Andrew Jones is quite happy about how his team’s workouts are progressing on the new turf field at renovated Huyck Stadium.
Actually, with all that has happened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the veteran Lompoc High School football coach is happy just to see his players in person.
Jones and his staff have been overseeing conditioning workouts on campus since Sept. 8. The Lompoc Unified School District allowed student athletes to return to campus for workouts under strict guidelines.
“Everything’s going great,” Jones said of the training on the new turf. “It’s a state-of-the-art facility. We’re super-excited.”
When it comes to his players, “It was good to see some familiar faces again,” Jones said. “It was just nice to see them on a field, any field.”
Jones said between 42 and 45 varsity players have been coming to the workouts every day.
“That’s about average. We typically have between 42-50 players in the varsity program,” he said.
The Braves will try to regain the Channel League title after Santa Barbara ended their run of league championships.
The road to a league title will be tougher, as the Channel League combined with the Pacific View League to create a football association.
Lompoc is in the Channel League with Santa Barbara, Pacifica, Oxnard, Dos Pueblos and Rio Mesa. Pacifica won a CIF-Southern Section and state championship last year, while Santa Barbara was a CIF-SS division runner-up.
The Pacific View League includes Cabrillo, San Marcos, Channel Islands, Ventura, Buena and Santa Ynez.
Because of the pandemic, the start of the 2020 football season has been pushed back to January 2021. Lompoc is scheduled to play Paso Robles in its season opener at Huyck Stadium.
“We’re still on track to begin regular team workouts in December,” said Jones, who is entering his 11th year as head coach. “If things stay on track, we’re going to treat the month of September like May (in a typical workout schedule), the month of October like June, the month of November like July.
“We’re just trying to be as cautious as possible, following state, county and CIF guidelines.”
Jones is hoping things keep improving in the area so high school athletics can move to Phase 2 of the return-to-campus workouts.
“We will be able to use weight equipment; we will move the equipment outdoors for use,” he said. “In between pods (of players) using the equipment, the equipment must be wiped down and sanitized.”
Before they take the field for workouts, Jones said, players must undergo temperature checks. The players are divided into pods of 10 or less, with one coach per pod. The coach asks each player a series of questions about COVID-19 before they begin drills.
The workouts run 60-75 minutes after the school day.
Jones has two standout juniors among his returning players in running back Sheldon Canley Jr. and defensive back Deville “Joker” Dickerson. They were two of the team’s leaders last year.
Canley rushed for 808 yards and 14 touchdowns, easily tops on the team in both categories.
Dickerson, a cornerback, earned a reputation as one of the top high school cover men in the area. He intercepted three passes, tied for second on the team.
Both players recently attended a National Preps Showcase Series camp in Fresno and performed well.
“The thing that separates Joker from other guys is his competitiveness and his work ethic,” said Jones. “He’s already had a (scholarship) offer and, with another year in the system, he’ll have a successful campaign and a lot more offers.“
Canley, who was timed at 4.55 seconds for 40 yards at the camp in Fresno, has received offers from San Jose State and Nevada.
His father, Sheldon Canley, Sr., was a star running for Lompoc in the 1980s who went on to play collegiately at Hancock College and San Jose State. He had a brief career in the NFL and the Canadian Football League.
Another key returnee is sophomore quarterback Cavin Ross, who became the starter last season after a season-ending injury to senior Cameron Iribarren, and led the team to the CIF playoffs. Ross passed for 1,911 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Ross, Canley and Dickerson were All-Channel League first-team selections.
Kenny Cress is a local freelance writer.