at moving the ball and stopping opponents. Fullerton (374 yards) is second in the conference in total offense and No. 1 in total defense (227 yards).
Saddleback at Riverside, 7 p.m.--Saddleback’s improving defense has moved from 16th to 11th in the conference in the last 2 weeks. “The defense played better,” Saddleback Coach Ken Swearingen said after a 19-17 victory over OCC, “but with Riverside, we need to get our run-defense playing well.”
Riverside favors the run to the point that quarterback Randy Payne leads the conference with 9 rushing touchdowns. Payne is 34 of 80 for 776 yards and 4 touchdowns passing and has run for 287 yards in 78 carries.