LAKE FOREST — Since the 2013 season, El Toro has reached eight victories on the football field just once.
But the Chargers won their eighth game of the season – while eliminating the Lompoc Braves in the process – in Friday's 37-16 win in Lake Forest on Friday night in a CIF Southern Section Division 3 second round contest.
El Toro’s upset of the previously unbeaten No. 3 seeded Braves ends Lompoc’s season at 11-1 overall, while also making it the second year in a row that the Braves saw their season end down in Orange County. Lompoc fell to Corona del Mar 35-34 last season in Costa Mesa in the CIF-SS D4 playoffs.
And the Chargers (8-4) went straight to their aerial assault and began picking on a Lompoc defense that was without Toa Taua – who had a walking boot on the sideline and never saw action as he nursed an ankle injury he sustained against Camarillo.
Cooper Jones tossed touchdown passes of 76 and 71 yards and ended the first half with 249 yards. Noah Aguilar and Shane McLaughlin had 126 and 105 receiving yards, respectively, in the first half.
Lompoc did start off with promise in the first quarter. After being forced to punt, El Toro muffed the ensuing return and LHS recovered inside Chargers territory. Lompoc, however, turned the ball over on downs. The Braves also got Jimmy Gardner to block a punt deep in El Toro territory. That play culminated in a 1-yard outside pitch run to Ruben Cortez, tying the game at 7-7.
But Jones went back to his right arm and his fast receivers – connecting with McLaughlin on a 71-yard strike that made it 14-7.
The Braves tried to stay in the game with some trickery – fooling the Chargers on a fake punt reverse to Shemar Savage that gained the first down. Savage then followed with a 41-yard reception before getting hauled down at the El Toro 2-yard line.
But El Toro’s defense – a unit that surrendered 45 points in its 50-45 thriller over Villa Park one week ago – snuffed out the Braves four times inside the 5-yard line to force the turnover on downs.
After the four straight stops, Jones went to McLaughlin again for a 40-yard strike, expanding the lead to 21-7. On the next drive, Lompoc went back to its bag of tricks once again on a double pass. However, Savage’s throw was intercepted by Austin Derrico. His pick led to a 40-yard field goal try to end the half with the Chargers leading 24-7.
On El Toro’s second offensive possession in the third quarter, the Jones-McLaughlin connection went to work again – this time on a 69-yard touchdown pass that brought the lead to 30-7. Lompoc’s Savage would respond on the next drive with a huge reception to the ET 11. But that drive ended with a Jose Silva 26-yard field goal that made it 30-10.
Jones still wasn’t finished. He tossed his fifth touchdown pass to Derrico on a 31-yard connection, placing the Chargers ahead for good 37-10 in the fourth quarter.
Johnny Manzo took a 47-yard run deep to El Toro territory on the next Braves drives. Quarterback Xavier Nix then called his own number and scored on a 13-yard scamper. The extra point try was blocked and the Chargers led 37-16 with 4:41 left.
The 37 points surrendered marked the fifth time the Braves have allowed anything past 30 points since the 2015 season – putting Lompoc at 1-4 in those games. It’s also the first time Lompoc lost by a margin of more than 20 points since the 2014 season, which was the 28-3 playoff loss to Arroyo Grande on the road.
El Toro’s win places the Chargers at La Canada to take on St. Francis on Black Friday. St. Francis defeated Perris Citrus Hill 30-20 on Friday.