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They’ve met eight times – including the 2014 playoff opener that saw Lompoc turn to its backup quarterback Joseph Osegueda and escape with the 38-28 win.

Now, No. 3 seed Lompoc High will open the 2017 CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs against the Camarillo Scorpions once again, this time the ninth meeting between the two storied programs that will be played on Friday at 7 p.m. at Huyck Stadium, with LHS leading the all-time series 6-2.

And this is a Scorpion team that LHS head coach Andrew Jones knows is an opponent that can't be taken lightly.

"Without a doubt, they're not the 14th seed," Jones said by phone earlier this week. "They seem to improve every game."

Camarillo not only endured a rough gauntlet that included Dos Pueblos, Moorpark, Westlake and Oaks Christian this season – but endured close battles in all of those contests.

Against the Lions, Camarillo fell apart in the fourth quarter on a climactic final drive that ended in a winning field goal for Oaks Christian. The Scorpions then saw victory slip away off of a desperation Hail Mary pass that fell into Michael Carner’s hands – lifting Westlake to the dramatic 23-19 win over Camarillo.

The Scorpions, out of the Marmonte League, have lost all of their games by 15 points or less – with their most lopsided defeat coming against the top seed in Division 8 Rio Mesa (35-20 loss).

Yet, Camarillo head coach Jack Willard has seen a Scorpion team that hasn't wavered, plus it comes back on Mondays seeking redemption. 

"In those situations (after losses), our kids have come back to practice exceptionally well. It's been the same for us this week," Willard said by phone on Thursday afternoon. "Most high school kids are resilient. But you can't have players dwell. The losses for us hurt, but they needed to get over them. I'm real proud with how they've responded."

Camarillo won its last game over St. Bonaventure 35-14 to clinch the at-large berth in the D3 postseason. The last meeting between the Braves and Scorps saw many climactic elements unfold.

Starting quarterback Torey Sims went down with an injury, prompting Jones to put in the untested Osegueda. The Braves also found themselves down 21-14 before LHS outscored Camarillo 24-7 the rest of the way, with Osegueda throwing for 303 yards that night. 

And LHS was trying to bottle up three dynamic playmakers, all of whom went on to play college football: Scorpion quarterback Jake Constantine (Ventura College, former Boise State commit), tight end Nico Lima (Moorpark College, former San Jose State commit) and running back Isaiah Otis (Wayne State). All three went on to combine for 513 total yards.

Constantine, who was a junior that season, still thinks back to that 10-point loss.

"I remember us gaining a lead on them and thought we were the better team, but we just didn’t finish," Constantine said on Thursday via email.

That loss, however, led to this for Constantine and the Scorps: A 15-game winning streak that was snapped at Loomis Del Oro with a state title on the line. 

"All the kids who returned (at Camarillo) never wanted to feel like that again, so we pushed harder to get to that state game," Constantine said. 

The last LHS-Camarillo battle was also the playoff debut for a young freshman named Toa Taua, who finished with 32 yards on five carries in his Lompoc football playoff debut. Willard knows that this version of Taua will be completely different from the 2014 version. 

"Obviously, No. 35 stands out," Willard said. "He's very active on defense. But he is the top ball carrier."

Willard, who is in his fifth year of running the varsity football show at Camarillo, is aware that the 10-0 Braves are much more than Taua. 

"They have incredible speed overall," Willard said. "They're very athletic. They tackle exceptionally well on defense. They're similar to that 2014 team in terms of scheme and strategy. But they look more athletic everywhere."

Just like that 2014 team, this Camarillo team is more junior and sophomore heavy. Starting quarterback James McNamara is a sophomore, who has 14 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Top running back option Jesse Valenzuela is another sophomore, who has 980 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Lastly, the Scorps’ top receivers Jack Holden and Mason Brown are juniors. 

"In '14, we were a fairly young team with not many seniors," Willard said. "This year, we have even less. We seem to catch Lompoc when we don't have many seniors. But our guys are excited about the match-up." 

Jones likens this Camarillo team to the one his team faced three years ago.

"They're similar," Jones said. "That team we faced were mostly juniors before they went on their state run. They're balanced on offense, they're well-coached and they don't make many mistakes. This is not a No. 3 seed versus a 14 seed."

The winner will face the victor between Villa Park and El Toro in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS D3 postseason. 

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Sports Reporter