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PERFECT END FOR RIO MESA WIN OVER RIVAL CAMARILLO GIVES TEAM A 10-0 FINISH.

Byline: Matthew Kredell Staff Writer

Rio Mesa of Oxnard jumped out to the best start in the football program's history, using a dominating defense to win its first nine games.

It would all mean nothing without the 10th.

In front of an overflow crowd of about 4,000, Rio Mesa completed its first perfect regular season Friday with a 48-17 victory over visiting rival Camarillo to win the Pacific View League title.

``We needed this win to make everything worthwhile,'' said Robert McCowan, who led Rio Mesa with 121 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries. ``Losing to Camarillo would have ruined the season. Most of us seniors had never beaten them until now.''

Rio Mesa (10-0, 5-0), ranked No. 6 by the Daily News, likely wrapped up a top-four seed in the Div. IV playoffs. The Southern Section brackets come out Sunday. Camarillo also will make the postseason as the Pacific View's second-place team.

After struggling for most of the past two decades, Rio Mesa turned it around for first-year coach Bob Gregorchuk. The Spartans were 3-7 and missed the playoffs last season.

``Before the season, I talked about setting goals and the players started saying 10-0,'' Gregorchuk said. ``I was thinking, 'Wait a minute, let's try for more like 7-3 or 6-4.' But they wanted it and they got it done. They surprised me.''

Rio Mesa shared the Channel League title with two teams in 1985, though the Spartans were third place in terms of playoff seedings. The last time Rio Mesa won an outright title was the Frontier League in 1983.

It looked like that was going to change when Kevin Thomas got wide open behind the secondary for two touchdowns in the first two quarters. He scored one from 27 yards on Rio Mesa's first possession and another from 45 yards in the second quarter.

Camarillo was in the game late in the second quarter, down 21-6 and driving into Rio Mesa territory to close the gap just before halftime when Jacob Manual made a key play for the Spartans.

The defensive lineman tipped and intercepted a pass behind the line of scrimmage, then rumbled 50 yards for the touchdown to make the score 27-6 at the half.

Rio Mesa put the game away with two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the third quarter. McCowan scored on a 42-yard run, then Camarillo fumbled its next play inside the 10. Tomek Czerwinski capitalized with a 5-yard touchdown on a reverse.

Rio Mesa's display on offense Friday has to be scary for potential playoff opponents. Rio Mesa has won with defense all year, allowing 11.0 points per game. The 17 points Camarillo scored were the most allowed by the Spartans this season.

In addition to Manual's interception, Calvin Burnette had two sacks, Aaron Hernandez recovered a fumble and Daniel Villasenor made several tackles for losses.

Rio Mesa's only other undefeated regular season was in 1974, when the Spartans went 8-0-1 before losing in the first round of the playoffs.

``This means years of waiting is over,'' said Thomas, who added an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. ``The difference between this year's team and past years is we had the confidence that we could do this. And we're not done yet. We plan on moving forward to a Southern Section championship.''

Matthew Kredell, (818)713-3607

matthew.kredell(at)dailynews.com

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photo

Photo:

(color) Rio Mesa's Robert McCowan carries the ball Friday against Camarillo. McCowan rushed for 121 yards and one touchdown.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 13, 2004
Words:597
Previous Article:BOFFO BARITONE SAVES THE DAY.
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