The past 12 months were quite a ride in the Lompoc Valley, particularly in the sports world. 

In a year that was greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, 2021 started off slowly. There were no local sports until March. Then things picked up.

The Braves and Conqs finally returned to the fields and gyms as some sense of normalcy followed. 

Let's take a look at the top stories for the Lompoc Valley in 2021. 

Lompoc loses coaching icon

Dan Bodary coached the Lompoc Braves for 35 seasons, winning 615 baseball games, 18 league championships and four CIF titles.

He had nearly 30 players sign professional baseball contracts and six former players reach the majors.

He died on Oct. 24 in his native Michigan. He was 81.

When Bodary retired in 2001, he was one of only four coaches in the state to have reached 600 wins. He went 615-284-13 in his 35 years as the head coach of the Braves, making him the sixth winningest coach in the history of the CIF Southern Section.

Danny Duffy and the lights, trade to Dodgers

Danny Duffy had an eventful 2021, to say the least. His most proudest achievement, though, is that he's bringing lights to his former high school baseball field.

Duffy donated $1 million for a project to bring lights to Cabrillo High's on-campus baseball stadium. That will allow night-time games and tournaments at CHS.

Duffy, a longtime pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, was also traded for the first time in his career, going from the Royals to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Duffy never pitched for LA as he dealt with an elbow injury, though he plans to pitch in 2022.  

Sheldon Canley Jr.'s tremendous 2021

While some athletes struggled during the pandemic, Lompoc star running back Sheldon Canley Jr. seemed to flourish. 

Canley helped Lompoc go unbeaten with a strong spring football season, then had a tremendous track season. Canley won the county title in the 100-meter dash and set a school record in the 100 at 10.64 seconds during the CIF Southern Section postseason. 

Canley then had a stellar senior season in the fall, racking up over 1,800 yards of offense in 11 games, scoring 27 touchdowns. Last month, Canley signed to play football at San Diego State. The speedster isn't done at LHS, though. He's planning on running track in the spring.  

One of the most memorable games of the year was when Canley rushed for 306 yards and six touchdowns in a 48-47 loss to Arroyo Grande in September. 

Joker's wild returns

It's hard to match Canley's production, but someone in the Valley matched Canley's ability to make explosive plays. That would be none other than Lompoc's Deville "Joker" Dickerson. 

Dickerson had eight return touchdowns during the 11-game fall season, scoring four times on punts and four times on kick returns. This came after he had three return touchdowns in just four games in the spring. Dickerson played about three seasons at Lompoc but holds the school record for kick returns.  

If there was an athlete you couldn't take your eye off of in 2021, it would have to be Dickerson, who's set to continue his football career at Idaho State.

No Big Game?

The graduating class of 2021 didn't have a Big Game for their final seasons in high school. There was no Big Game during the 2021 spring season, as Cabrillo forfeited the game citing COVID-19 issues. That seemed to ruffle some feathers at LHS. 

Though the game hasn't been competitive for a decade, it was certainly a unique experience for the seniors of '21 not to have a Big Game to play in. Luckily the game did return in the fall of 2021 as a non-league contest. 

Moving to the Central Section

Both Cabrillo and Lompoc are set to move to the CIF Central Section next school year. What will that be like? Well, it should be much more competitive for both of these athletic programs. Playing in the Channel League has been an uphill battle for the Conqs and Braves in most sports. 

The schools will join the Central Coast Athletic Association, along with Santa Ynez, another school that's on the move. They will join the Santa Maria Valley schools and San Luis Obispo County schools. The CCAA uses a promotion/relegation system in all sports, meaning Cabrillo and Lompoc should have a chance at competing in various sports instead of just going up against the Santa Barbara schools every year in league. 

Lompoc will be in a football league with Arroyo Grande, Righetti, St. Joseph, Mission Prep, Nipomo, Paso Robles and Santa Ynez. Cabrillo will be in a football league with Santa Maria, Pioneer Valley, San Luis Obispo, Templeton, Morro Bay and Atascadero.

Cabrillo football continues slide

Cabrillo failed to win a football game for the fourth consecutive year and underwent another coaching change. 

Andy Guyader had the deck stacked against him, taking the Cabrillo head coaching position in the midst of the pandemic. Guyader went months without meeting his team in person, then coached a shortened season derailed by the pandemic in the spring of 2021.

Cabrillo had a full season in the fall, though they struggled to compete and Guyader was replaced by athletic director Gary West, who took over the head coaching position on an interim basis. 

Lompoc High softball has good run

The Lompoc High softball team had a stellar spring 2021 season, going 16-6 overall and 10-5 in the Channel League. The Braves then had a nice postseason run.

They beat Panorama City St. Genevieve 10-2 in the playoff opener, then wallopped Canoga Park Faith Baptist 19-0 in the next round before beating Arcadia Rio Hondo Prep 15-1 in the quarterfinal round. The Braves' playoff run ended in the semifinals with a 6-0 loss to Perris Orange Vista, which lost 4-2 to Ventura St. Bonaventure in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 title game. 

The Braves should be good again in 2022: They return top two-way player Cheyanne Cordova and Briana Reitmeier, among a slew of other top returners.

Vai Taua coaches at Nevada

Vai Taua had a pretty good ending to '21. The Cabrillo High grad who is an assistant coach for the University of Nevada football team was named interim head coach in December when head coach Jay Norvell left for Colorado State. 

Taua coached the Wolf Pack in the Quick Lane Bowl last week in Detroit. Nevada, missing nearly all its top players and head coach, lost to Western Michigan 52-24 in the bowl game. Taua, though, was retained to the coaching staff at Nevada and will be a top assistant this fall under new head coach Ken Wilson. 

Taua also got to serve as head coach for younger brother Toa Taua, who will play his final season at Nevada this coming fall.

Elks Little League crown

The Elks won the Lompoc Little League crown in June, sweeping the majors division championship with a 5-1 win in seven innings of the Pistons at JM Park.

That win followed the 7-0 win over the Pistons for the Elks and completed a two-game sweep in the city series.

The Elks was the top seed in the majors division bracket. They beat the Grouters 13-2 in the first round and the Aztecs 13-0 in the second. 

The Elks, though, did have to rally to win the league and city title. They suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Pistons and faced the Shack in an elimination game.

The Red Sox beat the Dodgers for the minors division title at Lompoc Little League.