It’s only the fourth game in Nate Mendoza’s career as a varsity head football coach but it’s a game that has generated quite a buzz in the area.
Mendoza’s undefeated Dos Pueblos Chargers take on two-time defending CIF champion and undefeated Lompoc at Scott O’Leary Stadium on Friday night. The Braves come into DP riding a 23-game winning streak, the second longest active streak in the state (Richmond Salesian has a 24-game win streak).
Besides being showdown of unbeatens, the buzz around the game is over Mendoza coaching against his best friend and former Lompoc High teammate Andrew Jones. They played on the Braves’ 2002 CIF championship team.
“There’s a lot of ties in the game for sure. It kind of makes it more exciting,” said Mendoza, who added that his older brother, Aaron, is also on the Lompoc coaching staff.
“He’s the linebackers coach and has been with Andrew for four years” said Mendoza.
The DP coach is quick to note, though, that Friday night is not about him.
It’s about playing a sound football game against a quality opponent.
“The most important thing is we’re 3-0, they’re 3-0 and they’ve won 23 in a row. It’s a challenge and we have to be up for the challenge. I think our kids are up for the challenge.
“As a competitor, you have to love these type of things,” he added. “You want to play this kind of competition.”
DP’s defense faces its toughest challenge: trying to stop a disciplined Lompoc attack that is led by All-CIF running back Lavon Coleman. The 6-0, 210-pound University of Washington commit rushed for 2,038 yards and scored 26 touchdowns last season. Coming into Friday’s clash, he has 464 yards on 59 carries and four touchdowns.
Asked what he’s expecting from a Mendoza-coached DP squad, Jones replied: “A team that plays with passion … plays hard, plays together, and won’t make too many mistakes.”
Jones said he and Mendoza have known each other since they were 9.
As a football player, Jones remembers Mendoza as “tough (and) somewhat slow. (He) led by example (and was) very studious. He ran our defense and made sure we were lined up right.”
If there is any added emotions to coaching against his friend, Jones is keeping it close to the vest. As far as he’s concerned, it’s business as usual.
“We treat every game the same.” he said. “We try and ignore the noise that surrounds certain games. We stay to ourselves.
“We try not to fuel the hype,” he added. “We let everyone else do that — fans, other teams, media. We’re just trying to go 1-0 each week.”
Mendoza said playing a strong, successful program like Lompoc will be a good measuring stick for his team.
“It’s going to be one of those games where we’re really going to see where we’re at as a team.”
He said the key to winning comes down to execution.
“We have to play mistake-free football if we want to win this game,” Mendoza said. “That’s what they’re going to do; they’re going to play a real disciplined game.”
He should know.
Lompoc (3-0) at Dos Pueblos (3-0), 7 p.m.: The Braves’ Coleman is the marquee running back, but DP’s Anthony Spiritosanto showed last week he is a game breaker, running for 232 yards and two scores. The Chargers need to stay disciplined against a sound Lompoc team to pull off the upset. The pick: Lompoc
Santa Barbara (2-1) at Rio Mesa (1-1), 7 p.m.: The Dons hope to have running back Cheroke Cunningham back in the lineup. They’ll be looking to bounce back after last weekend’s painful loss to Atascadero. Rio Mesa was shut down by Ventura last week. QB Kado Brown makes things go for the Spartans. The pick: Santa Barbara
San Marcos (0-3) at Hueneme (0-3), 7 p.m.: The Royals got their only win last season against the Vikings. If they can defend against the pass, they have a good chance of getting a win for first-year coach Anthony Linebaugh, Hueneme relies on the big arm of QB Adan Salas, who is built more like a fullback. He’s thrown for 1020 yards. The Vikings have given up 141 points in three losses. The pick: San Marcos
Carpinteria (1-2) at Santa Ynez (0-3), 7 p.m.: This is one of the oldest rivalries in the area, going back to the 1930s. Carpinteria put everything together in a 51-12 win at Nipomo. Santa Ynez has been plagued by turnovers. The pick: Carpinteria
Santa Clara (2-1) at Bishop Diego (3-0) at SBCC, 7 p.m.: The No. 1-ranked Cardinals are flying high, even without injured senior running back Jack Gregson. The ground game didn’t miss a beat with sophomore Abel Gonzalez. Santa Clara gave up 192 yards to Channel Islands’ Richard Gray last week. The pick: Bishop Diego