With only one returning starter, the City College of San Francisco football team is off to a 2-0 start and it's gunning for a 10th national championship this year.
The state's top-ranked team replaced 21 of 22 starters from last season's squad, but coach George Rush said this year's group is talented, coachable and capable of making another deep run in the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs.
"I haven't ever had a team this young," Rush said. "That's the challenge — but they're responding to it."
The Rams opened the season with a 41-9 win against Diablo Valley College on Sept. 6 and followed it up by beating Laney College 21-8 on Saturday.
So far, the defense is leading the team to victory, giving up only 174 yards per game and 8.5 points per game.
Inside linebacker James Hickman is leading the NorCal conference with 20 tackles, defensive end Tavita Faaiu is second with 16 and defensive end David Tameilau, the team's only returning starter, is fourth with 15.
The defense has also produced four interceptions and a conference-high 11 sacks.
"I'm real pleased with that group," Rush said. "They're playing really hard."
But the offense is still looking to gel, ranked last in the conference in total yards (319 per game) while converting only 5-of-27 third-down plays.
Rush said the problem is pass protection.
"We've just got to get better at it," Rush said. "People are throwing a lot of six-man blitz packages at us and it's creating some confusion."
Quarterback Turner Baty isn't a returning starter from 2012, but he has experience in the Rams' offense, winning the MVP award in the 2011 state championship game.
Baty left the team after the 2011 season to play with Kansas and he's now he's back to complete his second year of eligibility. After two games, Baty has completed 36-of-75 passes for 492 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
While the offensive line is struggling with pass protection, it's creating holes for running back Daivon Ballard, who picked up 159 yards on 16 carries against Laney last week.
"There were some holes there that I could have run through and that's saying something," Rush said.
The Rams are traveling to the Central Valley this week to play West Hills. They'll return home on Sept. 28 to take on No. 7 Fresno with No. 6 American River next up on Oct. 5.
"It's a front-loaded schedule, so we've really got to pick it up," Rush said.
CCSF vs. West Hills
WHEN: Saturday, noon
WHERE: West Hills Community College, Coalinga
RECORDS: CCSF 2-0; West Hills 0-2
LAST WEEK: CCSF beat Laney 21-8; West Hills lost 13-7 to Sequoias