If the past two years are any indication, Lompoc High’s juggernaut of a football squad shouldn’t have too much of a problem storming through the Los Padres League in its last season before re-leaguing takes effect next year.
But not if some San Luis Obispo County teams eager to get one more crack at the Braves can help it.
Lompoc last lost a league game Oct. 29, 2010.
Some of the scores they put up last season were downright ugly — 49-0 over Santa Maria, 42-3 against Templeton and 58-13 over Nipomo.
Nonetheless, opposing players and coaches say that the Braves’ departure to the new football-only LPL next year is bittersweet.
With one more year of Lompoc on the schedule, this is the final LPL showdown that three county teams — Morro Bay, Nipomo, and Templeton — will have with the Braves.
“The way I view Lompoc is that I want to see our program improve and rival them,” Morro Bay coach Jack Greer said. “When Lompoc leaves, it will be a more equitable type league. I like that. I think our boys will like that.
“But I still think you need to have those quality programs on your schedule that will truly define where you are over the stratosphere over the entire season.”
Next year, Lompoc will be part of the new football-only LPL with Cabrillo, Pioneer Valley, St. Joseph, and Santa Ynez.
Teams in the current seven-team LPL include Morro Bay, Nipomo, Templeton, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Cabrillo.
Next year, a new league called the Northern League will include Mission Prep, Morro Bay, Nipomo, Santa Maria and Templeton in football only.
With some of the stars of Lompoc’s team from last year graduated — including a core offensive unit of Tyler Ornelas at quarterback, Lavon Coleman and Nikko Hayes in the backfield, and Rafael Arellano at receiver — some feel the Braves have a few more cracks in their armor.
Coleman, now playing collegiately at Washington, and Hayes, now at Idaho State, combined for about 2,000 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012.
Ornelas threw for more than 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Arellano tallied 1,010 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns.
But Lompoc will have 6-foot, 280-pound Ainuu Taua returning on the defensive line. He has been recruited by the likes of Cal, Oklahoma, UCLA and Washington. And receiver Greg Mitchell will be among the fastest in the league, logging 450 receiving yards last season and four touchdowns.
“This is the first year we have a legit chance at Lompoc,” Morro Bay offensive lineman Dan Perlette said. “They have some talented players, but they lost a big number of their starters from last year. I’m excited about it. We’re feeling confident.”
Templeton offensive lineman Austin McIntyre, echoed Perlette’s comments. Having faced the Braves for two years on varsity as he enters his senior season this fall, the possibility of winning a big game against Lompoc is a thrill.
“They’re always going to be a big program,” McIntyre said. “You have the chance to knock them out as the underdog. It’s challenging. It’s exciting to take them on.”
Despite the dominance of late, Nipomo coach Russ Edwards recalls a time when the Braves weren’t the powerhouse they are now.
Nipomo beat Lompoc two of the first three years Edwards coached against the Braves when Nipomo was in the LPL and Lompoc struggled in the PAC 7 — winning only one league game in three years between 2006 and 2008.
Edwards said that he has seen the cyclical nature of high school sports and believes in any year, with the right collection of talented players, one school can rise up and top a team that has enjoyed recent success.
“We’re going to do our darndest to beat them,” Edwards said.