No. 5 Warriors Hit the Trail for the Pony Bowl
El Camino couldn’t manage another undefeated season or earn a chance at another state football title, but the Warriors are willing to settle for a victory in Saturday’s 7 p.m. Pony Bowl game against Saddleback at Orange Coast College.
If the No. 5 ranked Warriors beat No. 12 Saddleback, the runner-up in the Mission Conference central division, they end the season with seven straight wins.
El Camino ended the regular season with an 8-1-1 overall record (7-1-1 in conference) and went undefeated (4-0) in the northern division after a 21-17 victory over Cerritos.
“Lots of people compare last year’s team to this year’s,” said El Camino Coach John Featherstone. “We have a lot of good, solid and hard working kids, but we’re not as good as last year.” Featherstone says they have to play well “because when you’re the defending state champ, everybody wants to kick your fanny.”
And Saddleback will if the Warriors aren’t in top form. The Gauchos (8-2, 7-2) ended a five-game win streak when they lost 47-37 to undefeated Fullerton in the final game of the season.
“They beat us last year,” said Saddleback Coach Ken Swearingen, “and we’re looking for revenge. We’re coming off a very disappointing loss to Fullerton and we’re gaining momentum and enthusiasm for this game.”
The Gaucho’s offensive attack relies on the combination of wide receiver Scott Miller, a JC Grid-Wire all-American, and quarterback Scott Stark.
Stark has completed 120 of 248 passes for 1,824 yards and 7 touchdowns. Miller is the state’s leading receiver with 78 receptions for 1,376 yards and 6 touchdowns.
“They have a very good football team,” Featherstone said. “They’re very strong and very solid. It’s going to be a great game between two evenly matched teams.”
El Camino beat Saddleback 21-17 last year and the Gauchos defeated the Warriors two years ago.
“It’s a rubber match between us,” Featherstone said. “We’re real fired up for this one. We’ve had a lot of fun at practice, but we’ve had a very professional attitude.”
Frank Dolce will start at quarterback for the Warriors with sophomore Scott Yessner ready to step in.
In eight games Dolce has completed 86 of 136 passes for 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Yessner has completed 87 of 138 passes for 1,149 yards and 10 touchdowns in 9 games.
Both men will look for all-conference wide receiver Bryan Burnett, who has caught 44 passes for 637 yards and 6 touchdowns this season.
Featherstone says his team will also move the ball on the ground since the Warriors have all-conference running back Aaron Craver, who has rushed for 724 yards and 8 touchdowns this season.
“El Camino is really an excellent team,” Swearingen said. “We’re not too bad, but we’re not a great team. El Camino is a little bit ahead of us. They’re better than us offensively because they’re a bit more consistent.”