Gavilan College freshman Russell Schafer split time at

The DeAnza Dons and Gavilan Rams, two teams expected to be in
the thick of the running for the 2002 Coast Conference
championship, collide Saturday
GILROY – The DeAnza Dons and Gavilan Rams, two teams expected to be in the thick of the running for the 2002 Coast Conference championship, collide Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hollister High’s Andy Hardin Field.

Three teams, DeAnza, Gavilan and Cabrillo, have managed to fashion 2-4 records in non-conference play. The five-team conference appears to be as wide open as ever, including winless Monterey Peninsula College.

“Our conference has had a tough schedule so far, playing many of the Division II teams,” said DeAnza coach Mike Mitchell. “Anyone can beat anyone this year, including Monterey Peninsula. It looks like every game’s going to be very close.”

The Dons, 44-28 winners over Gavilan in last year’s season finale, lost two overtime games in the non-conference slate, 47-46 to Marin and 45-38 to Sierra. Gavilan defeated Marin this season 23-21 before dropping a 50-10 game to Sierra.

Keying the DeAnza attack will be speedy sophomore tailback Ben Gamble, the conference rushing leader.

“Ben’s 5-6, 180 pounds,” said Gavilan coach John Lango. “He’s a little bit heavier than Danny Gallo, but they are the same type of runner. Ben runs the ball extremely well.”

Gallo has missed the past two games because of an ankle injury. The sophomore out of Gilroy High has practiced in pads this week with an eye toward at least limited duty against DeAnza in the school’s Homecoming Game.

“Everybody’s focused, something we’ve been looking forward to all year – winning the Coast Conference championship,” said Lango. “It’s attainable. Every week’s going to be a battle. Seriously, we could win every game or lose every game, it’s going to be that even in the conference. The conference commissioner, Gary Kollenborn, was at last week’s game and said after seeing everyone play that it’s going to be a great conference race.”

The Gavilan defense will need to spend considerable energy trying to defend DeAnza wide receiver Jaye Reinman, a sophomore among the top two in both catches and total offense in the conference.

“We’ve been able to move the football,” said Mitchell, in his third year directing the Dons. “We had over 500 yards in total offense in the loss to Marin. The Sierra game could have gone either way. Our defense still is not playing up to its potential.”

Linebacker Scott Mueller picked off two passes last weekend as the Dons emerged with a 23-20 win over Contra Costa.

“We’re both definitely much improved,” Lango said with regard to last year’s game with DeAnza. “The key with our offense will be to finish plays. We had several chances to move the ball against Seqouias last week and had a breakdown. Our offense has to click in order for us to win. Our defense is getting better each week. We’ll start Ajene Palmer at quarterback (in place of Russell Schafer), although we will probably play both. Who starts really doesn’t matter, we just need someone ready to move the football.”

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