Without its starting quarterback Kevin Hunter available, the Glendale Community College football team's offense figures to be at a disadvantage when it takes on host Los Angeles Valley College at 6 p.m. today in its Pacific Conference American Division opener.
Overall, the playing field may end up being level after all, though, as the Monarchs lost their signal-caller Dan Owen to an even more severe and most likely season-ending injury last week, as well.
"We don't know quite what to expect," Glendale Community College John Rome said of preparing for L.A. Valley (2-2) without Owen, who suffered a broken femur in the Monarchs' 24-12 road win over San Diego Mesa on Saturday. "We don't know how much option they'll run, we don't know how their running game will handle having a new quarterback at the helm.
"You think you have an idea of what they're going to do based on tendencies and things that you've noticed and then the game starts and who knows? All that could be out the window midway through the first quarter. We're trying to prepare for the entirety of the offense that we've seen them run on tape. At some point, they're probably going to have to, like us, narrow it down to things that they can do."
Hunter, who passed for 140 yards and a touchdown in last week's 41-17 home loss to Allan Hancock, suffered an injury in the third quarter of that game while making a tackle on an interception return and is out for at least today's game.
"He had a slight kidney injury that we're being cautious with," Rome said.
In his stead, the Vaqueros (0-4) will either go with Darren Ornsberg or Burroughs High graduate Anthony Carter, neither of whom has much experience at quarterback, although Ornsberg did finish the game on Saturday. His only pass attempt was intercepted.
"It's going to be extremely important that we get the running game going and I'm sure that Valley would feel the same way," said Rome, whose team was led in rushing by Joseph Wiggan (93 yards in 18 carries with a score) last week. "The ability to establish the running game and take a little bit of pressure off the throwing [is important], not so much because you're not going to throw, but you don't want to really have to throw in a drop-back situation where everybody knows that you have to pass."
Although it's been a rough season for the Vaqueros so far, Rome said he thought the team had turned a corner defensively last week after staying within four points of the No. 7-ranked team in the state through the end of the first half before the Bulldogs put the game away with three unanswered scores in the third quarter. In the first half, Glendale out gained Hancock, 242-214, in offensive yards and its defense had five sacks, nine tackles for a loss and recovered three Bulldogs fumbles in the game.
"A couple questions had to be answered during the course of the game and one of those questions was are we going to step up and play more aggressive on defense and play tougher," Rome said. "I was very pleasantly surprised that our defense actually played well early in that game. The score does not necessarily indicate that because [the Bulldogs] did return an interception for a touchdown and took another one right down to about the five-yard line and were able to punch it in.
"I felt that we were getting better. The fundamentals we had exercised the last couple weeks were now starting to bear fruit."
Valley hardly boasts the same offensive potency as Hancock, as the Monarchs are ranked 28th in Southern California in scoring and 30th in total offense, one spot above the Vaqueros. Still, Rome is wary of taking Valley lightly, lest the Vaqueros revert to their bad habit of giving up easy touchdowns that hurt them earlier in the season.
"Valley's capable of producing points," Rome said. "They have very good athletes."
Today's game will be the Vaqueros' third on the road out of four to begin the season.