Former Wildcat earned honors in title season at college.

December 30, 2001|By TOM RONCO

(Special to this newspaper)

When the Imperial Valley was recently treated to "alumni football," one of the standouts for the Brawley alumni squad was Patrick Aguirre.

It was the final "game" of an outstanding season for Aguirre, in which his Occidental College Tiger football team won a conference championship and in which Aguirre earned All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honorable mention at strong safety.

Aguirre's personal improvement mirrored that of his team, which improved from 5-4 his freshman year to 8-1 this season.

"We have a really good weight program, we have running and lifting routines and we have tests," said Aguirre. "They expect us to improve a lot and I'm a lot stronger and faster this year."


Aguirre, who played his junior year at Brawley High with a broken thumb, was injured as a freshman but still started six games.

"This year I was tougher. I expected more of myself. I only missed one game and I could have played," said Aguirre.

Aguirre did play in the Tigers' 24-17 victory over defending champion Redlands that brought Occidental its first conference championship since 1989.

In the championship tilt, Aguirre's nine tackles were topped only by linebacker Josh Jansen's 14, not bad for a player still learning his position.

"In high school I played cornerback, and it is a big change to strong safety," said Aguirre.

"I was confused at first because the offenses are more complicated than those in high school and you have to read and adjust to the offenses, which have many more options."

Aguirre, the Imperial Valley League's defensive player of the year his senior year, has apparently made the transition well and now prefers his new position for the most basic reason of anyone who likes to play defense.

"I have more headaches now but I'm also hitting more and I enjoy that," he said.

Occidental did not receive an NCAA Division III playoff bid despite the SCIAC championship because the SCIAC has only six teams — Redlands, Cal Lutheran, Claremont-Mudd, La Verne and Whittier — and seven teams are needed to gain an automatic playoff spot.

"We needed another team in our league to be in automatically so we had to petition to get in and most of the at-large teams came from the East Coast," said Aguirre.

The problem will be solved in Aguirre's senior year when Pomona-Pitzer, which plays all the SCIAC schools as an independent, rejoins the conference.

Aguirre enjoys playing at the Division III level, especially at Occidental, which started playing football in the 1890s and still plays at W.C. Patterson Field, which opened 85 years ago.

"This year they upgraded the turf and got a new scoreboard," said Aguirre. "We play our home games at night but I prefer Saturday afternoon games because they feel more like college football. This year we played four overtimes one game and it was pretty late at night before we were done."

The alumni game was not something Aguirre anticipated playing in but he signed on for the opportunity to play with players with whom he never got the chance to wear Brawley blue and gold.

"My cousin Manuel Altamirano was playing and I never had a chance to play with him," said Aguirre. "That and it was good to get together with guys I played with in high school and some older guys I used to watch."

Aguirre rated the alumni game a success.

"For the first year I think it was a success and we will get more guys involved. I had to go both ways and I cramped up and I hadn't cramped in a while but overall I had a great time."

Aguirre was relieved to be home on a break from the rigors of college.

"Academically Occidental is tough but it has a great reputation and people are looking to hire you," the psychology major said.

"Sometimes it's really difficult to balance your time between classes, team meetings, lifting, practicing for two and a half hours, watching film on your own and general dorm life."

Aguirre, a sophomore, played varsity baseball and basketball as well as football at Brawley, and talks of "four more" years at Occidental.

"After I get my degree in two years I want to get a master's in psychology, probably with an emphasis in child psychology," said Aguirre. "Then I want to have a private practice so I can be my own boss."

Aguirre may have company at Occidental in his brother Dominic, who just completed his senior season as a three-year starting quarterback for Brawley and is talking with the Tigers' staff.

It would certainly make things easier on his parents, Nick and Patricia, and sister Nicole and nephew Anthony to watch the Aguirre boys play.

"Dominic has applied and my coach is very interested in him," said Aguirre. "I played my senior year with him at Brawley and it would be great to play with him again."

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