Three weeks without a football game had torqued Conner Lee like a wind-up, toy racer.
Dos Pueblos High’s star senior had been ejected after an altercation at Buena on Sept. 13, dejected while sitting out the next game with an automatic suspension, and then resurrected with extra practice during the Chargers’ bye week.
“I watched our last game on Friday Night Focus and was clenching my fists throughout it,” he said.
Lee let loose on Friday, pounding Cabrillo with four, tackle-breaking touchdowns in a 40-13 victory at Lompoc’s Huyck Stadium.
DP (1-5) used a big second half to run away with its first victory of the season, and just in time to open Channel League play.
“We’re starting over,” Lee said.
Lee rushed for 76 yards and three TDs on just seven carries, and he also caught three passes which included an 11-yard score. It was the final pass thrown by junior Josiah Severson, who completed 11-of-20 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
“Josiah really stepped up this game,” Lee said. “He really stayed focused on what he needed to do and it paid off.”
The Chargers outgained Cabrillo (0-6) in total yards, 337-236.
The first nine minutes were marred by four turnovers and three lost fumbles. DP coughed up two, but it made the best use of its own recovery.
Cabrillo was threatening with a first down at the Chargers’ 21-yard line when Josh Navarro chased Zack Ramos down from behind on a quarterback sweep. The ball popped out on his tackle and the DP’s Alejandro Castanon dove on it at his own 15.
“He hasn’t played football since his sophomore year, and you saw him make some plays beautifully,” coach Doug Caines said of Castanon. “Conner Gleisnner was back in action, and then our two inside backers — Josh Navarro and Daniel Santacruz — were absolute stud leaders of the defense, making all the calls and just absolutely lighting up the run game.”
Just three plays later, Severson spotted Kris Alvarado streaking uncovered down the middle of the field and hit him in stride for an 88-yard touchdown pass with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
It was the only score of the first half, however.
“I challenged them in the locker room and they needed to look themselves in the face and do better,” Caines said. “As the season has progressed, I’ve really made a commitment to try to get us in better shape.
“I think we were absolutely out of shape to start the year. But I think our fitness showed tonight — we absolutely turned it on in the second half.”
DP’s staunch defense queued up its offense for another score to start the third quarter.
Jacob Perez sacked Ramos at the Conquistadores’ 19 and then rushed their punter into rushing his kick. The ball was shanked just nine yards, giving the Chargers possession at the 27.
Five rushing plays later, Lee got his first touchdown on a two-yard plunge.
“I just kept my feet and gave my all on every single play, and just worked my rear end off for my teammates,” Lee said.
Cabrillo responded with a 66-yard scoring drive capped by J.J. Lombrana’s 36-yard TD dash down the right sideline. He led the Conquistadores in rushing with 78 yards in 16 carries.
But DP needed barely two minutes to answer.
Severson’s 22-yard pass to Baylor Huyck got an extra 10 yards added to it by a roughing-the-passer penalty, giving the Chargers a first down at the 10. Udy Loza took a pitchout around left end for a touchdown on the next play. Loza got 61 of his 65 rushing yards in the second half, carrying the ball 18 times overall.
DP’s defense got the ball back quickly by forcing two turnovers in less than two minutes. Gleissner intercepted a pass and returned it 14 yards to the Cabrillo 46. Three plays later, Lee broke several tackles en route to a 19-yard TD, increasing the Chargers’ lead to 26-7.
“He’s a special athlete when he starts running downhill,” Caines said.
Johan Navarro then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the 26. DP scored six plays later when Lee took a pass in the right flats and beat the defender to the right pylon.
The Conquistadores gave themselves a glimmer of hope by scoring two minutes and 22 seconds later. Ramos completed three straight passes, the final one going 29 yards on Cade McNamee’s catch and run. He was 18-for-32 for 154 yards on the night.
But Lee’s big night wasn’t over. Two plays after the kickoff, he broke several more tackles while bursting 41 yards to Cabrillo’s 6. He scored three plays later by bulling his way over for one.
He did give Caines some anxious moments as he laid on the ground for several minutes while being attended to by trainers.
“He’s an absolute reindeer with antlers down,” Caines said. “You saw what happens when antlers go down — maybe to a detriment on that last play. I would’ve loved for him to find a crease. It looked like he got the wind knocked out of him more than anything else.”