Fresno City College defensive-line coach Del Hawkins never likes to let up, even if his group is playing well.
That’s holding true this season.
The Rams’ line rotation includes sophomore leaders Walter Segal, Blake Nydam and McCarthy Tonuao but also relies heavily on freshmen. Through it all, the defense has more than held its own, allowing a state-low 29.7 rushing yards per game.
“With those three sophomores leading the way, they just understand the hard work it takes,” said Hawkins, who played defensive tackle for Pat Hill at Fresno State. “These young guys are following suit and they’re working their butts off. We still got a long way to go.”
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Saturday brings another test for the state 11th-ranked Rams (2-1), who host No. 9 American River (2-1) at 6 p.m. at Ratcliffe Stadium. The Beavers’ offense is 46th in the state while averaging 130.3 yards on the ground.
It’s important to stop the run if you want to be successful. So far, so good.
Fresno City coach Tony Caviglia
The Rams have 12 freshman defensive linemen on the roster, including Lavell Smith who is tied for second on the team with 11 tackles.
“It’s a hard-working group,” Hawkins said. “These guys come to work every day and everybody understands the work that needs to be done, and we’re so far away from that end result. The thing that’s great about that young group is we’re really young.
Smith and the other freshmen, Hawkins said, “are hungry to learn.”
“We’re not where we need to be,” Smith said. “We have some good guys that will really hold it down. I’m never satisfied and feel I can always do better.”
San Mateo was the latest team to run into the Rams’ roadblock. After rolling up 157 yards on the ground against Modesto and 347 vs. Sierra, with eight total rushing touchdowns, the Bulldogs managed just 60 yards and no rushing TDs last week against Fresno City. The Rams won 34-31.
“The sky’s the limit as long as these guys continue to work,” Hawkins said. “Understand they can never get comfortable and (there can be) no complacency because that leads to mediocrity. They need to come hungry like the first day they walked on campus.
“The thing that’s really great about this group is I do see a bunch of young men growing up and believe what we’re trying to do at Fresno City.”
Et cetera – Fresno City has surrendered an average of 236 yards per game in the air, a number inflated by the 351 it allowed to San Mateo. Rams defensive backs coach Drew Brown said his group needs a more consistent approach.
“We need to be better on the deep balls,” he said. “We need to clean that up.”
▪ Michael LoVett III started the season as a defensive back. Now, he’s with the wide receivers. The 6-foot, 180-pound freshman was a quarterback and free safety at Cabrillo High in Long Beach.
▪ Rams wide receiver Dwine Walls (groin) is out. Coach Tony Caviglia is hopeful the sophomore, who has five catches for 38 yards and a touchdown, can return after next week’s bye.
Saturday’s nonconference games
Sierra (1-2) at Sequoias (2-1), 2 p.m.
American River (2-1) at Fresno City (2-1), 6 p.m.
Golden Coast Conference games
Reedley (0-3) at Hartnell (2-1), 6 p.m.
Merced (2-1) at West Hills (1-2), 7 p.m.