Football: El Rancho recovers from opening-week loss

Here is some area tibbits, leading with El Rancho improved to 3-1 after an opening-week loss:
By Steve Ramirez

One game usually doesn’t define a football season. But one loss appears to be a motivator for El Rancho High School.
The Dons, who opened with a surprising setback to Los Altos, have rebounded to win their past three and might now look like the team that most thought could challenge for the Del Rio League title.
Los Altos, which has since improved to 4-0 and is ranked No. 3 in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division, beat El Rancho, 49-36.
“I think after we lost to Los Altos, we lost a little faith,” said El Rancho coach Rick Zepeda, whose Dons responded with victories over Northview (13-10), Bell Gardens (27-26) and Montebello (22-7). We were young that day.
“It was an eye-opener for us. We just got back to the fundamentals and just concentrated on doing what we do best.”

The Dons’ biggest trait is running the football, and so far seniors Josh Lopez and Ronnel Lone have delivered, combining for 645 yards and four touchdowns.
The run attack has allowed junior quarterback Joe Sanchez to pick his spots, and he’s found the fine line, throwing for 459 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception.
“I’m really pleased with how the kids have responded,” Zepeda said. “We went back to what we do. We opened it up a bit. It’s helped our running game, and our defense has played very well. It was our defense that won the game (against Montebello). We gave up just 24 yards rushing, and that just doesn’t happen.”
The Dons now take a week off before resuming their season next week with a trip to Fontana.
“It’s a big challenge for us,” Zepeda said. “It’s a big test and the kids will need to step up.”
The surprise team in the area this season is Whittier, which has rebounded from an 0-10 season in 2010 to open with three consecutive victories.
The Cardinals have done it on the ground, including rushing for 340 yards in a 27-20 victory over Roosevelt of Los Angeles last week.
The key has been balance within the run game, with four players gaining 60 yards or more against Roosevelt. The leaders were Benny Suria, who had 101, and Anthony Viramontes, who had 80.
Whittier, ranked No. 10 in the Southeast Division, hosts Paramount at California High School at 7 p.m. on Friday.
La Habra quarterback Cole Wolterman, who suffered a broken left fibula in the Highlanders’ 55-27 victory over El Dorado in the season opener, could be cleared to return by the team’s Freeway League opener against Sunny Hills on Oct. 14.
Junior Sean Sparling has looked steady since spelling the senior, throwing for more than 500 yards, including 125 and a touchdown during Friday’s 30-24 loss to Orange Lutheran.
La Habra, despite losses to Trinity League stalwarts Servite and Orange Lutheran the past two weeks, maintained the top spot in the Southwest Division when the CIF-SS released divisional polls Monday.
Five other area schools, led by St. Paul, are also ranked. The Swordsmen (3-0), who beat Garfield 31-8 last week, are No. 1 in the Western Division. In the Southeast, La Serna (3-1) is No. 6, El Rancho (3-1) No. 9 and Whittier (3-0) No. 10. Whittier Christian (2-2) is No. 9 in the Mid-Valley.

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  • Steely Don

    High school football games are probably 40% influenced by EMOTION. If your team is supremely fired-up, the opposition had better look out. Los Altos had that fire built under them because the players were excited about their new coach. Dale Ziola has pulled off several simple but effective stunts like a midnight practice and getting a raucous student section into the stands.

    From the El Rancho perspective, we came in thinking we would win decisively. We DID represent better than a lot of the Conquerors’ subsequent foes, but we were quite bent out of shape by this loss. As the man said, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and WE GOT STRONGER.

    We now have a student pep section, we are wearing more school colors, and the team is doubly dedicated. So, on behalf of El Rancho, let me say “thanks for the kick in the butt, Los Altos…we just might see you again in the playoffs!”