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Tuesday, October 15, 2013
USC commit Lobendahn returns to action

By Blair Angulo

FULLERTON, Calif. -- The chants resonated by the time Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) trotted onto the football field last week for the first time this season. A cheering section of fans rose to their feet.

“To-a! To-a! To-a!”

The longtime USC commit had waited nearly a full calendar year to make his return to competition following his transfer from Lakewood (Calif.), where his father was the head coach up until last season. On the first snap Friday night, with all the excitement built up, Lobendahn leveled his defender, pushing a helpless lineman some 10 yards down field.

The four-star prospect was officially back.

Toa Lobendahn
USC commit Toa Lobendahn was excited to get back on the field for the first time this season.
“It was a wonderful time just playing and finally getting out there with my brothers, hitting someone else other than my team,” Lobendahn said. “Getting that first win in league puts us one step closer to that championship.”

Lobendahn helped La Habra rush for five touchdowns in a 48-21 blowout of previously unbeaten Fullerton (Calif.), showing what he could potentially mean for the Highlanders in their pursuit of a ring. But perhaps most importantly, the 6-foot-3, 293-pound lineman could finally exhale.

“I’ve truly been blessed with all the opportunities God has given us,” Lobendahn said. “I’ve just been trying to stay humble and down to Earth. I’m not bigger than this game or bigger than my team. I need to get better every play, every game. I was excited to get on that field and play again.”

La Habra head coach Frank Mazzotta could also sense his star’s joy.

“I’m so excited for him,” Mazzotta said. “He’s worked so hard. He’s the greatest kid. I didn’t get to see him much because I was busy watching everything else, but I hope he had fun and dominated like I know he can.”

Despite what some might assume based on his transfer, Lobendahn’s character and selflessness have never been a problem. That he adapted to a new school and program so quickly was no surprise. The ESPN 300 offensive guard and highest-rated USC commit has been maybe the most loyal of all the Trojan recruits.

Still, amidst the uncertain coaching situation, Lobendahn has taken a minor step back to assess potential options.

“I have to analyze a couple of things because some things are out of the coaches’ control and my control,” Lobendahn said. “For right now, I’m solid with USC. I am going to take some official visits, though.”

Trips to Oregon, Texas A&M and Utah appear likely, while an official visit to USC has been set for Dec. 13. Lobendahn still intends to enroll early.

Like many recruits, Lobendahn has an idea of what type of coach he would like to see take over.

“A coach with a passion [like] they played with last week,” Lobendahn said. “We’ve been down a couple players, and there’s been walk-ons out there, but they’re still playing hard. I want them just to win games and play the old USC football.”