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2019 High School Football Preview: Expectations high at Lompoc

From the Collection: 2019 High School Football - See all of our season previews, power rankings and player profiles right here! series
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2019 High School Football Preview: Expectations high at Lompoc

There's little question that Lompoc is the premier program on the Central Coast.

But the Braves have had back-to-back early exits in the postseason, getting knocked out in the first round last year and in the second round in 2017.

The Braves were on the brink of making the CIF-SS D4 title game in 2016, before falling to Corona del Mar 35-34 in the semifinals.

The biggest reason for the Braves' premature exit in the postseason the last two years? Mainly them playing in the third-highest division in the toughest section in the nation.

Now the Braves are in a much more competitive Division 5 in 2019 and they are, once again, loaded with talent.

With the expectations around the Lompoc High program, it's safe to say it's a title-game-or-bust type of season for the Braves.

They have the top coach in the area entering his 10th season. Andrew Jones is 100-14 (an .877 winning percentage) and is 44-1 in league games, having won 41 straight.

Jones has also put together the best coaching staff in the 805.

He has former St. Joseph head coach Dustin Davis leading the defense and TJ Jordan, one of the top QB coaches around, leading the offense.

Longtime Hancock coach Ricky Aguilar, who also played at LHS in the early 2000s, is now on the staff. Aguilar was Hancock's defensive coordinator for six seasons.

Matt Sims, another LHS grad, has put together dominant offensive lines year after year. Harrison Keller, who coached at St. Joseph and spent time on Cal Poly's staff, is also at LHS.

On the field, the Braves return top starters at almost all the critical positions.

The Braves have a returning QB in Cameron Iribarren, the reigning Channel League Offensive MVP. 

Leondre Coleman is now a senior. The younger brother of former Washington standout Lavon Coleman, is the reigning Channel League Defensive MVP. 

Jacob Nunez, the team's 6-foot-4, 280-pound offensive tackle, is committed to Arizona State.

Ryan Morgan, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound safety/receiver, is committed to Wyoming. 

The Braves have coaching, talent and experience and are in a good division for the playoffs.

"The expectations don't change," Jones said. "We want to compete for a league championship and try to make a run in this division."

Jones, himself a former Lompoc quarterback, has relied on talented QB play over the years, though Lompoc is renowned for its rushing attack.

Iribarren, a lefty, threw 13 TDs a year ago, against just four INTs. He did complete just 44 percent of his passes, though some of that can attributed to the inexperienced receiving corps the Braves featured.

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Iribarren rushed 151 times for 1,068 yards and 15 TDs. 

Jones does want more consistency in the passing game in hopes of limiting the amount Iribarren runs in 2019. 

"Cameron had a heck of a year last year. He's a dynamic player, the offensive player of the year in our league," Jones said. "This offseason he spent a lot of time with coach TJ working on the passing game. I think he seems more comfortable, more accurate. If he can get that going, we obviously have a lot of skill guys, weapons for him to throw to.

"If we can combine that, not be as one-dimensional as we were last year, I think we can be pretty dangerous."

"I can always work on the passing game, that's my main asset this season," Iribarren says.

The QB agrees that he has a lot to work with as far as offensive weapons go.

"I feel we're pretty stacked at the skill positions. We have a lot seniors there. We also have Joe Schumer out there," Iribarren said. "He's mainly a DB, but I feel he's going to be making a lot of big plays out there."

Jones also feels Cailin Daniels will be a player to shine in 2019. Daniels was up on varsity as a sophomore in his first time ever playing football. Daniels went on to have a stellar track season, competing in the long jump, triple jump and 4x100 relay, where he won league titles in all three.

"Last year was his first time ever playing and he's definitely made huge strides in the offseason," Jones said of Daniels. "Kind of an electric kid. We've got a slew of receivers working pretty hard. Joe Schumer, Leondre rotates back and forth, Christian Tenorio came up late last year and made some big catches for us. We definitely have more athletic guys returning than we do up front on the line."

Though the offensive line may lack experience, it does return star Jacob Nunez, who's committed to ASU. Nunez relishes his role as a nasty lineman who just plays. 

"I feel like I'm under the scenes, working hard. Offensive linemen don't need interviews, don't need any of that," he said. "They're all strictly about the game, playing hard and protecting the quarterback."

Nunez has played on varsity all four years.

"I've developed a lot, mentally, physically and overall as a player and human being. I'm definitely a team player," Nunez said. 

Jones said the biggest question mark on the defense is the front three after they lose Juan DeLuna and Geovany Lucatero to graduation.

"Just about everyone returns with the back guys," Jones said. "...We're going to be fast athletic, running to the football, if we can just find the three down guys I think we can be pretty good defensively."

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Lompoc High School's Jed Rantz, Ryan Morgan, John Gaitan, Joe Schumer, Jacob Nunez and Cameron Iribarren hope to lead the Braves to another Channel League title and a deeper run in the playoffs in 2019.

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