Rush to judgment at OCC

With the continual rise of the passing game at all levels of the game, many football minds, particularly those in the NFL, have gone so far as to declare the running game irrelevant.

All indications during the preseason were that Orange Coast College had embraced this notion, opting to ditch years of I-formation and West Coast principles for the spiral-bound playbook that features the spread.

But two weeks into the community college schedule, the Pirates' new offensive coordinator, Jack Wigmore, has reverted to the smashmouth double wing that he favored during more than two decades of high school coaching in Oregon and Washington.

The result — keyed by freshman tailback Domenic Betts and a veteran offensive line with four second-year starters — is the No. 1 individual and team rushing ranking in the 37-school Southern California Football Assn.

OCC (1-1) is averaging 345 rushing yards per game, while Betts is averaging 187 per contest. And while the Pirates have used the spread in both games thus far, the ground-and-pound approach made famous in Newport-Mesa by Coach Myron Miller at Costa Mesa High in the early 1990s, has allowed OCC to possess the ball an average of better than one quarter more than its first two opponents.

OCC's SCFA-leading time of possession average is 37:26. That leaves 22:24 for the other team, which computes to a difference of just more than 15 minutes, the official length of a college quarter.

The offense, however, has not been embraced fully by everyone on the OCC roster.

Coach Mike Taylor said he spent the early part of the week that led to Saturday's 38-31 home triumph over Long Beach defusing a revolt by the team's receivers, many of whom dreamed of elevated numbers in the spread.

"A few stopped by my office with concerns," Taylor said. "They told me they came here to catch passes."

Taylor said he invoked some "Coaching 101" to emphasize placing the team above individual interests, and the meaning of being a good teammate, in an attempt to stave off such selfishness.

With freshman starting quarterback Alex Cappellini displaying difficulty completing passes down the field and touted freshman Adam Young likely out for the season after breaking his right throwing hand in the season-opening loss at Saddleback, it would be hard to suggest the Pirates will not move further in the direction of the run-oriented double-wing scheme.

OCC, which struggled mightily in the passing game during a 2-8 campaign in 2010, ranks No. 33 in passing offense (123 yards per game) and No. 32 in passing efficiency in the SCFA this season.

The ground game will figure prominently Saturday, when OCC visits Los Angeles Harbor (2-0, ranked No. 8 in Southern California) at 6 p.m. The Seahawks rank second in the SCFA in rushing offense (288 yards per game) and running back Charles Smith (130 per game) is second in the SCFA individual rushing ranks.

*The UC Irvine men's soccer program moved up four spots to No. 5 in the National Soccer Coaches Assn. of America poll this week, representing the top ranking in the program's history.

The unprecedented 6-0 start of Coach George Kuntz's Anteaters should come as a mild surprise to Big West Conference coaches, who picked the 'Eaters to finish fourth in the preseason conference poll.

*Former UCI relief pitcher Dylan Axelrod, converted to a starter by the Chicago White Sox organization, which made him a September call-up recently, is scheduled to start for the White Sox Wednesday against visiting Detroit.

The game is 11:10 a.m. PDT.

The start would be the first in a major league game by a former Anteater since 1999, when Doug Linton started eight games for the Baltimore Orioles.

*The Golden State Athletic Conference, in which Vanguard competes, has a new configuration this year and will again next year.

Cal Baptist left the conference after last spring to transition to the NCAA Division II ranks, leaving 10 members in the NAIA alliance for the 2011-12 school year.

The conference announced recently that Arizona Christian will join the fold in the 2012-13 athletic year.

The school is in Paradise Valley, 12 miles north of downtown Phoenix and the school's mascot is the Firestorm.

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