COSTA MESA -- In one of the oldest rivalries in all of California Community College football, the Orange Coast College Pirates will host the Santa Ana College Dons on Saturday at 1 p.m. inside LeBard Stadium in the "Victory Flag Game".
This rivalry has been on the back burner of the past six years as the Pirates and Dons have not faced off since 2015 (a 38-17 win by OCC at SAC's Eddie West Field). Coast has proudly held the Victory Flag since then, but on Saturday, the Dons return to the Pirate schedule and will get the opportunity to become the owners of the head-to-head keepsake for the fourth time since the Victory Flag was reintroduced back in 2010.
The renewed tradition began 11 years ago when current OCC Sports Information Director Tony Altobelli and former SAC Sports Information Director (now current OCC Athletics Director) Jason Kehler wanted to bring something special to this neighborhood battle that began back in 1948.
"We knew that this game (in 2010), especially going into the 60th matchup, needed something special," Kehler recalled. "After talking about different trophy concepts, we both realized the answer was in the history of each program ... Victory Flags. From there, it was just a matter of making a design that made sense. And while the Victory Flag may need some explanation, I think we ultimately met our goal!"
The history of the OCC/SAC Victory Flag concept began back in the infancy of the rivalry. In the 1950s, both teams had their own Victory Flag and year in and year out, those flags were the targets of each other's program heading into their big game. The longtime "Voice of OCC", Jim Carnett, described what that game and that week leading up to the game was like in an "Orange Slices" Column from 2007 ...
"OCC's football team hosted Santa Ana College in the regular-season football finale on Friday evening, Nov. 22, 1957. OCC took a 7-1-0 season record into the contest and the Dons were 7-0-1. The winner would be crowned Eastern Conference champion and most likely would be accorded a Junior Rose Bowl invitation. Enthusiasm for the contest was at a fever pitch.
The OCC-SAC rivalry had been fierce for a decade, and pranks were the order of the day for every renewal of the series. But things got slightly out of hand in '57.
A hundred Santa Ana College students stormed OCC's campus the week of the game. They set off fire alarms, and went joy riding in a campus vehicle. The Costa Mesa Police Dept. was called, and every officer on duty that night responded. Three OCC cows were stolen.he Sunday prior to the game, four Santa Ana students burned the initials "SAC" into the Pirate Stadium turf. OCC student body president, Don Brown, reported Monday morning that two of the SAC culprits had been apprehended and were suspended from school. On Monday evening of Big Game Week, OCC students raised a "Beat Santa Ana" banner on the flagpole on the Don campus. They greased the pole on their way down, making it more than a little difficult to remove.
Later in the week, two brave OCC students "appropriated" – in mid-day – the Don Victory Flag from the Santa Ana Student Center. On Wednesday evening, a hundred Santa Ana College students gathered on Balboa Island to publicly express their contempt for OCC. The surly crowd was dispersed by the Newport Beach Police Department.
But actually, things began to simmer weeks before the game, according to a Barnacle editorial that ran during Big Game Week.
"Several weeks ago, students from Santa Ana College came onto our campus in broad daylight, walked up to the mast in front of the Student Center and, surrounded by scores of Pirates, calmly lowered our victory flag and made their escape, flag and all," the editorial stated in its detailed description.
The later Pirate raid on the SAC Student Center appeared to be nothing less than a tactical rejoinder.
"This was clever, it took nerve and it created school spirit," the editorial continued, referring to the bold Pirate raid. "One had only to walk into the Student Center to feel it. Getting back the flag was the main topic of discussion everywhere. When more Santa Ana students invaded the campus a few days later they were caught and held for ransom. 'We want the flag back or you lose your hair,' they were told. The flag was returned and they were released, complete with hair. This is school spirit and it's great. Nobody was hurt."The week of the game, many men on OCC's campus expressed their Pirate solidarity and pride by submitting to a shearing dispensed by students armed with scissors and clippers. Crew cuts suddenly became THE fashion statement of the day.
But, what about the game? The Pirates nipped the Dons, 13-7, before 9,000 raucous fans at Pirate Stadium. OCC was up 13-0 in the third quarter, and Santa Ana didn't mount a scoring drive until the final few minutes of the contest. The Dons scored with less than a minute to play.
Just how sweet was the victory?
"Winning the Santa Ana game and coming across Diamond Head (during a sailing trip) have been the biggest thrills of my life," said 19-year-old OCC student, Dave Grant. Dave Grant? That name's been heard a few times in these parts! Yes, it was the very same Dave who, 32 years later, would become the college's sixth president."
"I know this is 2021 and times are different at both campuses, but these are still two schools separated by only a few miles, with years of football tradition between them," Altobelli said. "In my opinion, this rivalry should be right up there with us against Golden West and their rivalry with Fullerton ... and not just in football. Jason and I wanted to do something memorable for that 60th matchup and we managed to create something that hopefully not only means something special between the two schools, but also will be around long after Jason and I off to retirement many years from now."
From 2010-2015 the Pirates and Dons owned the Victory Flag three times each. Santa Ana won three of the first four matchups and Coast won in 2014 and 2015 before the teams stopped playing each other due to scheduling and realignment conflicts.
"Santa Ana College is looking forward to reviving the Flag Game with Orange Coast on Saturday with the opportunity to return the Victory Flag to SAC," Santa Ana College Athletics Director Mary Hegarty said. "With colleges separated by only a few miles down Fairview Road, this is a great local rivalry with a great history and I'm glad it has been brought back to our schedule."
As for this year's matchup, Santa Ana (4-3, 2-0 in the American Metro Division) rides a four-game win streak into LeBard Stadium after starting the season 0-3. SAC's most recent victory came last week with a 49-13 home win over Citrus College. Orange Coast (1-5, 0-2) has dropped three straight, including a hard-fought 50-42 loss at Glendale last week.
For the Dons, prior to their win against Citrus, they went on a three-week stretch of dominant football, beating L.A. Pierce, L.A. Valley and L.A. Harbor by a combined score of 179-9.
SAC sophomore quarterback Ceasar Ayala has taken the majority of the snaps for the Dons and has thrown for 1,266 yards and 17 touchdowns, completing nearly 64% of his passes along the way. Backup QBs David Griffin and Luke Wilson have combined for 732 passing yards and seven touchdowns on 42-of-74 passing as well so the Dons have several offensive generals to choose from.
The ground game for Santa Ana has been led by Gary Ferman (30 rushes, 261 yards, 2 TDs) and Ethan Pocci (25-106, 2 TDs). In the air, the Dons spread the success around to five key wide receivers, including Arthur Shaw (24 catches, 466 yards, 4 TDs), Tyler Shimomura (24-361, 4 TDs), Jacob Biddle (15-383, 4 TDs), Kristian Constantine (13-256, 4 TDs) and Kyran Hayes (13-274, 3 TDs).
Santa Ana linebackers Daylen Fuller (31 tackles, 12 solo, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery) and Matthew Galvan (31 tackles, 8 solo, 4 tackles for loss) anchor a Dons defense that has allowed just under 14 points over their last six contests. Three different Dons -- Devyon Benton, Bryce Phillios and Nate Ulloa -- each have two interceptions in the SAC secondary.
For the Pirates, their offense found some much-needed success against the Vaqueros last week as they scored a season-high 42 points. Quarterback J.D. Rafkin threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns last week and leads the OCC offense with 759 passing yards and seven TDs in four games played this year.
Running backs J.P. Segura-Queijeiro (62 carries, 343 yards, 2 TDs), David Hernandez (61-237) and Colin Gregg (39-184) have been the majority holders of the OCC ground game, while tight end Edwin LaCrosse has come up big in recent weeks with 29 receptions for 284 yards and 2 TDs. Aaron Fletcher has been OCC's most consistent target with 18 catches for 344 yards and 3 TDs, while Jacob Munro (14-135) continues to be another strong option for the Pirate quarterbacks.
"OCC and SAC have a long history of playing against each other," Pirate head coach Bubba Gonzalez said. "This year will be the 66th game played and despite not playing since 2015, this game is something our guys have looked forward to all season. Many of the players on both teams know each other and they are looking forward to competing against each other Saturday afternoon. SAC is having a good season and have a lot of weapons on both sides of the ball. If we can prevent the big plays and establish a run game, we have a chance to win this game. I am sure it will be an exciting game!
The Pirates lead the all-time series with the Dons, 34-31.
GAME NOTES -- With the Orange Coast College Swap Meet going on during the game on Saturday, we ask all fans to park in Parking Lot K, located on Fairview Road, adjacent to the OCC Track facility and across the way from the OCC baseball field. From Fairview Road, turn RIGHT onto Monitor Way (just past the baseball field) and turn left into the first parking lot on the left. Also, tickets MUST be purchased online at the link provided here ...