GLENDALE — For the Glendale Community College football team, the 2010 season begins tonight.
At least that's the mindset the Vaqueros will take into their American Conference Pacific Division opener against Los Angeles Valley, which kicks off at 6 at Sartoris Field.
"Yes, they are [going to take on more meaning]," Vaqueros Coach John Rome said of his team's contests going forward into the five-game conference slate, which comes on the heels of an 0-4 nonconference start. "Hopefully, we've been building and getting better and we'll be able to play a little bit better within this conference than we have."
While still winless, the Vaqueros did play their best game of the season in last week's 44-28 loss at Allan Hancock College, in which they held a lead at halftime and trailed by a field goal late in the fourth quarter.
"We saw encouraging signs last week," Rome said. "You can actually point to certain instances where the game could have turned either way."
Like the Vaqueros, L.A. Valley's offense hasn't overwhelmed. Both teams are ranked low in Southern California in most offensive statistics, with the Monarchs (2-2) averaging 23 points per game to the Vaqueros' 20.8, and the two ranked 23rd and 25th, respectively, in total offense.
But the difference may come down to the Monarchs' superior defense. Free safety Nick Cook and linebacker DiMarco Scarber lead a unit that ranks in the top 10 in Southern California against the pass and the run and eighth in total defense.
"They swarm to the ball and they do a very good job," Rome said. "They're aggressive, they've got some skilled athletes. We're going to try to attack them in the traditional manner that we've done."
That will likely mean an early focus on the running game behind Antonio Bray, Ra'Shon Harper and Joshua Nakamoto, who split 34 carries nearly equally against Allan Hancock for a combined 123 yards.
The Monarchs (seventh in Southern California with 14 sacks) are particularly adept at pass coverage in the secondary and at pressuring quarterbacks, which could bode poorly for a Glendale squad that has had difficulty with protection and consistency in general at the quarterback position.
"It does [concern us]," said Rome, who will start sophomore Steven Batista under center and be without starting offensive lineman Ronnie Marquez (ankle). "With a young offensive line protecting the quarterback, it's always part of the bottom line. We hope we can do a better job than we've demonstrated."