Vaqueros to begin conference play

GLENDALE — After running up against the top-ranked rush defense in the state last week, it can only get easier for the Glendale Community College football team to unleash its ground game this week. But probably not by much.

The Vaqueros (3-1), ranked 16th overall in Southern California according to the latest California Community College Athletics Assn. poll, will attempt to rebound from their first loss of the season — a 10-6 defeat at Orange Coast College on Saturday — when they travel to face 13th-ranked Ventura College in a 7 p.m. Northern Conference National Division opener today.

The Pirates (3-1), who also suffered their first loss last week, 36-35, to Cerritos College on a missed two-point conversion, sport the fifth-ranked rush defense in Southern California, giving up just 42.2 yards on the ground per game.

And while they’re not as formidable in that department as Orange Coast, which held the Vaqueros to negative-29 yards rushing on 34 attempts on Saturday, they might benefit from some of the same factors that limited Glendale college last week.

“Last week we had problems with the running game because of injuries on the offensive line,” said second-year Vaqueros Coach John Rome, whose team did not fare well in its first year in the conference last season, finishing 1-5 and tied for last place, with the one win being a 17-14 victory over Ventura. “Our offensive line was in a state of flux. ...We made it hard on ourselves trying to find the right combo, but [Orange Coast] was a good team, they’re 4-0.

“We think we’ve come up with the right combination now, but we don’t know. We hope that we’ve gelled, but we’re going to be put to the test.”

Getting sophomore tailback Jorge Chaidez, who is third in Southern California with 109.2 rushing yards per game, back on track will be a big key for Glendale college. Chaidez was held to just negative-13 yards on 10 carries on Saturday.

Vaqueros sophomore quarterback Steve Miller had a nice stretch of 10 completions in 12 attempts in the middle of Saturday’s game and threw for the team’s only touchdown, but was two for 19 otherwise and was sacked six times.

Ventura, which went 2-4 in conference last year for fifth place, is exceptionally big up front on both sides of the ball and has a lively offensive spark plug in freshman quarterback Antavius Sims, who is 17th in Southern California in total offense with 626 yards, passing for 426 with two touchdowns and rushing for 200 yards with six touchdowns.

The Pirates have changed their offense this season from a run-dominated attack to a spread offense to highlight Sims’ talents and are averaging 33 points per contest, compared to 25 a game for Glendale college, an average that’s been lowered over the last two contests, in which the Vaqueros have scored just 16 total points.

But the Vaqueros defense has been a reliable fallback, limiting opponents to just 17 total points over the same two-game span.

“I’m very happy with the way our defense has played,” said Rome, whose team is surrendering 18.5 points, 13th best in Southern California, and is ranked ninth in total defense. “Last year, we were so thin on the defensive line and this year we definitely have six guys we can rotate in and out and put pressure on an offense.”

In addition to sophomore center Bobby Pardo still being out, the Vaqueros will also play without injured sophomore linebacker Kalii Robinson, who is tied for the team lead in tackles with freshman Rene Howard at 27.

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