Carpinteria starts fast, holds off Nipomo, 45-31

Ian Craddock was red hot to start Carpinteria High’s home opener against Nipomo Friday night. But he wasn’t the one who was breathing fire as the game headed to the final quarter.
After Nipomo scored on two 30-yard pass plays in the last minute of the third quarter to make the score 37-31, Carpinteria coach Ben Hallock looked like a boiler about to explode as he gathered the entire team on the sideline and, to phrase it gently, carefully articulated a few thoughts about the recent turn of events.
“He went off on us,” said Carpinteria running back Jonathan Esqueda. “But it was a good thing. We let up a little and he told us we needed to finish.”
Finish the Warriors did, grinding out two long drives to kill clock and beat Nipomo 45-31 and improve to 3-0.
“I was steamed,” admitted Hallock. “They were not playing hard, or, at least, not hard enough. We had to finish the game, show some guts, or some gusto…use the clock, be more physical.”
The way the Warriors started, it certainly did not seem they would need a gut check in the final quarter. Craddock completed 6-of-7 passes in the first quarter for 171 yards and two touchdowns as Carpinteria took a 21-7 lead in the first eight minutes of the game. He would have had a third score when a blown coverage by the Titans allowed a Warrior receiver to run 20 yards past all defenders. But his profound isolation on the play was apparently as disconcerting to the unfortunate Warrior as to the Nipomo defense and he dropped the ball. It was, as it turned out, a bit of a omen as two other Warriors dropped potential TD-passes in the end zone in the second half.
 “We had three dropped touchdowns by three different guys,” said Hallock. “We lacked focus, we lacked concentration.”
One thing the Warriors did not lack, however, was an ability to make big plays on offense and in the kicking game. Carpinteria opened the game with a 50-yard kickoff return by Bryson Frazer on a crossfield lateral pass. It scored five plays later on an 18-yard pass from Craddock to Duncan Gordon. After an 11-yard run by Nipomo’s Chris Owens tied the score, Craddock hit Esqueda with a short pass and Esqueda burst through the defense for a 66-yard touchdown. A 52-yard punt return by Tim Jimenez made it 21-7.
 But Nipomo, 1-2, also had its quick-strike moments. Quarterback Matt Albright deftly slipped a handoff behind his back to Owens in a variation of the old Statue-of-Liberty play and Owens ran 70 yards for a score.
Carpinteria responded with another big play as Craddock found Frazer for a 59-yard touchdown pass with more than two minutes still to play in the first quarter. After forcing a punt, the Warriors struck again as Peter Ramos ripped off a 22-yard run and followed with a 9-yard run for the score. A bungled PAT attempt left the Warriors ahead 34-14 at halftime and seemingly in control.
“We did not play proper alignment, assignment football,” said Nipomo coach Russ Edwards. “We didn’t line up right, we didn’t get our assignments right. We have a young team (more than half the starters are underclassmen) but they need to grow up quick and decide if the want to be varsity level.”
 Edwards undoubtedly expressed those sentiments with some impact in the locker room at halftime as the Titans put together a 13-play drive to open the third quarter and finished it with a 35-yard field goal by Jason Alvarado.
The Warriors responded in turn, with another long kickoff return by Frazer, and drove the ball to the 12 before two dropped passes in the end zone and a penalty forced them to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Craddock. At 37-17, the game seemed well under control again, but Nipomo simply refused to give up. Owens converted a fourth-and-two from the Titan 40 with a 10-yard run and Albright connected with Kimball on fourth-and-six for a 31-yard touchdown. The Titans followed with a successful onsides kick and scored four plays later on a 32-yard Albright-to-Kimball catch. That brought the score to 37-31 and Hallock’s temperature to the max.
“I’m glad we at least got Ben’s blood pressure up,” said Edwards with a chuckle.
Unfortunately for Nipomo, the score and Hallock’s sideline chat got the Warriors attention as well. Carpinteria went 80 yards on eight straight running plays, the longest a 33-yard run by Esqueda and the last a 2-yard run by Frazer. Craddock found Ramos for a 2-point PAT to make it 45-31. Nipomo got in one last jab when Albright scrambled on a fourth-and-15 from his own 13 and connected for a 38-yard pass to Harrison Labastida, but the Titans eventually lost the ball on downs and Carpinteria ran off 12 straight running plays to kill the clock at the 1-yard line.
Albright, a junior, completed 20 of 36 passes for 278 yards while Owens amassed 196 yards rushing on 27 carries. Craddock finished 8-for-12 for 184 yards while Esqueda led in rushing with 81 yards.
“This won’t be pretty,” said Craddock of the team’s impending screening of the game film. “But it will be a good learning experience.”