D’Angelo Blake and Noche Nwofer have seen the transformation of the Glendale Community College football team unfold nicely.
The sophomores have been a major part of the team’s resurgence in their quest to help put Glendale on the brink of a possible playoff game.
Blake and Nwofer will look to help complete the job when Glendale meets host L.A. Pierce in a crucial Pacific Conference American Division contest at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Glendale, which clinched its first winning season since 2007 with a 24-17 division road victory against Santa Barbara on Nov. 9, is 6-3, 4-2 in the division. Pierce suffered a 36-13 defeat against Santa Monica to drop to 7-2, 5-1. Though Santa Monica (7-2, 6-0) is in first place, the winner of the Glendale-Pierce game will advance to a bowl game because Santa Monica is ineligible for bowl consideration this season.
“Sometimes you pinch yourself to see if this is really happening,” said Nwofer, a linebacker who finished with seven tackles against Santa Barbara. “It’s definitely good to be here in this situation knowing you can move on with a win.
“We have a team that’s got a lot of character. We know there’s a big difference between being 7-3 and 6-4.”
The Vaqueros last appeared in a bowl game in 2006, when they recorded a 23-14 win against visiting Santa Ana in the Western State Bowl.
Blake, who began the season as a wide receiver before being shifted to safety, said things began to fall into place when the Vaqueros began their current four-game winning streak Oct. 19.
“We’ve had a lot of great success,” Blake said. “It’s about having pride and the faith that you can do well each week in practice and games.
“We know we still have a big game ahead of us and we want to make the most of it.”
The Vaqueros expect to have a big challenge ahead in attempting to defeat the Brahmas, who had their three-game winning streak snapped by Santa Monica.
Glendale Coach John Rome, who took over the program in 2008, said the Vaqueros will be ready for the stiff test.
“We know that Pierce has a great program, but we like the way we are playing right now,” Rome said. “We know we have to play within ourselves.
“It would be great to get to take part in a bowl game, but we have to be able to take care of Pierce first. We don’t want our season to end just yet.”
Glendale relied on its defense to topple Santa Barbara. Freshman linebacker Marcus Tappan returned an interception 20 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 9:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. Glendale also finished with seven sacks, including 2 1/2 from lineman Deondre Mitchell, and limited Santa Barbara to 44 yards rushing.
A similar defensive effort might be enough to stop Pierce.
The Brahmas saw quarterback Nick Arbuckle complete 14 of 31 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown against Santa Monica. Running back DeShawn Jones had 44 yards rushing in 14 carries.
“We have an idea of what they like to do,” Rome said. “It’s a hard place to go and play, but we expect to go in there and win.
“It’s just the nature of the competition.”