GILROY -- Gavilan celebrates homecoming Saturday with a key Coast Conference football game against rival Hartnell in Garcia-Elder Sports Complex.
Gavilan surprised Monterey Peninsula College last weekend to improve to 1-1, a game off the pace of first-place De Anza (2-0 conference).
Gavilan coach John Lango holds out the possibility that the post-poned Oct. 17 showdown between Gavilan and De Anza will be played this month.
"Our appeal has been turned in," Lango said. "If De Anza runs the table and we finish 3-1, a win over De Anza would make us the bowl eligible team."
Lango has guided the Rams to four wins in nine games versus the Panthers, including three straight entering Saturday's 7 p.m. contest. Gavilan earned a 45-0 win in 2007 in Gilroy, then blanked Hartnell 14-0 in Salinas.
"We're both getting patched up," Lango said. Hartnell has suffered injuries in the offensive backfield, while Gavilan at one point was missing four offensive linemen.
"We need to play better offensively," Lango added. The Rams were aided by two kick-off returns for touchdowns, one fumble recovery for a touchdown and one interception returned a score in their victory over MPC.
"Hartnell's a very balanced team now offensively," Lango said. "Their quarterback can scramble, causing us some problems. Their best receiver, Tim Smith, is tall and runs good routes. We're still not very good against the run. This may end up a low-scoring game like last year's against Hartnell."
Last weekend's 45-21 loss to De Anza dropped the Panthers to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in league play. The Panthers surprised San Jose City College 32-29 in their conference opener, leaving the Jaguars with a 4-2 mark.
"That was our best effort of the season," Hartnell coach Matt Collins said. "That win built some confidence. We went winless the past two years in conference."
The Panthers lost two quarterbacks by the end of the fourth game of the year before turning to receiver Dwayne Gatlin to take snaps. Gatlin has completed 73 of 151 passes for six touchdowns and 977 yards. Smith, the team's top receiver, has 50 catches for 731 yards and six scores.
"We were able to get back Ricky Rodwell recently," Collins said. The halfback has scored six touchdowns and covered 467 yards in limited play.
Collins noted that linebacker Kiero Small is leading the state with 91 tackles. Small has intercepted three passes this season, including one he returned for a touchdown against De Anza.
"Anything can happen," Collins said of Saturday's matchup. "I have a lot of respect for coach Lango and his guys. They are coming off a big win and I am sure they will carry that momentum into our game."
Bob Burch is a sports writer for the Morgan Hill Times.
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