High School Sports

Nipomo football smothers defending section champion, continues strong start

Nipomo High School football team’s Jahrizon Matautia Reyes tracks down Golden West running back Jacob Salazar in Friday’s non-conference game in Nipomo, California.
Nipomo High School football team’s Jahrizon Matautia Reyes tracks down Golden West running back Jacob Salazar in Friday’s non-conference game in Nipomo, California. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

On a night when the offense gave up three turnovers, Nipomo High School’s defense played a commanding role in the outcome of its 35-20 victory Friday over Golden West of Visalia.

Golden West won the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 title and was the runner-up in the Division 5-AA state final last year. For perspective, Nipomo played in Division 6 last year.

“It’s a sign our program is going in the right direction,” said Nipomo head coach Tony Dodge, whose team improves to 3-0 this season. “We’ve never been 2-0 in history; we’ve never been 3-0 in history. It means what we’re doing is working.”

Tried and true

Defense and a strong running game have been Nipomo’s hallmarks since Dodge took over as head coach in 2015.

This season’s team seems cut from the same cloth.

After a sloppy first half of play that saw Golden West trail 14-13, Nipomo buckled down.

The Titans didn’t allow a second-half point until 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, stifling the Trailblazers offense. The Trailblazers struggled to get first downs and had only three plays over 20 yards.

“I take great pride in our defense,” Dodge said. “They’re going to keep us in every single game no matter who we play.”

Nipomo had one turnover, an interception by Anthony Perez, but the defense forced three and outs and several turnover on downs.

“We make it very, very difficult (at practice), so Friday nights are easy,” Dodge said

Titans quarterback Brayden Groshart connected with senior wideout Cole Bajema for a 29-yard strike, but also threw for two interceptions and lost a fumble.

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Insurance run

Last year, running Carmelo Hernandez sat out after playing football his first two seasons at Nipomo to focus on his primary sport: baseball.

As a junior, Hernandez hit .436 — second on the team­ — and had a team-leading seven doubles while playing catcher.

Dodge wanted Hernandez to come back to football for his senior season because he believed he would be an important part of the team.

“There are many things I said to him to get him out: it makes him more marketable, it’ll make him a better athlete, it’s his senior year,” Dodge said.

Dodge still doesn’t know what exactly he said to convince him, but Hernandez decided to play football for his senior season, and sure enough, he is having an impact.

In Friday’s game, the running back had two scores. The first came between the tackles from 4 yards out. The second went for 35 yards after several broken tackles.

Hernandez also played an important role on the defensive line, limiting the Trailblazers running game in the second half.

Sophomore Keyshawn Pu’a added 90 yards and a score, and senior Luis Diego-Riquelme also had rushing touchdown.

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What’s next

Nipomo (3-0) continues its tough preseason next week at Bishop Diego (1-2) of Santa Barbara. Last season, the Cardinals won the CIF-SS Division 6 title and were the state champions in Division 3-AA.

Coincidently, Bishop Diego beat the Golden Valley in the Division 6 title game — the team that eliminated Nipomo in the first round of the playoffs.

Scores involving SLO County teams

Arroyo Grande 28, Independence 14

San Luis Obispo 41, San Marcos 33

Mission Prep 42, Kern Valley 14

Stockdale 46, Atascadero 20

El Diamante 17, Paso Robles 10

Templeton 38, Mendota 20

Lindsay 48, Morro Bay 0

Other Central Coast scores

Cate 62, Orcutt Academy 30

Rio Mesa 29, Cabrillo 6

St. Joseph 31, Garces 30

Santa Ynez 36, Santa Maria 0

Lompoc 36, Biship Diego 10