Arroyo Grande High’s football team narrowly lost its first PAC 7 game of the season to Atascadero in a 14-10 nail-biter in early October. But the Eagles have been nearly flawless since.
The Eagles (6-2, 3-1) dominated Righetti on both sides of the ball in a 31-6 victory Friday at Doug Hitchen Stadium.
The Eagles came into the game having shut out St. Joseph 27-0 and Pioneer Valley 45-0 in their previous two contests.
Arroyo Grande got off to a scorching start on offense behind the accurate arm of Mikey Gutierrez.
The Eagles senior quarterback has made his mark as one of the best quarterbacks in the PAC 7, entering with 946 yards passing and a league-best 71 percent pass-completion rate on the season.
Gutierrez was 16-for-25 passing for 175 yards with three touchdowns and an interception against the Warriors (4-5, 2-3).
Seven players were the recipients of his spirals Friday — a group led by Sean St. Denis, who tallied four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m not trying to throw to one guy or focus on one kind of pass,” Gutierrez. “It’s just about reading who’s open and what the defense gives us.”
In the first half, Gutierrez used his receivers as target practice, picking apart holes in the Righetti defense.
He racked up 149 yards and three touchdowns on 12-for-14 passing, opening the scoring with a 29-yard completion at 8:20 in the first quarter up the right sideline to St. Denis, who didn’t have a defender within 10 yards of him.
About three minutes later, Gutierrez avoided a potential sack and then lobbed the ball up to 6-foot-4 sophomore Joel Bishop, who snagged it over a shorter defender for a 20-yard touchdown score, his second receiving touchdown of the season.
In the second quarter, Cole Ramey booted a 43-yard field goal, showing why his leg is the strongest in the PAC 7. And a 4-yard pass completion from Gutierrez to Bradley Mickey built a sizable margin at the half of 24-0.
Arroyo Grande continued its lockdown defense for three quarters until Deandre Thomas punched in a 3-yard run early in the fourth.
“They have tailbacks who run the ball extremely well and I thought we did a good job of containing them,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “I thought our kids closed on the ball very quickly.”
Warriors quarterback Conor Regan entered with the third-most passing yards in the league with 917 and nine touchdowns with six interceptions and a 50 percent pass-completion percentage.
Regan was 9-for-14 passing for 124 yards, but never got into a steady rhythm to put much pressure on the Eagles.
In the second half, Arroyo Grande balanced its passing game with a steady diet of runs.
Jordan Harrigan was among a handful of Eagles who contributed on the ground – dashing for 65 yards and breaking loose for a 30-yard scoring run at 0:33 in the third quarter.
That was after St. Denis — the Eagles’ second-fastest player who ran a 4.66 40-yard dash in the preseason — bolted for a 38-yard gain on the play prior to Harrigan’s rushing score.
Joe De La Rosa, at 5-11 and 225 pounds, bulled his way for another 55 yards on the ground.
“I think we have different types of runners and we have a nice mix to our run game,” De La Rosa said.
De La Rosa said that the team that lost key seniors from last season has made a lot of improvement since the beginning of the year, but work remains to be done.
“Coach Goossen will always make us sweat in practice,” De La Rosa said. “We will always work harder and harder in practice because there’s always room for improvement.”
Atascadero remains undefeated in PAC 7 play at 4-0 in a blowout 35-10 win at St. Joseph Friday.
But the Eagles, who are in second place, are still hopeful for a late season loss by the Greyhounds that would open up the door for a share of the title.
“We want to three-peat as league champions,” Gutierrez said.