Coast Conference title could be on the line

The Coast Conference title is a likely prize to the winner
Saturday night when the Gavilan College Rams host Hartnell’s
Panthers at 7 p.m. at Andy Hardin Field.
A full house is expected for the latest battle between annual
conference leaders. Hartnelll has a three-game winning streak over
John Lango’s Rams, while Gavilan fashioned a three-game winning
streak from 1997-99.
By BOB BURCH

Sports Writer

The Coast Conference title is a likely prize to the winner Saturday night when the Gavilan College Rams host Hartnell’s Panthers at 7 p.m. at Andy Hardin Field.

A full house is expected for the latest battle between annual conference leaders. Hartnelll has a three-game winning streak over John Lango’s Rams, while Gavilan fashioned a three-game winning streak from 1997-99.

Gavilan opened conference play with a 28-6 nod over DeAnza, while Hartnell, the defending conference champion, drew a bye. A victory over the Panthers would move Gavilan close to a conference title and possible post-season berth. Gavilan completes the conference campaign against Monterey Peninsula College and Cabrillo.

“It’s a huge game for us, and it’s very special to play in Hollister because we have so many Hollister kids,” said Lango of the lone Gavilan home date staged in San Benito County this season.

Three-year Baler starting quarterback Nick Buzzetta, sidelined two games with a hip injury, has been cleared to practice this week with a possibility that he will regain his starting spot against the Panthers.

“They’re a typical Hartnell team,” said Lango. “They run the fly offense very well, although they’re trying to throw a lot more than we’re used to with a Hartnell team. We may weigh more on the line than they do, so there’s a possibility we can out-physical them.

“Quarterback Andy Palacio is as good a player as they’ve had in a while at that position. Their fullback (Jon Hoffman) is a solid inside runner.”

Ted Mason has developed into a game-breaking wide-out for the Rams, with a conference-best 734 receiving yards with three games left.

The 734 total moved Mason, a sophomore, into a tie for sixth place with Sean Simmons (currently starring at Wagner College) in the 41-year history of Ram football. Next in line for Mason to challenge are David Andrade (768 yards in 1998), Ben Canzano (currently j.v. coach at Gilroy High, 782 yards in 1995), and Atlas Reagor (873 yards in 1990).

Josh Andrews set the school record with 989 yards including 12 touchdowns in 1996, with Gary Guthmiller second at 943 yards in 1993.

Lango praised the defensive unit for coming up with 18 interceptions in a 3-4 start. “It’s really been a team effort – there is always someone stepping up to make a play.”

Hartnell coach Larry Souza added that Palacio and Hoffman are the keys the this fall’s Panther success.

“Andy has great speed, he’s a good talent,” said the Panther mentor. “He’ stepped up his play every game. Jon’s a big bruiser at fullback, 6-2, 235 pounds.”

Since the Coast Conference is “well balanced, there’s definitely going to be a lot of emotion Saturday night,” said Souza of the showdown. “Gavilan’s defense is very improved.”

El Ray Henry is the top running back on field Saturday with 566 yards, with Hoffman netting 296 yards and six touchdowns.

Gavilan is currently ranked 19th and Hartnell is 20th among Northern California teams.

The 1973 National Championship team will be recognized at halftime, along with all other past Gavilan players who competed under Coach Bobby Garcia.

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