Excuse Coach Phil Passno if he’s somewhat apprehensive about Ventura College’s invitation to the Hall of Fame bowl in San Diego on Saturday.
The seven-year coach is, by all means, excited about the opportunity. Especially after the Pirates (7-3) lost their last three regular-season games and looked as if they’d be couch-bound rather than bowl-bound.
Ventura struggled after injuries and a drive-by shooting all but decimated the squad, but the team got its first break in weeks when the Pirates were selected over Cerritos (6-3-1), Fullerton (6-4) and Citrus (6-4) for the right to meet Palomar (6-4).
“Things bounced our way, and I’m real happy for us,” Passno said. “It’s a quality bowl. It’s an opportunity to make a little money and hopefully put on a good show.”
But Passno isn’t jumping up and down about facing Palomar’s Scott Barrick, who led the state in passing with 3,225 yards and broke or tied numerous school records. A second-team J. C. Grid-Wire All-American, Barrick set a state record with 248 completions. He attempted 449 passes, which is second only to Darren Kelderman’s national record of 452 in 1984 for Iowa Lake.
So it didn’t take Passno long to conclude he doesn’t want anything to do with Barrick (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), who throws out of a shotgun formation most of the time. To make matters worse, Palomar sends four targets out on almost every down. “I’m leaving it up to our defensive coaches,” Passno said with a laugh.
Which isn’t a bad move, considering defensive coordinator Steve Tobias has directed a unit that ranks 13th in the state, allowing 261 yards per game. Tobias is impressed with Barrick, as well as receivers Chris Chiarappa (1,282 yards in receptions) and Eric Hanson (1,004 yards).
“Barrick is a talented athlete, but we’ll just go at it and see how we match up,” Tobias said. “We’ll just try to put some pressure on him. If you let him stand back there and throw, it’ll be a long night.”
There have been plenty of long evenings for Palomar opponents. Barrick averages 45 attempts, 25 completions, and 322 yards a game. He has thrown 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
“We haven’t seen anybody like him,” Tobias said. “I think it’s a great challenge for us.”
Tobias says the best, and perhaps only defense of Barrick’s bullets is Ventura’s own ball-control offense. “The best place for him is standing on the sidelines, watching the game,” Tobias said.
Therefore Ventura will attempt to re-establish a once-potent rushing attack that was slowed by injuries to Ryan Rapoza and John Johnson. Rapoza, who broke a finger, is limited because of a cast but is expected--along with Ferando Green and William Mills--to provide yardage. Johnson was injured in a drive-by shooting two weeks ago and won’t return.
Quarterback Todd Paffhausen, who has thrown for 1,207 yards and 10 touchdowns, is healthy again. And, for the first time in weeks, Ventura is able to put a healthy defensive unit on the field.
“It’ll be nice to be able to put our best foot forward,” Passno said.
Not everyone is healthy, however. All-American nose guard Eeron Wilson (broken arm) and defensive lineman Adam Flores (sprained ankle) are doubtful. Rico Jones, injured along with Johnson in the drive-by shooting, will miss the contest.
Nevertheless, a host of Pirates return. “The list is long and impressive,” Passno said.
That also could describe Ventura’s string of seven consecutive wins to start the season. The Pirates struggled their past three games, but are eager for the second bowl bid under Passno and fourth overall. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids,” Passno said.
The Moorpark College players won’t be talking about learning experiences when they play Rancho Santiago College in the Orange County Bowl on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Costa Mesa.
The game is a rematch of the 1988 PONY Bowl, which Rancho Santiago won, 17-10, and the Raiders want revenge. Rancho Santiago (9-1) is ranked sixth in the state, Moorpark (9-1) is seventh.
Rancho Santiago averages more than 400 yards a game on offense. First-team All-American Estrus Crayton (6-3, 185) has rushed for 1,340 yards, and honorable mention quarterback Scott Wood (6-4, 205) has thrown for 2,082.