When St. Joseph and Pioneer Valley high schools were moved out of the Los Padres League and into the PAC 7 this past offseason, the LPL lost its top two football teams from the 2009 standings.
It’s anybody’s guess who’ll end up in those spots this year.
The LPL has three openers at 7 tonight: Santa Maria (2-2) at Nipomo (0-3), Cabrillo (1-3) at Templeton (2-2) and Santa Ynez (1-2) at Lompoc (2-2).
“It’s too close to call,” Templeton coach Dave Harper said. “Everybody’s kind of jostling. If you called any team in the LPL, I think they’d probably echo what I say.
“We’re all kind of curious.”
Templeton began the season ranked No. 1 in the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division. But the Eagles have lost 39-0 at Arroyo Grande and 34-6 to Righetti over the past two weeks.
That pair of losses to the likely PAC 7 contenders with substantially larger enrollments has dropped the Eagles to No. 8 in the divisional poll, followed closely by Santa Ynez (No. 9), with Lompoc and Santa Maria also receiving votes.
“We had hoped we would’ve been more competitive,” Harper said of the past two weeks. “But we’re glad we played those games. We thought we got a lot out of it as far as the experience of playing a well coached opponent with lots of size and speed.”
The Eagles trailed 32-0 at halftime in the Arroyo Grande game and 28-0 at the break against Righetti.
“You see some things you need to work on,” Harper said of moving on from the losses. “Our guys have had a great attitude this week. We came to practice ready to work.
“We’re very optimistic, and we’re excited to line up again.”
Although Lompoc stumbled with a 45-21 loss to Dos Pueblos last week, the Braves had gotten off to arguably the league’s most impressive start prior to that, sticking with Arroyo Grande in a 13-7 defeat and drubbing Pioneer Valley and Santa Barbara, 51-17 and 41-17, respectively.
The Braves, under first-year head coach Andrew Jones, have six more players on the roster than they did a year ago and field five ball-carriers who’ve rushed for between 167 and 321 yards.
Santa Maria has also seen marked improvement under second-year head coach Mike Regan, the Saints’ first coach since 2006 to stay at that position longer than one season. Last week, the Saints routed Mission Prep 27-0 to secure the program’s first shutout since 2001.
Morro Bay (1-2), which has the most experienced, accomplished quarterback in the league in dual threat Sam Crizer, owns a 36-20 win over Carpinteria, which in turn proceeded to defeat both Nipomo (by a score of 27-12) and Santa Ynez (24-14).
Nipomo graduated 17 starters from 2009, including four Division I players. While winless, the Titans’ margin of defeat has lessened each time out.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Nipomo coach Russ Edwards said. “It’s a young team. All of them are finally believing us (as coaches) and starting to understand they have to pay attention to details — that varsity football is not just, line up and chase the football around; that varsity football is assignment football.”
The Titans do have an experienced skill-position standout in Devonte Jackson, a versatile running back who has rushed for 262 yards on 61 carries and is 3-of-4 passing for 116 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
While Edwards pinpointed Lompoc as having the most impressive nonleague campaign, he reiterated Harper’s view of the LPL as a whole.
“There’s not a team in our league we can’t play with or be competitive with,” Edwards said. “Nobody’s out there where you go, ‘How are we ever going to beat them?’ ”