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Hartnell Vs San Jose City College

Hartnell VS San Jose City College

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Hartnell 32
San Jose City 29

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Hartnell football ready for fresh start

BY GEORGE WATKINS • gwatkins@thecalifornian.com • October 16, 2009

A fresh start probably couldn't come at a better time for the banged-up Hartnell College football team.

After an injury-rattling non-conference schedule, the Panthers will kick off the Coast Conference season Saturday with a 6 p.m. game against San Jose City College at Salinas High Stadium.

Hartnell begins its second year back in the small-school Coast Conference after spending 2006 and 2007 in the big-school Golden Gate Conference.

Dating back to the 2006 season the Panthers have lost 15 straight conference games.

"Basically, we're playing for a conference title," Hartnell coach Matt Collins said.

It's also a chance for sweet payback for the Panthers.

Hartnell players were not only being laughed at by some of the De Anza defensive backs in the 55-7 clubbing three weeks ago, but were subjected to a trick play on a two-point conversion late in the game and were being peppered by needless passes nearly to the end.

"I think they [De Anza] already regret doing that," Collins said. "Their coach said he bets they'll be some great stuff on the bulletin board and locker room to fire us up."

Consider it done.

"They beat us by a big margin and they beat MPC by a big margin [54-34 last Saturday]," Collins said. "They're probably laughing about playing us again and planning to go to a big party that night."

De Anza quarterback Kevin Vye can be excused if he's thinking more about what he'll wear trick-or-treating than the Hartnell defense.

While most of us have been busy carving pumpkins, Vye has been carving up defenses. He shredded MPC for 461 yards and five touchdowns last week, and burned the Panthers for 254 yards and five touchdowns earlier this month.

The combined totals for Vye, a sophomore from Oak Grove High, against Hartnell and MPC are 35 of 60 pass completions for 715 yards and 10 touchdowns. For the season, he's 90 of 159 for 1,434 yards and 16 touchdowns in six games.

Vye is rated as the fifth most effective quarterback in the state.

"We saw how he played against us and what we can do differently," Collins said. "We have to get on him early and force him to make bad throws. We've noticed when he does that he gets down on himself. The only drawback is he has talented receivers who have size and speed. All he has to do is throw the ball up and these guys can make plays.

"Hartnell's defense is the best it has been since its championship season of 2005. It ranks in the upper third of the 71 community college teams in the state, allowing 313 yards per game.

Back in early October the Dons were also playing a Hartnell team with essentially a new quarterback. Dwayne Gatlin, a normally a receiver, was pressed into service after Hartnell's two other quarterbacks went down with injuries.

Gatlin has been a work in progress, but progress he has made.

"In his first game, against De Anza, he was responsible for six turnovers," Collins said. "Since then he's made just one each game.

"Gatlin has thrown for more than 200 yards in each of his last three games, and will be the starter again for what looms as Hartnell's most important game since Collins became head coach three years ago.

"It's the biggest game of the season," Collins said. "We're playing for something. In the past we haven't played for anything but pride. We have a chance to be 3-0 in conference and in the driver's seat. It's a lot of motivation for us, but it all has to be played out on the field."

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