Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 24
The Bleacher Bum Chronicles Vol. XXIXDon't look now, but high school football is ready to light up Friday nights
BY THE BLEACHER BUM
It figures. Just as I’m about to get comfortably couch-locked into another marathon of ESPN’s 30 for 30 on Netflix, I turn around, and the fall sports season is upon us. If you’re like me, that can only mean one thing: football. (No offense to the other autumnal sports.)
Here on the Central Coast, all eyes—well, most of them anyway—will be on the Lompoc Braves, who are striving to duplicate last season’s unblemished record and Northwest Division championship. This year, the Braves might come in hungrier than a coyote in the desert, having felt the sting of being snubbed from the state’s CIF Division III bowl game last season. If so, it means bad news for opponents.
Without question, the heart and soul of the Braves coming into 2012 is 5-foot-11, 270-pound running back Lavon Coleman, who committed to the University of Washington over the summer. Coleman isn’t just elusive, he’s a wrecking ball, and defenses will once again have a hard time bringing him down in the open field without an army, and maybe some missiles from nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Looking like the second coming of Napolean Kaufman (and not just because of his new Huskies wardrobe), Coleman, a.k.a. “The Beast,” a.k.a. “The Juggernaut,” rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 26 touchdowns last season. He’s generating a lot of press down south in L.A. and in the Pacific Northwest for his achievements. During a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, which called him “one of the best running backs in California,” Coleman described his style of play.
“As hard as we work at practice, there’s no way one guy should bring me down at any time,” he told the Times.
Coleman returns for what should be a highlight-filled swan song in Lompoc, along with 12 other Braves starters from last year. Returners include Coleman’s backfield counterpart in running back Taylor Cornejo, junior All-State tight end Ainuu Taua, senior fullback/linebacker Willie Iribarren, and senior All-State kicker Jose Morales.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, all the newfound attention, the Braves won’t have an easy road to reprising their role as divisional champions. This year, in a CIF Southern Section shakeup, the Los Padres League moved up to the Western Division, which also happens to include the tough Mission Valley League and Southern California powerhouses Serra of Gardena, Chaminade, and St. Francis.
The Braves, ranked No. 32 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, could face their toughest regular season challenge to their 20-game winning streak in their home opener, Aug. 24 against inter-league rival Arroyo Grande. Lompoc beat A.G., 2011’s Western Division champs, on the road 38-28 in last year’s opening game, the only loss the Eagles had all season. Could the Eagles be out for revenge this time around? You won’t want to miss it.
In league action, the Braves could get a run for their money from Templeton, which has made it to the CIF semis the past two seasons, and cross-town rival Cabrillo, coming off an 11-3 season and a second place finish in CIF last season. Templeton is ranked No. 132 in the state, and welcomes back 18 returning starters on offense and defense, including senior quarterback Alex Elterman, last year’s leading rusher Matt Arace, and 2011 first team All-County offensive lineman Ross Berry.
Meanwhile, the Conqs lost several key players to graduation—running back Isaiah Montes, linebacker T.J. Babauta and quarterback Henry Fienga—and it remains to be seen how well the incoming crop of upperclassmen, like running back Nick Pence, can fill the void. Barring injuries, the Braves clearly have the talent to once again bring home the title, but as they say, there’s a reason you play the games.
Over in the Pac-7, there doesn’t appear to be anything standing in the way of Arroyo Grande repeating as league champs. The Eagles boast key seniors and playoff vets in first team All-County safety/quarterback Matt Willkomm, linebacker Chris Addy, and wide receiver Elijah Holt. However, there are questions about the team’s experience because starting quarterback Brent Vanderveen, as well as the Eagles’ top running backs and receivers from 2011, graduated in the spring. Righetti looks like they could the biggest hurdle. The Warriors lost a grip of seniors from last year’s 8-4 team, but talented quarterback Troy Prober is back for his senior season, as is running back Collin Cooper and top safety/receiver Luke Wilson (no, not THAT Luke Wilson). The Warriors open the season Aug. 24 at home against Villa Park.
The dark horse in the Pac-7 could be San Luis Obispo, who should have something to say before it’s all said and done. SLO made it to the CIF quarterfinals for the first time in five years last season, where they lost a heartbreaker to a tough Chaminade squad. Returning seniors quarterback Garrett Giovanelli, first team All-County linebacker Jack Ferguson, and lineman Cole Foubert, should give the Tigers plenty to roar about in 2012.
But what do I know? I’m just a bum. And that’s my view from the bleachers.
The Bleacher Bum breaks tackles while he writes. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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