Nipomo head coach Tony Dodge is happy with the way the football program is trending.
Dodge, entering his second year at the helm after previously serving as the defensive coordinator, has played a big role in that upward swing.
In 2014, Nipomo won its first ever CIF-Southern Section title with Dodge overseeing the defense. And last season, with Dodge in his first year at the helm while still serving as the defensive coordinator, the Titans made it all the way to the semifinals of the Northwest Division playoffs.
“I tell the boys we are developing a tradition and a solid, solid program if you are the last team around every single year. So, that’s our goal,” Dodge said.
This season, Nipomo is looking like it will again compete for the Northern League title, which has eluded the team the last two seasons despite the team’s playoff success.
With that goal in mind, Nipomo will again lean heavily on a power running game and a talented defensive backfield.
Nipomo at a glance
2015 record: 7-6 overall, 3-1 Northern League
Playing a difficult schedule, Nipomo lost to the bigger schools in the area and a chance at the league title when they fell to Mission Prep late in the season. But the difficult schedule paid off on the back end of the season with a deep run in the playoffs, ending with a semifinal loss to Linfield Christian.
Gavin Hall (QB), Antonio Navarro (RB), Terry Wambolt (LB), Clemente Ramiscal (LB), David Leon (DL)
With the departure of Navarro, Nipomo loses a 1,000-yard rusher and a powerful running back that scored 12 touchdowns last season. But perhaps no loss is bigger than Wambolt, a player Dodge called “irreplaceable.”
Despite being undersized, Wambolt set tackle records for the school and held down the middle of a defense that carried the team at times last season. In Leon, the Titans lose a master at stopping the run and the team leader in sacks with eight.
Spencer Pool (QB/DB, Sr.), JJ Ramirez (RB/WR/DB, Sr.), Matthew O’Henley (LB/OL, Sr.), Isaac Bausley (RB/DB, Sr.)
The key players coming back for Nipomo are expected to impact the game on both sides of the ball. Pool, who will again play cornerback, is looking like the favorite to start at quarterback. Last year’s junior varsity quarterback, Nicolas Robledo, could also start, according to Dodge.
Ramirez, who rushed for 750 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior, will play running back and wide receiver on offense and remain a cornerback. Bausley should get the bulk of the carries at running back and will move from free safety to strong safety, while O’Henley will return to his spot at left tackle and compete for the middle linebacker spot after playing on the defensive line last season.
Under The Radar
Michael Jordan (RB/CB, Sr.), Jedu Matuatia-Reyes (WR/DB, Jr.), Nicholas Robledo (QB/LB, Jr.)
Jordan, who played on Nipomo’s CIF-Southern Section championship team, returns after skipping football while attending other schools last season.
The athletic Matuatia-Reyes played well enough as a sophomore to be pulled up from JV to varsity toward the end of last season. If Robledo doesn’t win the starting quarterback job, Dodge will use his speed and strength at linebacker.
@Arroyo Grande (Sept. 30), @Mission Prep (Oct. 21)
Dodge said to gain respect on the Central Coast, Nipomo will have to win against some of the best programs in the area. They will have a chance to do just that in a difficult road game against Arroyo Grande in September. The rematch against defending Northern League champion Royals should be a good one, too.
CIF-SS Power Ranking
Nipomo made a big leap to Division 6 after two years of success. The Titans enter the season ranked No. 115 overall in the CIF-Southern Section power rankings out of 306 schools. Within Division 6, Nipomo is near the bottom, ranking No. 19 out of 22 schools.
The Tribune’s 2016 prep football
Over the next two weeks, The Tribune staff will preview the upcoming high school football season leading up to the Week 1 opener Aug. 26. On Friday, reporter Travis Gibson looks at Nipomo. On Saturday, he previews Arroyo Grande.