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OAK PARK — Fueled by enlightened mint-flavored Yerba Mate, Thousand Oaks football coach Evan Yabu channeled shades of Sean McVay during pregame on Friday night. He’s in with the players, handing the ball off and running alongside them.
“He’s always yelling and scramming.” Lancers quarterback Travis Endicott said. “But it’s a positive scream. He brings it every single day.”
Thousand Oaks has seen exponential growth since Yabu, who is in his third season as head coach, took over. It’s been done the Thousand Oaks way, with Thousand Oaks alumni as coaches and Thousand Oaks players who grew up together.
This season, the energy and growth is seen in the Lancers’ 4-0 start, which includes a 28-14 win over Oak Park on Friday night.
Thousand Oaks quarterback Travis Endicott made a statement first touchdown, throwing a 56-yard strike to Chase Martin with less than four minutes left in the first quarter. Johnny Abarzua recovered a fumble to set up the scoring drive.
Although Endicott transferred in from Newbury Park this season, he has plenty of history with his Lancers teammates. He’s from the area and played with many of them as a kid.
“I kind of stepped right back into where I was back when we played youth ball,” Endicott said.
“The friendship was already there. The chemistry was already there.”
Oak Park had a spark of its own and tied the game late in the second quarter on a 4-yard run by Jaden Mosley, who typically plays defensive end.
The Eagles, who were unbeaten heading into Friday’s game, were shorthanded at the running back position on Friday night, with starter Rowan Heidt out due to illness. Coach Casey Webb is hoping to have him back next week. Martin Soroa, a junior, got the starting nod around 10 a.m. on the morning of the game.
To add to the challenge, Oak Park (4-1 overall, 0-1 Canyon League) lost a starting middle linebacker and right tackle early in the game due to injury.
“Everything’s been going our way so far,” Webb said. “And then right away, stuff went a little chaotic and we had to throw guys in and do things that were not normal to us. So we got really uncomfortable early, but I thought we settled in well and our coaches did a nice job and our kids played hard.”
The Lancers (4-0, 1-0) made it 14-7 roughly 15 seconds after Oak Park scored. Andrew Simon-Lancombe returned a kick 95 yards for the advantage.
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Chase Martin scored on a 1-yard rush in the third quarter, then Endicott threw his second touchdown pass of the evening to Simon-Lancombe
Kadyn Parr threw to Max Peters for a final Oak Park touchdown with 15 seconds left in the game.
With the win, Thousand Oaks has cleared the first hurdle on the road to a Canyon League championship and is still unbeaten this season. And they’re still doing things Yabu’s Lancer way.
“I love to be as in it as I did when I was like, 22 coaching for the first time,” Yabu said. “To me, the time spent pregame and in practice and meetings is like, when you’re with the guys, that’s the best part.”