It was like a microburst when Toa Taua blew past the line of scrimmage at La Playa Stadium last Saturday night. The powerful Lompoc High running back whooshed downfield and left Santa Barbara defenders scattered like loose palm fronds.
Taua scored three touchdowns in the first half, and after Lompoc’s 56-0 victory, he visited the end zone for a fourth time and took a knee. “I said a little prayer,” he said, “giving thanks to God for all the blessings he put upon us, letting us play this beautiful game, keeping me healthy, letting me have fun doing things I love.”
Lompoc’s opponents could use some prayers of their own. The Braves outscored San Marcos and Santa Barbara high schools on consecutive weeks, 128-14. They were well prepared for the Dons, who had displayed a productive passing attack while scoring 38 points a game. “Our defense was great tonight,” Lompoc coach Andrew Jones said. “It’s the first time we faced an elite quarterback [SBHS junior Frankie Gamberdella]. It’s Saturday night, the only show in town, and we played lights out.”
Gamberdella had to get rid of the ball quickly under tremendous pressure. He managed to complete a number of short passes, and each time the receiver was jolted by clean but hard hits from the Braves, on at least one occasion knocking the wind out of him. In the category of yards after catch, the Dons had zero. They managed only three first downs. “We came out with that tough mentality today,” said Taua, a defensive corner. “It was really special.”
Santa Barbara coach JT Stone praised the Braves as a special team: “Their senior class is spectacular. They fly to the football. They have tremendous team speed. They’re aggressive. They have everything you want in a football team. My hat’s off to them. We knew they were going to be physical from watching them on film. When you see them in person, right in front of you, it’s a totally different deal.”
Lompoc will be in the same league with the Dons next year, and Stone is glad they won’t have to deal with the likes of Taua and linebacker Jelani Henderson. Taua said he has 13 college scholarship offers, with more possibly to come. “I’m looking forward to choosing in January or February,” he said.
Despite Santa Barbara’s thumping, it was a good weekend for South Coast football. Bishop Diego and Dos Pueblos were on the road Friday night, and they scored significant victories in come-from-behind fashion, Bishop edging Santa Maria St. Joseph, 24-23, and DP’s Chargers topping Camarillo, 29-26.
FREE ADVICE: Jack Renkens, founder of Recruiting Realities, a resource for prospective college athletes, will make a presentation on Monday, September 25, at 7 p.m. at the San Marcos High theater. It’s free for all students and their families. Renkens has years of experience as a coach, athletic director, and parent of an athlete. “It’s not about hitting a ball [or] kicking a ball,” he has said. “It’s about finding the right school match academically.”
HOYAS LAND GORDON: During his 35 years as coach of the Santa Barbara High girls’ basketball team, Andrew Butcher has seen 25 Dons go on to play for Division 1 college teams. Cassandra Gordon is in line to be number 26 next year. The senior guard has made a verbal commitment to play for Georgetown. She attracted several offers after playing for the elite Team Taurasi over the summer. She liked UCSB too, but the lure of D.C. and the Big East Conference won out over the Big West.
REAL FÚTBOL: Mariachis played at halftime of the UCSB–Club América U-20 soccer exhibition Sunday. These words near the end of the match also were music to a fan’s ears: “There will be three minutes of stoppage time.” Letting the referee decide how much longer the game should go on is far superior to the timing of college matches, which end at 90 minutes with the public-address announcer counting down: “Ten-nine-eight …” Knowing exactly when it’s over gives the leading team an opportunity to stall with impunity. Many international goals have been scored in stoppage time, when a team knows that the final whistle will not blow if it earns a corner kick or is in the midst of an attack.
Club América’s fans had three minutes to hope for an equalizer after UCSB took a 2-1 lead into stoppage time. But the Gauchos’ scrambling defense managed to hold off the professional hopefuls, who had the skill to create many chances but scored only once. UCSB got second-half goals from Derek Kryzda, a sophomore of Polish-Dutch-Mexican parentage who grew up in Mexico City, and first-year Koby Bench.
JINX REVERSED: The L.A. Dodgers went into a horrendous slump after they were celebrated as the “BEST. TEAM. EVER?” on the August 28 cover of Sports Illustrated. It was another illustration of the alleged SI jinx. After witnessing the Dodgers’ 10th consecutive defeat, I described them as a bad team that might blow their division lead. I’ll take credit for their subsequent revival. Call it my SI (Senior Irascibility) judgment.
Two words cast doubt on the Sports Illustrated jinx: Kathy Ireland. She appeared on several of the magazine’s Swimsuit Edition covers and since has prospered as a wife, mother, and businesswoman.
CASEBEER MEMORIAL: Friends of Chris Casebeer, a member of UCSB’s legendary 1969 volleyball champions and a compassionate supporter of the Special Olympics and other civic activities, will celebrate his life on Sunday, October 8, at 2 p.m. at Godric Grove in Elings Park. Casebeer died September 2 from pancreatic cancer.
GAME OF THE WEEK
9/23: College Soccer: Menlo at Westmont
Both of Westmont’s nationally ranked teams hope this Saturday’s doubleheader gets them off to a good start in the Golden State Athletic Conference. The Warrior men (1-1-3) have allowed one goal in their last four matches while scoring just two themselves. Goalkeeper Lalo Delgado and the defense will be challenged by Menlo (4-2-1), which scored 14 times in its last three games. Westmont’s women (6-1), ranked no. 6 in the NAIA, scored their fifth consecutive win last week, 3-2 over Azusa Pacific, as Santa Barbara’s Jackie Lopez tallied two goals. Menlo (4-1-1) took the Warriors into overtime last year. Men: noon; women: 2:30pm. Thorrington Field, Westmont College, 955 La Paz Rd. Free-$8. Call 565-6010.
SB ATHLETIC ROUND TABLE ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Jason Peterson, San Marcos cross country
The senior churned through the Dos Pueblos three-mile course in 15:49, leading the Royals to an upset of no. 2–ranked Ventura in a Channel League meet.
Caylin Zimmerman, Laguna Blanca volleyball
Following her strong effort (nine kills, 19 digs) in the Owls’ sweep of San Marcos, the senior led them to a runner-up finish in the Camarillo Tournament.