Dos Pueblos was holding its own against two-time defending CIF champion Lompoc in a battle of unbeaten football teams Friday night at Scott O’Leary Stadium.
A 1-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback LeShon Bell pulled the Chargers to within 13-7 late in the third quarter. The Braves, however, countered with a 73-yard touchdown run by running back Nikko Hayes and went on to defeat DP 31-14, extending their winning streak to 24 games.
“That long run was a dagger,” said DP coach Nate Mendoza, who was coaching against his long-time friend Andrew Jones, his older brother, Aaron, a Lompoc assistant, and his alma mater.
Hayes, filling in for injured star running back and Washington commit Lavon Coleman (thigh injury), rushed for 168 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns for the No. 2-ranked team in the CIF-SS Western Division.
“I just had to step up,” Hayes said. “It’s part of the game, when one guy goes down, the next guy has to step up.”
Hayes’ performance wasn’t a surprise to Jones.
“Nikko Hayes, we know he can run the rock,” Jones said. “He really hasn’t been able to because of Lavon being the centerpiece. Nico, he’s legit; he can basically do it all.”
The Braves also got three field goals from Jose Morales and a touchdown run from Taylor Cornejo to improve to 4-0.
Dos Pueblos (3-1) got a good performance from Bell. He ran for a touchdown and passed to Robert Gulvin for the second score. Bell rushed for 62 yards on 17 carries and completed 9 of 15 passes for 118 yards with one interception.
Dos Pueblos’ defense made its presence known early, as Jordan Degraffinreid broke up a pass from Lompoc quarterback Tyler Ornelas and Nolan Soto picked it off at the Braves 28.
But Lompoc’s defense rose to the occasion and dropped DP running back Anthony Spiritosanto for three straight losses. The Chargers ended up punting the ball.
“Our strength all year has been Anthony and the other running backs running power or blasts inside and (Lompoc) continued to take that way,” Mendoza said. “They took our inside runs away.”
The Braves would capitalize on a DP turnover to take a 7-0 lead. Defensive back Gregory Mitchell intercepted a pass from Bell at the 41 and returned it to the Charger 21. Four running plays later, Cornejo scored on a 6-yard run.
Lompoc, led by Ainuu Taua and Brian Piemme up front, was controlling the line of scrimmage and not allowing DP to get anything going offensively.
After forcing a punt, the Braves drove from their 33 to the DP 6, where the drive stalled and they settled for a 23-yard field goal by Morales at 8:07 of the second quarter.
Lompoc got the ball back with 2:32 left in the half and reached the Charger 8. Ornelas tried to scramble for the touchdown but DP defenders chased him down. Morales came on with two seconds left in the half and kicked a 24-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead.
“Unfortunately, we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the first half,” Mendoza said. “We limit a couple of mistakes and it’s really 3-0 in the first half rather than 13. But Lompoc kept pounding away at us. They were in their goal-line formation offensively and they pounded us.”
DP played with more fire in the second half and Bell provided the spark with his running and elusiveness. He led the Chargers on 42-yard drive and scored on a 1-yard run to make it 13-7.
“When we came in halftime, I felt like we played a flat first half; I’m talking about all the way as a team,” said Mendoza. “We kind of got hit in the face a little bit like we never had in a awhile. I asked the players to play different second half and they did.”
Unfazed after giving the touchdown, Lompoc went back to work and, on the second play after the kickoff, Hayes busted off left tackle and bolted 73 yards for a back-breaking TD with 2:43 left in the third quarter. Cornejo ran for a two-point conversion.
Bell kept the Chargers in the game with his playmaking ability. He got a hot hand throwing the ball on their next possession, completing passes of 25 and 23 yards to Nico Bornand and finishing off an 80-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring strike to Gulvin.
That cut the deficit to 21-14 with 9:07 left in the fourth quarter.
But DP couldn’t hold the line against Lompoc’s powerful running game. Hayes and Cornejo continued to churn out the yardage on the ground and Hayes would cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD.
“Pretty much just grind it out,” Jones said of playing against Mendoza’s defense. “I knew they would come out relentless in the second half.
“I thought overall for our offense to put up 31 points against a pretty legit defense without Lavon is definitely saying something,” he added. “Our offensive line is starting roll right now as we get closer to league.”
Luciano Lopez sacked Bell on fourth down, giving Lompoc the ball back at the DP 10. After a holding penalty and a couple of short runs, Morales came on and kicked his third field goal to complete the scoring.
Mendoza said his team learned a lot by playing a powerhouse program like Lompoc and will only get better.
“This was a good measuring stick,” he said. “Lompoc is No. 2 in the division and ranked in the state and all those things. It’s only the fourth game of the season. We only get better from here, we’re not going backwards. If we see Lompoc in the playoffs, that would be awesome.”
Lompoc…7 6 8 10 — 31
Dos Pueblo …0 0 7 7 — 14
L—Cornejo 6 run (Morales kick)
L—FG 23, Morales
L—FG 24, Morales
DP—Bell 1 run (Bornand kick)
L—Hayes 73 run (Cornejo run)
DP—Gulvin 10 pass from Bell (Bornand kick)
L—Hayes 1 run (Morales kick)
L—FG 23, Morales