Aug 27, 2014 9:05 PM by Matt SantaMaria
LOMPOC, Calif. - Simply put, the Lompoc Braves were far and away the most dominant team on the Central Coast in 2013.
The Braves - who cruised to their fourth consecutive league championship - outscored Los Padres League opponents by an average of nearly 50 points per game a season ago. Lompoc welcomes Pioneer Valley and St. Joseph to the reformatted LPL in 2014, but the Braves remain the overwhelming favorite for another conference title.
"We've got some good core kids to work with; we just need some guys to step up." said Lompoc head coach Andrew Jones. "We've got a lot of experienced guys from last year's team that we're able to get into games late, but now they're going to be more in starting roles. Now they just have to step up and do what they're coached to do."
Lompoc must replace Ainuu Taua, who finished with seven sacks and is now a true freshman at UCLA and expected to contribute for the Bruins this fall.
The Braves also must fill a number of voids on offense. Quarterback Gage Buckley was a senior last season, as was star running back AJ Flores and most of the Braves experienced and explosive offensive line.
Lompoc will lean on the talented duo of Austin Hayes and Derrick Portis, who both return to the Braves backfield. The pair combined to rush for over 2,400 yards and 34 touchdowns last season.
The Braves open with rival Arroyo Grande on Friday, who they beat in AG to open last season. Lompoc begins their quest for a fifth straight league title at Santa Ynez on October 17th.