The best football season in Nipomo High School history has seen the Titans move to within one win from a CIF-Southern Section championship. It’s been a magical run by a program that, prior to this season, had qualified for the CIF postseason only three times since the school opened in 2002. In fact, the Titans had only one playoff win before reeling off three straight this year.
“It’s a new experience, said senior running back Chris Owens. “Not only for the team, but the community as well and the coaching staff, because we haven’t even come close to a CIF championship in football, so it’s amazing.”
After claiming a piece of the Northern League championship, the Titans entered the playoffs as an unseeded team in the Northwest Division. Playing at home in the opening round, Nipomo routed Bishop Montgomery 58-7. The Titans moved on to earn a quarterfinal win in Indio over Shadow Hills 56-20. Playing in the team’s first ever CIF semifinal, the Titans then easily dispatched Poly (Pasadena) 48-14 to set up a championship final with Arrowhead Christian of Redlands.
“It’s a great feeling, knowing that we’ve made it, said senior quarterback Matt Albright. “All the hard work is paying off and it’s a great feeling, everyone is pumped, our community is rallying behind us and hopefully we can come out with a win.”
Russ Edwards, who has served as head coach for 8 years, has seen his share of peaks and valleys with the program. While the 2009 team featured several future college players, won a school record 8 games and bowed out in the CIF quarterfinals, losing a tough game versus perennial state powerhouse Serra, Edwards believes this is the best team in school history.
“They’ve been a cohesive group, said Edwards “They genuinely like each other, they’ve grown up together playing youth sports here in Nipomo, it’s a really special group.”
With the Titans enjoying unprecedented success, the entire community of Nipomo has rallied behind the team.
“For this little town it’s very exciting because this is the first time we’ve been and football is very big in Nipomo,” said Gina Dillman, the owner of The Mayor’s Place, a popular restaurant located about a mile away from campus.
Thanks to the success of the Nipomo Cowboys, the town has long been a Central Coast powerhouse at the youth football level. However, that success has not consistently transferred to the high school level. But with the Titans now knocking on the door of a title, players hope they have laid a foundation for the future.
“Hopefully we’ll become more like a dynasty, said Albright. “Kind of a good tradition school, like Arroyo Grande is, but we’re still a young school, but it’s real nice to be setting some records and first time things here at Nipomo.
Nipomo principal John Denno, in his first year at the school, says a winning football team transfers to the campus and sets a positive culture.
“Kind of gives us a rallying point, it gives us something to build some enthusiasm around and helps morale on a day to day basis,” said Denno.
Denno adds a winning program, like this year’s football team helps improve student motivation.
“You see more students participating in dress up days, you see more kids want to go to school events, I think it’s a positive tone, it gives them options in our community too.”
The Nipomo community has been supportive of the team during the postseason run, filling in Titan Stadium for both of its two home playoff games.
Becky Crowe, a member of the Nipomo High School Boosters Club, says the club has raised between $3,000 to $5,000 per game through the sale of concessions. She notes that money not only goes back to Nipomo athletic programs, but is distributed to all of the various clubs at the school as well.
Crowe is hoping for a big crowd this weekend when the Titans host the school’s first ever CIF championship contest. “It brings a community together and I’m just excited because Nipomo needs this, it’s exciting for the school, it’s exciting for the community and I hope the community comes out on Saturday and supports our team.”
The CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division championship game between Nipomo and Arrowhead Christian will be held on Saturday, December 6th. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.