After surviving three turnovers and an upset-minded Santa Ynez team last Friday, the Braves are now preparing for the team that they believe presents more tough matchups: The St. Joseph Knights (5-3).
While the Braves own the better record at 8-0 and the last three meetings against the Knights have gone LHS’s way, both teams come into this contest at 2-0 in the Los Padres League. That contest will be broadcast live by Lee Central Coast Newspapers Friday from Lompoc’s Huyck Stadium. For live video and commentary go to santamariatimes.com.
LHS head coach Andrew Jones hopes that whatever hindered the Braves last Friday against Santa Ynez won’t be repeated against a stacked St. Joseph team.
“I don’t know if it was the homecoming distraction, but it is what it is. It’s frustrating – but you’ve got to learn from it and move on,” Jones said.
Jones, whose Brave teams have outscored the Knights 93-29 in those last three contests, is aware that St. Joseph’s record doesn’t shine a light on a team that has had ups and downs – but rather a team that has played a hard schedule and still puts up lots of points.
“St. Joe’s is battle tested and they’ve played some great teams – and they seem to be playing at a high level. They seem to be breaking the scoreboards,” Jones said.
Here’s a closer look at the matchup:
When the Braves have the ball
Lompoc struggled with consistency on offense in the 10-point victory over the Pirates at Huyck Stadium. Of the Braves’ three turnovers, two were fumbles including one on a botched snap inside the Pirates’ 5-yard line.
Another rare sight for the Braves was this: Shemar Savage and Toa Taua being kept out of the end zone – which hasn’t happened since the explosive offensive duo started playing together. Taua managed to still gain 113 yards on 23 carries, including a 25-yard run during the fourth quarter on LHS’s final drive.
Lompoc, however, proved it can win without Savage and Taua finding the end zone. Ruben Cortez scored once, Johnny Manzo caught two passes for 64 yards including a big 63-yarder and lastly, top free safety option Jimmy Gardner displayed his receiving skills by hauling down a 10-yard touchdown reception against SYHS for the tight end position.
A young Brave offensive line that features two-way lineman Juan De Luna will be going against an exotic Knights defense that sometimes goes with just one lineman in a three-point stance, while others are standing straight up. That Knights’ defense has been on a roll – with no more than 10 points allowed in their last three games.
Newcomer Tim Miller is tops with tackles (59, average of 8.4 per game according to Max Preps). Fellow linebacker Zach Miller has been equally stout with his 49 tackles and average of 8.2 per game. Both also have three stops behind the line of scrimmage.
The Knights’ best ball-hawk has been Joe Doud, who has three interceptions.
When the Knights have the ball
When this offense gets going, they can break records…or break past the 70-point mark – as the Knights have done twice this season.
St. Joseph unleashed 70 on San Luis Obispo and then followed with 77 the following week against Cabrillo. Even when the Knights don’t reach the 70-point threshold, St. Joseph has reached the 40 to 49-point plateau three times this season. One of those games was the 42-12 thrashing of CIF Southern Section Division 2 team St. Bonaventure – which ended an 11-year skid against Ventura County opponents.
One reason behind St. Joseph’s score-at-will offense has been a resurgent Dino Maldonado at quarterback. The senior has thrown 24 touchdown passes and has rushed for five touchdowns.
Maldonado has not one, or two – but five targets to throw to in the air attack. His top go-to-guy has been senior Nate Guzman with his team-high 49 catches and 625 yards. But outside of Guzman, four Knights players have caught 15 passes or more including another newcomer Joe Miller – the leader in touchdown catches with 10.
Jayden Vargas provides balance and versatility in the backfield. Vargas has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with 1,183 yards and has combined for 15 touchdowns (13 rushing).
That deep receiving unit, though, will be going against a talented and stacked defense especially at linebacker with Cortez, Jelani Henderson and 2020 fast-riser Leondre Coleman in the lineup. The secondary has Savage, Gardner, Taua and top shutdown cornerback Dallas Canley neutralizing receiving corps.
Kickoff at Huyck Stadium is set for 7 p.m.