St. Joseph was the lone team that gave Lompoc High a tougher road to the Los Padres League football title one year ago.
The Knights held the Braves to 27 points – the lowest point total for LHS during the regular season. Problem was the Knights only mustered three points in that 27-3 home defeat.
Now – with a more experienced wide receiving corps, a resurgent senior quarterback and an offense that has proven to score at will – St. Joseph is aiming to exact revenge against the Lee Central Coast Newspapers’ No. 1 ranked team in Friday night's game at Huyck Stadium.
Returning outside linebacker Zach Morris remembers that 24-point loss vividly.
“It definitely motivates us,” Morris said before Wednesday’s practice. “Same thing as every year – Lompoc is a very well-coached team and they’re a tough opponent.”
Someone else who constantly thinks about the Braves and the matchups they present on the field is the new guy on the sidelines in the North Santa Barbara County region: Head coach Jim Chvala.
“They’re a well-coached team with very good athletes. They play some great football,” said Chvala, who drew up the defensive schemes last year in an attempt to slow down the Braves.
The last member of that Knights team who lost to the Braves was Dino Maldonado, who was held to 29 passing yards in that loss to LHS.
“They’re a great team. We know that. But we’re a great team too and we have confidence going into this game,” Maldonado said. “We’re very motivated.”
Since last season, Maldonado has increased his passing touchdown total from 16 during his junior season to 24 this season in four less games. One reason for that rise in production is the array of weapons at his disposal.
Maldonado has a handful of receivers to choose from in this offense. He has the luxury of knowing that five options are on the Knights’ perimeter and he has a line that keeps him from constantly going to the ground.
“My offensive linemen help me out a lot. My receivers make plays,” Maldonado said. “Not a lot of people have that opportunity and I’m lucky to have these receivers. They make me look good out here.”
Maldonado has conducted a high-scoring Knights offense that’s averaging more than 42 points per game and has topped the 70-point mark twice this season.
The Knights, however, know that Lompoc’s defense will be a tough assignment. Since the 2015 season, the Braves have surrendered 30 points or more just four times. The Braves are 1-3 in those games.
But, Lompoc just recently slowed up a high-powered Santa Ynez offense that came into Huyck Stadium averaging more than 52 points per game and were held to just seven points in Lompoc’s 17-7 squeaker.
St. Joseph is aware how difficult this contest with Lompoc is. But the Knights do want to remind people – they’ve encountered plenty of distinguished programs from Sherman Oaks Norte Dame to Arroyo Grande to help prepare them for LHS.
“We’re going to have to do our jobs and make plays,” Chvala said.
Morris is aiming to lead a Knights defense that’s energized by the job Santa Ynez did in slowing down LHS last week.
“We watched a lot of that film. They came out with great energy and we’re looking to do the same,” Morris said. “I think we can play with the same energy too. We’re a very well-coached team.”
Kickoff of the Knights versus Braves matchup is at 7 p.m. The game is also senior night for Lompoc High.