Glendale Community College football Coach John Rome has seen his team progress in various aspects at times this season, but the Vaqueros truly turned a corner on Saturday when they nailed down their elusive first win of the season at Santa Barbara.
"Our season has sort of had three phases to it," Rome said after his team beat Santa Barbara, 38-17, to improve to 1-7 and 1-3 in the Pacific Conference American Division. "First, the defense was struggling to find its identity while the offense is moving the ball, then [starting quarterback] Kevin Hunter gets hurt and all we can do is run the ball. So now this third phase is we think we have a pretty complete offense, defense and special teams game plan."
Now the Vaqueros will look to continue their sudden momentum and test the newfound cohesiveness against a stronger opponent than winless Santa Barbara, when they host Santa Monica in a conference game at 7 p.m. today at Sartoris Field.
"That's exactly what we're trying to do," said Vaqueros running back Joseph Wiggan, who led the team's rushing attack with 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 22 carries on Saturday. "The ball's already rolling downhill, so we've just got to finish [the season] strong and end it with a bang."
In the Corsairs, the Vaqueros will face a team that is 6-2 overall and 4-0 in conference, tied for first place with West Los Angeles, and ranked No. 19 in Southern California in the latest California Community College Athletics Assn./California Community Colleges Football Coaches Assn. poll.
"We're definitely looking at this as a challenge now that we're at full strength for game nine as you can be," Rome said. "We feel that they are a significantly better team than Santa Barbara. Right now, themselves and West L.A. are the two [division] leaders.
"They're a very athletic team. They are in a very fertile football area and they're going to have great athletes."
Santa Monica's pass-heavy offense is powered by quarterback Alfonso Medina, who is seventh in Southern California in passing yardage with an average of 237 yards per game and has thrown for 22 touchdowns while rushing for two more. His No. 1 target is Kris Comass, who has hauled in 24 passes for 415 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Corsairs' defense is ranked ninth in Southern California and their rushing defense is ranked fourth, giving up an average of 135.6 yards per game. The Vaqueros, averaging just over 200 per contest as the fifth-ranked rushing offense in Southern California, will look to keep pounding the ball behind Wiggan, Omar Barrera-Sanchez and Timothy Broughton.
Hunter made his return last week after missing three games over four weeks and completed 10 of 18 passes for 145 yards.
"A little bit more," Rome said about how much Hunter will be asked to do on Saturday. "He's responded well in practice to things that we've put in. We're going to try to put a little bit more in for him, but we're not going to change too much of what we do. He fits into what we do and that has always been his strength."