COSTA MESA -- The opening-night atmosphere was electric. The Orange Coast College football team took on their arch rivals from Golden West, in front a a few thousand excited fans and put forth a strong effort, but came up short in a 24-7 loss to the Rustlers.
For Pirates head coach, Bubba Gonzalez, the next chapter of OCC football has begun and while there were positives to be taken from the season opener, he wants to see better results to go along with the hard work.
"There were some good things last week, but I really was expecting us to play better," Gonzalez said. "All the credit in the world to Golden West ... they executed better and made the plays when they had to. We need to be better as a group and the good thing is, they know that too. We've had a good week of practice addressing what we need to improve on and I expect us to play better on both sides of the ball. Even though we lost, I walked away encouraged. If we work hard and together as a group, we can do this. We're such a young team, I need to remember that sometimes. But overall, everyone took a share of the responsibility for our loss on Saturday and we all need to do a better job against a good Grossmont team."
With quarterbacks J.D. Rafkin and Brandon Cannella banged up heading into Saturday's game, Coast will turn to backup quarterback Isaac Michels. The 6'3 freshman came to OCC from Regis HS in Eau Claire, WI, where he threw for 1,882 yards and 27 touchdowns with only six interceptions over his prep career.
"He's a big kid, who is also quick and can throw the ball well," Gonzalez said of Michels. "He always comes ready to work every day for us in practice and he's a kid who will be ready to go this Saturday night. I hope he takes advantage of the opportunity."
Coast found some success on the ground as Saturday's game with the Rustlers developed and the trio of Colin Grett, J.P. Sergura-Queijeiro and David Hernandez will look to find openings against a solid Griffins defense that allowed just 10 points in their opener against Southwestern (a 10-7 loss to the Jaguars).
"From what I've seen, they seem to have a similar style of offense and defense, so I expect this to be another tough matchup for us," Gonzalez said. "I was happy that our running game picked up some success as the game wore on. We showed we have three versatile backs who can run with power and speed."
The Pirates will have to continue to find success when they can find it on the offensive end. "We don't need to try and make the spectacular play every time out there," Gonzalez said. "I think Saturday's game will come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes will be the winner of the game. This week, we are focused at going back to the fundamentals and doing the little things right again. I'm guessing the opening-game jitters won't be there this week and if we can get to where we are playing as a complete team, we will have more success. Take what the defense is giving us and live to fight another play.
"On defense, I was proud of the fact that we really didn't give up any BIG plays against Golden West. We made them earn their points and made them put drives together to be successful. If we can hold teams to around 21 points per game, I think that gives us an opportunity to win games."
Gonzalez praised the defensive play of nose guard Jesse Barragan up front and the linebacker corps for their all around play on Saturday. "Jesse was getting double-teamed throughout the game and he did a good job of allowing our linebackers to fill gaps and make plays for us," Gonzalez said. "I think we have that next level in us where we can fight a little harder and make more plays on both sides of the ball. The mistakes I saw out there are mistakes we can easily fix and that's what we will do this week as we prepare for Grossmont on Saturday."