One coach says he’d be showing the video of the play to his players over and over in order to remind them of last year’s finish. The other says he hasn’t played up a revenge angle to his players.
Last year, the Nipomo High football team defeated Templeton 42-41 as time expired on a last-second 33-yard touchdown pass — which caromed off a Titans receiver into a basket catch of a running back, no less, who happened to be in the right spot at the right time.
That final play, which has since drawn more than 2,000 views on YouTube, gave the young Titans — who brought back 17 starters from that squad — plenty of momentum heading into this season. Templeton, meanwhile, was bumped into being the Los Padres League’s No. 4 playoff seed and opened the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs against Serra of Gardena, which went on the reach the divisional final.
Again in each team’s regular-season finale, again with playoff implications abound, Templeton will visit Nipomo at 7:30 tonight.
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Nipomo (6-3, 4-2) has already clinched a divisional playoff berth. Templeton (6-3, 3-3), on the other hand, needs some help.
The Eagles not only need to top Nipomo to secure the league’s fourth and final playoff bid, but also need Santa Ynez (5-4, 3-3) to fall at struggling Santa Maria (2-7, 0-6) to qualify.
“They’re fighting for their playoff lives, and maybe a little bit of revenge,” Nipomo coach Russ Edwards said. “If I were their coach, I’d be playing that last play from last year’s game, all year.”
In the LPL, just as in the neighboring PAC 7 league, three-way ties are broken by random-chance number drawings conducted in the preseason. Prior to this year, the order of luck first fell to Nipomo, then to Santa Ynez, leaving Templeton with the worst draw of the trio.
“It’s not really a revenge game,” Eagles coach Dave Harper said. “None of the players have mentioned that; they just know the importance of winning it. We just want to play a great game and let things happen the way they’re going to happen. And no matter how it plays out, we want to finish the season strong and play up to our ability.”
Of course, even though Nipomo has already ensured itself the second playoff appearance in the seven-year history of the program, the Titans aren’t without anything to play for on Senior Night. A Titans victory would even the young all-time series between the two schools 2-2 and more importantly, help in earning a better playoff draw.
Nipomo is currently ranked No. 7 in the division, while Templeton is 10th. Fellow LPL members St. Joseph and Pioneer Valley are third and sixth, respectively.
“If we’re 6-4, we might not be in the top 10 anymore,” Edwards said.
Last week, in a 40-6 win over Santa Maria, the Titans played without versatile running back Eric Penningroth, who was out with flu-like symptoms. He has since recovered and will be able to play tonight, Edwards said. Penningroth — the team’s second-leading receiver — is the third-leading rusher in the area, complementing quarterback Josh Correia’s deep-threat passing to receivers Kevin Britt and Akeem King.
“They have a lot of team speed,” Harper said.
Templeton, meanwhile, has had four running backs — Daniel Wheeler, Christian Gomez, Tyler Gray and Chad McGill — each rush for between 310 and 530 yards this year, often out of a stacked Power-I.
Last week, as Templeton lost 49-19 to Pioneer Valley, the Eagles lost quarterback Nolan Hildebrand to a concussion. Hildebrand isn’t expected to be able to play, Harper said. In Hildebrand’s place, Simon Roth took over under center last week.
“We need a big game,” Harper said. “We need to play up to our ability.”