The Lompoc Braves fell behind early then came storming back but, in the end, they just ran out of time.
The Braves (5-6) fell to the visiting Anaheim Western Pioneers (8-2), 42-37, in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 9 football playoffs Friday night at Huyck Stadium.
“I was talking to Western’s head coach (Dan Davidson) before the game and we both agreed that the game would come down to the final possession,” said Lompoc head coach Andrew Jones.
“That was an unbelievable game,” said Davidson. “Lompoc is a great team with a great coach and some great players. Their number 20 (Canley) and number 10 (Dickerson) are special players.”
Unfortunately for the Braves, the No. 3 seed in the division, that final possession went to the Pioneers, the No. 14 seed, who were able to drain the final 3:27 off the clock to seal the win.
Lompoc’s star running back Sheldon Canley Jr. ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries to lead the Braves’ ground attack.
Braves’ quarterback Cavin Ross went 16-for-24 through the air, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Rudy Elizondo and a 36-yard touchdown to Deville “Djoker” Dickerson. Ross also scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Quarterback Anthony Luna led a pass-heavy attack, throwing for five touchdowns, completing 19-of-34 passes (with one interception) for 246 yards.
Michael Alatorre led the Pioneers’ running game, picking up 91 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Western had a seemingly comfortable 35-17 lead after Alatorre scored on a 7-yard run with 11:29 left in the fourth quarter.
“We had a slow start – that’s been our problem all year- and then caught fire late,” said Jones. “Whenever we got our offense going, our defense was slumping and when we got the defense going, our offense slumped but they are a great team. It won’t surprise me if they make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Lompoc made things interesting – and tense for the visiting Pioneers.
On the Braves’ next play, a 1st-and-10 from their own 20, Ross found an open Elizondo who hauled in the pass near midfield and raced down the sideline for an 80-yard TD. The two-point conversion failed but Lompoc had narrowed the gap to 35-23.
After forcing a Western punt at the 10:11 mark, Ross led the Braves on a quick 5-play, 74-yard drive. Canley opened it with a 13-yard run. Two plays later, Canley picked up another 13. After a Canley 7-yard gain, Dickerson got behind the Pioneers’ defense and Ross found him for a wide-open 36-yard touchdown.
Junior Gaeta’s point after kick narrowed the gap to 35-30 with 9:21 remaining in the game.
Western then began chewing up both the yards and the clock, marching 65 yards on 10 plays.
Facing a fourth-and-four from the Lompoc 11, Luna beat tight Braves’ coverage, hitting Michael Sutton-Shy with an 11-yard touchdown pass to put Western up 42-30 with 4:10 left in the game.
Lompoc wasn’t done.
After an out of bounds kickoff, Lompoc took over at Western’s 47.
Four plays later, Canley powered through the middle of the defense for an 11-yard touchdown, cutting the Pioneer’s lead to 42-37 with 3:27 left in the game.
After covering Lompoc’s onside kick attempt, Western began at its own 48 yard line and was able to run out the clock on Lompoc’s season.
Western got their game off to a fast start by scoring on the first possession of the game, a 14-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Luna to Drew Faulkner.
On their next possession, they used 11-plays to cover 66-yards, ending with a Sutton-Shy 9-yard TD catch.
Lompoc got its offense in gear on their next possession that covered the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second with Ross’ 1-yard touchdown run capping a 7-play 65-yard drive.
But Western scored on their next possession, on a 30-yard pass to Tywon Mitchell with 9:12 remaining in the half.
Dickerson intercepted Luna later in the quarter to end another Western drive.
As the clock ran out, Lompoc’s Gaeta hit a 27-yard field goal to cut Western’s lead to 21-10 at the half.
Lompoc was moving downfield to begin the second half but a Ross fumble turned the ball over to the Pioneers.
They took advantage, covering 69-yards on 5 plays, with a 17-yard TD pass to Faulkner upping Western’s lead to 28-10.
Lompoc struck next on a 1-yard Canley’s run, keeping the Braves in the game, down 28-17.
Alatorre’s 8-yard touchdown run early in the fourth set the stage for Lompoc’s dramatic comeback attempt.