It’s hard for Nipomo High School head football coach Tony Dodge not to look toward the future. With a crop of young talent, he believes the Titans will be “really good in a couple years.”
But Dodge knows it won’t be easy to lead Nipomo to another Northern League title this season with so much youth on the roster, even if it is down one team following the departure of Mission Prep, a team the Titans shared a league title with in 2015.
“I haven’t done so much coaching and yelling in quite a few years,” Dodge said. “It’s different, but it’s been fun.”
Nipomo will again open with a tough non-league schedule that includes Arroyo Grande, Lompoc and Bishop Diego with — as Dodge estimates — six sophomore starters. Still, the young crew believes it has a chance to be in the mix for another title.
Nipomo at a glance
2016 record: 6-5 overall, 4-0 Northern League
Nipomo struggled through the non-league season but turned it on when league play rolled around to win an outright championship. The Titans lost big (62-14) in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 playoffs to Paraclete, a team that went on to win the CIF State Division 3-AA championship.
JJ Ramirez (RB/DB), Noah Gibbons (OL), Isaac Bausley (RB/LB), Nicholas Robledo (QB, Sr.)
Robledo, last year’s starting quarterback who scored 16 touchdowns and threw for more than 1,110 yards, transferred to Pioneer Valley in the offseason. Gibbons was the team’s best offensive lineman and cleared the way for Bausley, who led the team in rushing touchdowns (7), total yards (1,408) and tackles (85) as a running back and linebacker. Ramirez was the team’s best all-around athlete and scored 12 touchdowns on the season.
Gage Wynn (WR/FS, Sr.), Jedu Matuatia-Reyes (CB/WR, Sr.), Simon Rodriguez (DE/TE, Sr.), Roberto Buenrostro (DE/FB, Sr.)
These seniors represent four of the seven expected to get playing time this season. The good news for Nipomo — and bad news for opposing offenses — is that all will be key contributors to the defense. Wynn, who led the league in interceptions (5) last season, will take a bigger role as a receiver this year. Matuatia-Reyes said he played hurt almost all of last season and will look to be the Titans’ shut-down cornerback. Rodriguez and Buenrostro, who combined for 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss last season, will book-end the defensive line.
Under The Radar
Brayden Groshart (QB/MLB, Soph.), Chad Shusterich (QB/WR, Jr.), Luis-Diego Riquelme (RB/SS, Jr.), Keyshawn Pua (MLB/RB, Fr.)
Groshart, a sophomore playing quarterback for the first time, looks like the front-runner to claim the starting job. But Shusterich (younger brother of Arroyo Grande baseball standout Jake) has been competing for the job, too. Riquelme — a small, hard-nosed runner — will be the Titans’ featured back on offense, and Pu’a is a freshman with star potential who will see the field plenty this season.
Arroyo Grande (Sept. 29), Santa Maria (Nov. 3)
CIF-SS Power Ranking
Division 6, No. 117