<i>This is Part One in a series of Foothill Conference team previews by contributing writer, Ronnie Flores.</i> In recent years, the Southern California-based Foothill Conference has gained respect and enhanced its reputation for producing quality teams on the gridiron. In fact, Foothill member Chaffey College has appeared in the last two Southern California Bowls to determine the Southern representative in the state championship game.

The conference as a whole contains great competitive balance not seen in years past and in 2003 many teams within the conference have improved their talent base and expect strong campaigns. 

College of the Desert and Antelope Valley College expect to be vastly improved. Many talented athletes roam the campus at Victor Valley College and the expectation for gridiron success tags along with them.  Southwestern College and San Diego Mesa College have many experienced players returning and that should equate to more victories than the four each recorded in 2002.  In spite of these improvements, perennial Conference powers Grossmont College and Chaffey College remain solid choices to sit atop the conference standings as the 2003 season unfolds.

PREVIEW: Antelope Valley College

Head Coach: Brent Carder (34th season)

2002 Recap: AV struggled defensively and finished the campaign 1-9. Coach Carder, the dean of Foothill Conference coaches, noted that last year, "Was the only season in which he could not effectively run the ball in all his years as head coach." The Marauder defense was porous and their offense unbalanced and predictable, which was reflected in their one-win campaign.

2003 Outlook: Coach Carder noted that, "The key to our successful 2001 season was a balanced offense both running and throwing the ball." Carder and his staff (which returns for their 8th season intact as a group) plan to have a more ball-control oriented offense in 2003 and just might have the personnel to achieve their goal. Carder is excited about the return of three quality runners who were starters in previous seasons for AV. 

RB Vaeontraye Hughes (6-0, 230) was the leading scorer for the Marauders in 2001. FB Kasey Young (5-11, 265) was a backfield starter in 1999 and RB Jamar Day (6-0, 215) last played during the 1996 season. Carder quickly added that, "Day seems to have gained, not lost (in his ability as a runner) during his time away from the team."

AVC must develop an effective passing game in order to keep opposing defenses honest. WR Jason Smith (6-1,160), who is the lone returning starter on offense, will be relied upon to ease the loss of graduated wide-outs Jerome Wright (Utah) and James Laurence. QB Jerad Romo (6-0, 215) who started the 2nd game last year, returns from a broken collarbone that forced him to miss the rest of the season. Carder expects many new players, mainly freshman, to improve their defensive fortunes. The two returning starters on defense, DB Zack Palmer (5-10,160) and OLB Josh Mejia (5-10,195) provide leadership and experience.        

First Game: Antelope Valley opens @ defending state and JC Grid-Wire national champion Reedley College.


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