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Player of the Decade: Nipomo's Matt Albright topped 60 TD passes in two seasons
Player of the Decade

Player of the Decade: Nipomo's Matt Albright topped 60 TD passes in two seasons

Russ Edwards coached Matt Albright during the quarterback's two seasons on the varsity level at Nipomo High. 

Albright threw 62 touchdown passes in those seasons that covered 25 games. 

Albright capped his varsity career with a CIF championship in 2014, throwing 33 touchdowns that year. 

The 6-foot-3 signal-caller used his physical traits, such as his size, athleticism and strong throwing arm, to dissect opposing defenses.

But Edwards says Albright possessed something else that helped him become the most accomplished quarterback in school history.

"The thing that stands out to me the most was how smart and easy he was to coach," Edwards says. "He processed information better than anybody I’ve ever coached and then executed in real time on Friday nights."

Albright threw 29 touchdown passes in 11 games as a junior in 2013. He threw 33 touchdowns in 14 games as a senior the following year. 

But it was in Albright's sophomore season, when he was on JV, that Edwards first saw Albright's massive potential. 

"Our varsity staff was also helping coach the JV team and I was up in the press box helping call the offensive plays," Edwards said. "Matt threw a ball to what I thought was the wrong guy to throw to. When he came to the sideline after that series I got him on the headset to coach him up. I asked him why he chose to make the throw he just did, thinking I was going to get an 'I don’t know' type of response."

Instead, Edwards says, Albright stunned Edwards with his answer. Albright had in fact made the correct read, an adjustment the coach made at practice during the week. 

"He quoted the exact read for the exact coverage that we had just seen," Edwards said. "He did that as an early-season sophomore playing JV football. I knew right there that he was going to be a special quarterback for us.  

"And, I very rarely ever questioned his decision making again."

Albright is ninth nominee for the Times' Player of the Decade. He threw for 5,672 yards in his two varsity seasons, averaging 227 yards per game. He completed 60 percent of his passes (423 for 700) and threw 62 touchdown passes against 20 interceptions. He threw nine picks his junior season and 11 in his senior season on 340 attempts. He also rushed for five touchdowns.

"He is the best quarterback we’ve ever had and the best coach or offensive leader on the field," Edwards said of Albright.  

Edwards says Albright certainly stands among the greatest players the program has ever seen, including such players Kevin Britt, who played at Cal Poly, and Eric Penningroth, Duane Hanna, Nick Kimball, JT Wells and Terry Wambolt.

"Those guys were all special players for us and I could make arguments for all of them," Edwards said. "Then there’s Akeem King, who was just discovering football his junior and senior years in high school. He’s accomplished far more than all of them over time."

King was a decent player at Nipomo, but blossomed at San Jose State and has spent the last five years as a defensive back in the NFL.

"One thing I will say about the CIF championship group from 2014 is that group had the best numbers and most depth at every position than any team in school history," Edwards said. "The 2009 team was by far the more talented group at the top of the skill positions, but our linemen, who were all tough guys, were mostly under 200 pounds.

"In 2014, we had mostly seasoned senior starters at every position, with quality junior backups everywhere. It was a really good couple year span of football players and supportive, involved families."

Albright went on to play at Hancock College for two seasons before playing quarterback at the University of LaVerne last year. 

The remaining Player of the Decade nominees, chosen from Northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, will be released in the coming weeks. Albright joins the previous nominees, St. Joseph linebacker Fenton Will, former teammate Nick Kimball, Arroyo Grande grads Bradley Mickey and Seth Jacobs, former Lompoc High standouts Lavon Coleman and Ainuu Taua, former Santa Maria quarterback Blake Truhitte and former Santa Ynez receiver Gabe Prendergast.

Once all nominees have been announced, readers will have the opportunity to vote for Player of the Decade.

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Our 'Senior Spotlight' series is aimed at highlighting senior student-athletes who have had their final year of high school disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The athletes featured here were their school's nominee for Athlete of the Year or Student Athlete of the Year for the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table's end-of-year banquet that has been canceled due to the outbreak.

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The sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News is looking for the top football player from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County over the last 10 seasons of high school ball.

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With a little extra time on our hands, we are taking a look into the past of prep sports on the Central Coast. Our sports staff has been going through our archives searching for photos and stories highlighting some of the most pivotal games area teams have played over the last two decades.

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