Last week’s offensive struggles helped energize Lompoc High football.
And the Braves turned to their dynamic pair of Toa Taua and Shemar Savage to combine for seven touchdowns in the 50-6 romp of St. Joseph on Friday at Huyck Stadium – improving their record to 3-0 in league games and, mathematically, securing the Los Padres League title for the Braves for the eighth straight year.
It was one Friday ago when the Braves’ stud duo were kept out of the end zone and LHS endured its lowest point total of the year against Santa Ynez in that 17-7 victory. But this time, Lompoc head coach Andrew Jones loved how his team responded from last week’s offensive struggles in that 10-point squeaker versus the Pirates.
“I honestly knew we had the potential to do this. Our guys, honestly, had woken up from the sloppiness and turnovers from last week,” Jones said, whose team is now 9-0 overall. “We saw all week in practice with how we were prepared. Our defensive staff had a good plan.”
By virtue of wins over the Knights and the second place Santa Ynez Pirates, Lompoc wins the LPL title regardless if LHS loses to Cabrillo next week. The Braves have dominated the LPL since Andrew Jones took over as head coach in 2010.
Lompoc’s playmakers on both offense and defense went to work immediately – all in front of the University of Nevada coaching staff with head coach Jay Norvell, running back coach David White and a familiar face in Lompoc Valley lore who is now on the Wolf Pack staff as the special teams analyst: Vai Taua. All three stood on the Braves’ sidelines scouting for talent.
On the game’s second play, Savage torched Justin Wong on a 36-yard touchdown. Wong bit on the play fake from LHS quarterback Xavier Nix, who then found Savage distancing himself from Wong for the game’s first score.
Taua then eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark in his varsity career on the second scoring drive, capped by his 9-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0. Taua finished with 122 yards and five touchdowns – his last one coming in the fourth quarter with a running clock in full effect.
Jones and his defensive staff had the daunting task of trying to slow down a high-powered Knights offense that came in scoring between 40 to 77 points in five games this season. The Braves, however, kept the Knights away from the end zone in the first half.
St. Joseph (5-4, 2-1 in the LPL) tried to roll the dice and gamble on fourth down four different times in the first half – but came away with just one conversion. St. Joseph finished 1-for-5 on fourth down conversions.
“I think the big thing for us was that I saw some things on film that I thought, technically and fundamentally, we could try to expose them a little bit,” Jones said.
The Braves sent four to five blue uniformed players into the backfield. Juan De Luna helped penetrate through the backfield from his nose tackle spot, while linebackers Jelani Henderson, Ruben Cortez and Leondre Coleman also made their living in the Knights’ backfield.
Knights quarterback Dino Maldonado didn’t throw his first touchdown until the fourth quarter when he found a streaking Nate Guzman on a 67-yard strike. Maldonado was intercepted twice in the game – once by Dallas Canley in the first quarter on their second offensive drive and late in the second half by Savage.
Taua dominated in his final regular season game in the Lompoc blue uniform…and his five touchdowns were a season-high for him.
“I give all my credit to my line. They really opened up some good holes for me and allowed me to be patient. I also want to thank Jelani Henderson because he stepped up and played a big role as a lead blocker,” Taua said. “He was able to come in, not knowing how to play fullback this whole year, but still coming out and executing.”
Taua, who plans to announce his verbal commitment at the Polynesian Bowl on Jan. 20, says his older brother’s school did make the final cut on his end.
“Nevada is on my short list. I love Nevada,” Taua said. “It’s a great school and being able to play with Elijah Cooks could be something special to be a part of. I was blessed to have my brother come out and support me. Very happy they were able to come see me,” Taua said.
Big Game tickets on sale
Pre-sale tickets for this year’s edition of the Big Game between Cabrillo and Lompoc will go on sale on Monday at the following locations: the Cabrillo Activities office, the Cabrillo Athletics office and the Lompoc Activities and Athletics offices during normal school hour, 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Tickets may also be purchased at Rose’s Embroidery Lettering & Gifts at 726 North H St. Pre-sale ticket prices are $8 for adults and high school students without an ASB sticker, $5 for visiting Lompoc HS students with an ASB sticker, middle school students with an ID card and supervised children 12-and-under and $5 for seniors and Cabrillo alumni with a current Cabrillo alumni ID card.
Cabrillo students with an ASB sticker will be admitted free of charge (Cabrillo is the home school) but CHS students without an ASB sticker must purchase adult tickets.
Tickets may also be purchased the night of the game, which takes place on Friday at 7 p.m. at Huyck Stadium.
Ticket prices on the day of the game will be $8 for adults and students and $5 for seniors and children under 12 supervised by an adult.