San Luis Obispo High’s football team is “young, but sometimes young means hungry,” coach David Kelley said.
The Tigers graduated one of the most versatile athletes in the county last year in Garrett Giovannelli, the PAC 7’s most valuable player.
Other key seniors last year included defensive back Nick Hill, who recorded seven interceptions, and linebacker Jack Ferguson, who’s now playing at Cal Poly.
“We’re young on the defensive side, that’s obvious,” Kelley said. “We’ve been practicing for a long chunk of time. They’ve learned what’s been expected of them. Young isn’t always bad.”
Despite losing most of their defensive starters, the Tigers have a core group of backfield players returning, including running backs Cole Bradley and Nate Greenelsh, who accounted for 1,052 combined yards rushing as juniors last season.
Greenelsh, also a standout sprinter in track, had nine touchdowns, and Bradley added three scores on the ground. Running back Sawyer Scott, a senior this year, had 737 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.
Bradley said San Luis Obispo coaches teach the triple option in players’ freshman year to establish it early.
“You learn it your freshman year and it gets ingrained in your brain,” Bradley said.
This year’s starting quarterback will be Thomas Orradre, who will be tasked with reads in the triple option, taking over Giovannelli’s role from last year.
“Orradre is pretty identical to Giovannelli in his play style,” Bradley said. “Losing a lot of defensive guys, we’ll have to have some guys step up.”
With big expectations to start last year, San Luis Obispo began the season 0-2.
Despite a rough beginning, that was a great learning experience for JV players on this year’s varsity team, Kelley said, because the Tigers went on to place second in the PAC 7 and didn’t buckle.
“Our kids came back and finished strong, ending 4-2 in the PAC 7,” Kelley said. “The JV guys watched them respond to that adversity. Sometimes we learn more from our defeats in life.”
Brandon Cutler, a senior offensive lineman and middle linebacker, called the Tigers’ offensive and defensive lines “ruthless” and expects good play out of both this season.
“Losing almost all of our offensive line last year, we’re coming back stronger than ever,” Cutler said. “We have a lot of kids working harder than ever. Our offense and defensive lines are just ruthless. We’re ready to go.”