Things did not start out the way the Nipomo High football team’s offense had planned at home Friday against Carpinteria.
After Nick Kimball fell on his muffed punt and the first snap went over quarterback Matt Albright’s head for a 20-yard loss, back-to-back drops ended the opening drive before it could get started.
Things turned around from there, though, and the Titans’ high-flying aerial attack got on track with plenty of time to spare in a 48-6 win.
“The first couple minutes of that game was like a Twilight Zone,” coach Russ Edwards said. “I don’t think the boys were looking past Carpinteria … but we just didn’t start clean.
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“But we made big plays and got points on the board.”
Albright, who entered the game averaging 301 passing yards per contest, completed 14 of 21 passes for 255 yards and four scores, playing just one snap into the second half as the Titans raced out to a 35-6 halftime lead.
“It was a really rough game and we didn’t play as good as we should have,” Albright said. “We should have come out hard in this game and we didn’t. We didn’t execute like we should have, but we still came out with a big win.”
The 6-foot-4, 165-pound senior completed six straight passes during a stretch in the first half, including a 21-yard score to Luke Nickelson less than a minute after Carpinteria scored its first points of the game.
Albright also connected on a pair of first-half touchdowns to Nick Kimball of 32 and 14 yards, and opened the scoring with a 12-yard pass to Harrison Labastida, who out-jumped his defender in the end zone.
“It takes a lot of strain off me,” Albright said of Nipomo’s offensive weapons, which includes running back Chris Owens who took the first play of the second half 65 yards for a score. “I don’t have to do all the work. Having great players all over the field is great.”
The defense, when not committing four penalties in one drive that led to Carpinteria’s lone touchdown, shut down the Warriors as the Titans offense got rolling. Carpinteria quarterback Oscar Garcia, who rushed for 110 yards and two scores in a season-opening win over Santa Ynez, left the game after taking a stiff hit on the opening drive.
Backup quarterback Jimmy Graves struggled, completing just 1 of his 14 passes for 12 yards and throwing a third-quarter interception to Peyton Witcher, who returned it 35 yards for the final score of the game.
“Watching the film from (the Santa Ynez game), we didn’t really know which of them was going to be the quarterback,” said Witcher, who recorded his first high school touchdown with the pick-six, “so we game-planned for both."
Of his interception, the safety said: “They kept on running that tight end out, and I picked it.” The win came a week after Nipomo played powerhouse Lompoc to a one-point overtime game at home, losing on a successful Braves two-point conversion.
Witcher, one of 36 Nipomo seniors on the roster, said it felt good to bounce back.
“We moved forward the day after,” he said. “The message was to not take Carpinteria lightly. We were confident coming out of that Lompoc game, and we didn’t want to take these guys lightly.”
Owens finished with 110 yards rushing on seven carries and two touchdowns. Kimball, in addition to making 6 of 7 extra-point attempts, caught four passes for 91 yards and two scores — all in the first half.
Labastida had five catches for 60 yards and a score, Brandon Hettenhouser had three catches for 40 yards, and Nickelson caught a pair for 64 yards and a TD as a running clock started once Witcher scored the final points with 8:02 left in the third quarter.
“I was commiserating with (Carpinteria’s) head coach after the game because they are on their fourth-string quarterback and they don’t have a fourth-string quarterback,” Edwards said. “They still played hard, so it was a good win.”
The Warriors (1-1) couldn’t muster much offensively but did sack Albright five times, including the 20-yard loss on the high snap.
“He was trying to do a little too much, and we had that conversation on the sideline that he doesn’t have to be perfect on every play,” Edwards said. “We had some protection breakdowns, but some of those are on (Albright) and he knows it and will do a better job.”
The Titans (2-1) host Santa Ynez next week before road games at PAC 5 foes Atascadero and Arroyo Grande. Nipomo kicks off Northern League play on Oct. 10 at home against Morro Bay, and with its annual meeting against Lompoc out of the way, expectations in the league standings are sky high.
“Our team’s been playing good this year,” Albright said. “Me and my team are expecting a league championship — nothing less than that.”