Glendale Community College football aims for 3-1 start

GLENDALE — It was one of those rare topsy-turvy moments over his six-year career that Glendale Community College football Coach John Rome had a downward glance rather than an upward view and was extolling the virtue of not overlooking an opponent.

As Rome's Vaqueros (2-1) prepare for their American Division Pacific Conference opener Saturday at 6 p.m. at Sartoris Field versus Antelope Valley (0-2), Glendale's coach pointed his players' view directly in front of them versus a winless squad.

"[Antelope Valley is] a very good football team and I think they've played two very good football teams in San Bernardino and Chaffey," Rome said. "Again, this will be another test for us. I think every game is hard from here on in, but we can't look beyond them."

For the second straight year, Glendale has begun the season 2-1.

Yet, there isn't much memory on an 81-man roster that returned only eight players.

Last season, the Antelope Valley contest proved immense. The Vaqueros' 24-12 road defeat was a trendsetter, as Glendale lost its final seven games of the regular season in ending the 2012 campaign with a 2-8 mark.

Even though the Marauders enter without a win, they are far from punchless.

Sophomore quarterback Anders Westlund has been an efficient passer this season, having completed 35 of 63 passes (56% completion percentage) for 388 yards and three touchdowns versus one interception, thanks in part to an offensive line that has only surrendered two sacks.

The Marauders' ground game is fifth in conference, averaging 117 yards per contest, and Rome is expecting stiff competition Saturday.

"We have to prepare for a team that runs the ball very well. They've got great athletes. Defensively, they're a lot like us; they may be a little undersized," Rome said. "They've got good team speed and they're pretty deep."

Defensively, Antelope Valley has had its issues, as the Marauders are ranked seventh in conference in allowing 38.5 points and 389.5 yards per game.

Those numbers are in contrast to the Vaqueros' No. 2-ranked defense, which has averaged allowing 19.3 points and 260.7 yards each contest.

That defense was on display when it manhandled visiting San Diego Mesa last Saturday. The Vaqueros created four turnovers, totaled 13 tackles for a loss and held the Olympians to 26 rushing yards on 33 carries.

Maybe as impressive as the effort was the Vaqueros' resolve to make amends after the team's 45-18 loss at San Bernardino Valley College on Sept. 14.

"We were really upset after that game because we gave it away," Vaqueros linebacker Noche Nwofer said. "We wanted to come back and show that we were better than that loss and that score."

Nwofer was awarded the Pacific Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts Saturday, which included three tackles, an interception return for a touchdown, two sacks, one pass break-up and an assist on a tackle for loss.

Vaqueros defensive back Jaelan Rising-Barnwell led the team on Saturday with two interceptions.

"The defense has played well. Now it's time for more consistency," Rome said. "We've played very well in two of three games and we're hoping to avoid games like San Bernardino."

Rome was also pleased with the improved play of his special teams, which only two weeks earlier had two field goals blocked, two extra points missed and botched a punt.

On Saturday, Vaqueros kicker Dan Blackford was two for two on field-goal attempts and hit all five of his extra-point tries, while punter Forrest Ascarrunz, formerly of St. Francis High, pinned two punts inside the 20-yard line and boomed one 54-yard punt.

Overall, Glendale leads the all-time series with Antelope Valley, 8-3.

andrew.campa@latimes.com

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