Dos Pueblos High plays up its semirural character with the slogan “Straight Outta Hicktown,” but the Chargers football team got out-hicked last Friday night. The Lompoc Braves came to town and took over sole possession of first place in the Channel League by pounding out a 42-21 victory over the Chargers.
“We like Santa Barbara; we’re enjoying it,” Lompoc coach Andrew Jones said of his team’s second triumphant visit this season (after a 36-10 win over Bishop Diego), with another coming up this Saturday, October 13, when the Braves take on the Santa Barbara Dons at La Playa Stadium.
Lompoc and Santa Ynez are new additions to the Channel League, and they have brought a certain rigor to the football scene. Santa Barbara got a taste of it Friday night when the Dons went over the pass to play Santa Ynez — for the first time in anybody’s recollection — and took a 28-10 licking from the Pirates.
“We’re the smallest school [in the league], and we have to take the toughness approach,” said Josh McClurg, who played for the Pirates 25 years ago. When he took over as head football coach at his alma mater in 2012, McClurg felt that things had gone soft. “The socioeconomic level rose, and toughness declined,” he said. “The culture had to be changed. It was a long process, putting demands on the kids to be accountable, making them learn to be uncomfortable. Everybody wants to be happy and feel good, but life isn’t always like that.”
His father, Brent McClurg, was a Dos Pueblos Charger in the early days of the school. Josh was a year old when his family moved from Santa Barbara to the valley and embraced the country life.
Lompoc is the ultimate blue-collar team. “I didn’t have to motivate kids,” said Mike Warren, a former coach of the Braves. “That gets done at home.” Said Frank Aragon, a 2018 Lompoc grad who attended last Friday’s Dos Pueblos game: “There’s nothing to do in Lompoc. The only thing we had to look forward to was football. Six, seven, eight years old, we played. When we got to high school, we were so jelled.”
Dos Pueblos did not shrink from the challenge. “We’re not afraid to play physical football,” said Coach Doug Caines. With their big offensive line, anchored by 345-pound tackle Angel Flores, and hard-running tailback Eric Lopez, the Chargers traded blows with the Braves for three quarters. Udy Loza, a 150-pound speedster, got loose on a 62-yard touchdown sprint that tied the score, 21-21. But the Braves, who stayed on the ground throughout the second half, hammered the Chargers into submission, with running back Leondre Coleman (25 carries for 228 yards) as the main hammer.
SAYING IT AIN’T SO: It was disturbing to see UCSB coach Joe Pasternack’s name come up last week in a federal trial dealing with corruption and bribery in college basketball recruiting. The father of five-star prospect Brian Bowen alleged that Pasternack, then an assistant coach at Arizona, offered to funnel $50,000 for his son to commit to the Wildcats. No such transaction ever took place. Brian Bowen Sr. testified that other schools, including Creighton and Oklahoma State, offered as much as $150,000. He said his son ultimately chose Louisville after being promised $100,000 by aspiring agent Christian Dawkins, who faces charges in the New York trial along with two shoe company representatives.
When Pasternack left Arizona to become UCSB’s head coach on April 4, 2017, the alleged shenanigans were still going on (Bowen committed to Louisville in June). Four college assistant coaches were arrested later in the year on charges they took bribes to influence players to sign with certain agents. They included Arizona’s Book Richardson — implicated in bribes that he received after Pasternack’s departure — and USC’s Tony Bland, who had been a candidate for the Gaucho job. They will face trials next year.
Gaucho athletics director John McCutcheon issued this statement last week: “UC Santa Barbara has not been contacted by any of the federal investigators involved in the college basketball trial in New York City. At this time, we are focused on and excited about the upcoming season.”
It seems to me that Pasternack’s move to Santa Barbara enabled him to escape the web of shady dealings that entangles coaches under pressure to compete in high-powered programs. He declared his intention to “do things the right way” when he was hired at UCSB. He sees its academic prestige — it was recently ranked as the No. 5 public university in the country — as all the incentive an athlete needs to take a scholarship worth up to $60,000 a year. A first-class education and a chance to play ball — what a deal.
There is good reason to be excited about the upcoming Gaucho men’s basketball season. Pasternack and staff proved their coaching chops last year by compiling a 23-9 record — after UCSB had won just six games the previous season — and an infusion of new talent has them looking at potentially better things to come.
A BLUE YEAR? Monday, October 15, will mark the 30th anniversary of the most unforgettable moment in L.A. sports: the Kirk Gibson home run that launched the Dodgers to their improbable triumph — maybe even impossible, as Vin Scully suggested — in the 1988 World Series. It was the toughness of Gibson, who was so beat up he could hardly walk, that brought it about.
I saw some toughness in the current Dodgers as they put away the Atlanta Braves in four games to win the National League Division Series. A number of players had red Atlanta dirt on their uniforms after Monday’s 6-2 clincher. A key blow was struck by David Freese, a gritty veteran who, like Gibson, came to L.A. with noteworthy experience in a previous World Series (2011, when he was Series MVP for the St. Louis Cardinals).