There is no way around it for the Fresno City College football team.
That sense of urgency? It’s reality beginning this week.
The Rams finished the nonconference portion of their schedule 3-2, but could take some comfort in that they were just a handful of plays away from being 5-0. Now the margin for error is gone.
The Northern California seventh-ranked Rams begin Valley Conference play Saturday. Fresno City will travel to Hayward to face defending conference champion and 13th-ranked Chabot (1-4) at 6 p.m.
There’s no more excuses, no more we’re too young and no more we don’t know the assignments.
Fresno City running back Nate Jones as the Rams head into Valley Conference play
“A lot of young guys,” Rams running back Nate Jones said of the team’s inconsistent start, “and they’re ready to play now. We’re 0-0. There’s no more excuses, no more we’re too young and no more we don’t know the assignments. We’re all college players and we all consider ourselves veterans.”
The conference champion along with those in the Bay 6 and NorCal leagues receive automatic berths in the North regional playoffs. For those teams that fall short, a single wild-card spot is available.
Quarterback Anthony Monken remembers how the Rams a year ago came into the game against Chabot “thinking we’re all that and we’ll roll right over them.”
Instead, it was the Gladiators who rolled to a 52-17 victory, finished 5-0 in the conference and earned the automatic bid.
“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder,” said Monken, reinstalled as the starter two weeks ago against Reedley. “We just got to carry ourselves into this game like we do every week and just go 1-0.”
Monken, in four games overall including three starts, is 38 of 68 (55.9 percent) for 475 yards and six touchdowns.
Playing nonconference games against NorCal 11th-ranked San Mateo, No. 1 Santa Rosa and No. 2 American River gave the Rams an idea what they can do. Now, they hope to put together complete games against each conference opponent.
“From the beginning of the year, we’ve been very inconsistent with our starts,” Monken said. “Started slow or fast – driven right down the field and scored or turned the ball over on the first drive of the game. We just need to find the consistency, driving the ball down the field, putting it in the end zone and getting up. We need a hot start.”
Rams coach Tony Caviglia, who has led the Rams to nine Valley Conference titles since taking over in 1999, cautions against looking ahead.
“You really want to stay focused on winning the first game of conference,” Caviglia said. “When you win, you pretty much control your own destiny. When you lose, sometimes you need help. We just like to win and play well and get off to a good start and control our destiny. Control what we do and I think we’re ready.”
A look at other Valley teams:
▪ No. 12 Sequoias: Quarterback Thomas Wilson has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. The sophomore has completed 94 of 177 passes for 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns. But he’s also thrown eight interceptions. Running back Elijah Porchia and Wilson each have four rushing touchdowns for the Giants (3-2).
▪ No. 3 Laney: Andrew Ve’e has thrown for 503 yards and six touchdowns for the 4-1 Eagles. The only loss was at No. 4 Butte (38-20). Linebacker Manny Fernandez leads the team with four sacks.
▪ No. 8 Modesto: The Pirates (3-2) have alternated wins and losses before the conference-wide bye last week. Wyatt Clapper has been solid, passing for 756 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions. Running back Jay Green has nine touchdowns.
▪ No. 13 Delta: The Mustangs (1-4) have lost three straight. Linebacker Vicente Trejo has two forced fumbles.
This week in JC football
Delta (1-4) at Laney (4-1), 7 p.m.
Fresno City (3-2) at Chabot (1-4), 6 p.m.
Sequoias (3-2) at Modesto (3-2), 6 p.m.
Golden Coast Conference
Gavilan (2-3, 0-2) at Reedley (0-5, 0-1), 6 p.m.
West Hills (3-2) at Foothill (2-3), 1 p.m.