A Happy Rome-Coming for New Head Coach

Ross Coleman

From the opening drive, it seemed apparent that head coach John Rome’s Vaqueros wanted to erase their Sept. 6 loss to West LA College, and the Vaq supporters in attendance were not disappointed. It was a near perfect home opener for Rome, who watched his young Vaqueros beat East LA College 75-21, Saturday night. “It feels very good. I am very appreciative of the players and the work they put in,” said a smiling Rome.

It would be hard not to smile after the offensive fireworks just put on by his team. The Vaqs leaned heavily on their deep backfield. Leading the charge was freshman Joe Wiggan from Burroughs of Burbank, who rushed for a team high 138 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown. Freshman Jorge Chaidez from Bell-Jeff joined Wiggan in the 100-yard club, rushing for 121 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns. Just missing out on 100 yards was fellow freshman Willie Youngblood who gained 97 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.

All in all the Vaqs rushed for 430 yards on 50 carries and eight touchdowns on the ground. Throw in 224 yards and three touchdowns through the air and it is hard to believe the team is dominated by freshman. But the most impressive thing about the offensive attack was no turnovers.
Because of the large lead, the Vaqs were able to use three of their four quarterbacks on the roster. Freshman starter Dylan Martinez was 11 of 16 with 132 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman backup Stephen Miller was five of six for 80 yards and a touchdown. Third stringer, freshman Steven Batista completed his only pass for 12 yards, and had an exciting 12-yard touchdown run late in the game.

Freshman linebacker Kalii Robinson, who was involved in six tackles and sophomore defensive back J.P. Curvey, who was in on four stops, paced the defense. Sophomore defensive back James Antaplyan had the games lone interception and sophomore defensive lineman Michael Klintworth had the games lone sack.

If there is anything the Vaqueros really need to work on, it is their pass defense. The starting quarterback for ELAC, Pedro Velasquez, completed 18 of 31 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns. When ELAC was on offense all eyes were drawn to star wide receiver Antoine Smithson. Smithson caught eight passes for 231 yards and a touchdown. “Wow, what a great player,” said Rome. “He is fantastic, he did a fantastic job.”

While it is easy to look at the great thing the Vaqs did, Rome is not a quick to dole out the compliments. “Look at me,” he told his players. “We still have a long way to go.” Three fumbles, while none of them lost, are never something you want to see as a coach. Throw in 10 penalties for 88 yards and two missed extra points and it’s easy to see what Rome means. “We’re very young. I still think from an offensive standpoint we need to be able to line up correctly and run the plays that we want, we need to iron out some of our mistakes,” said Rome. “From a defensive stand point we need to become better tacklers.”

Next week the Vaqs are back on the road at Riverside City College before finishing their non-conference season at home against Orange Coast College on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.