The Arroyo Grande High School football team forced three turnovers — including two on the goal line — in a 35-0 shutout Friday night of St. Joseph. The defense, with the return of linebacker Sam Ness, made big plays when they had to.
Goal line defense
The Arroyo Grande defense twice forced turnovers to stop St. Joseph inches from scoring in the second quarter.
The first came on an interception by Cade Cunningham in the end zone, which was returned for 29 yards. The second came on a hit by Justin Ruiz right on the ball, which popped into the air and was recovered by Nathan Witzig, who returned it 58 yards.
The two stops changed the complexion of the game. Instead of a possible 21-14 score line, the Knights remained scoreless in the first half and ultimately, the game.
Noah Thinger also had an interception on the night.
Turnovers were something last year’s Eagles excelled with and had previously struggled to reproduce this year.
Arroyo Grande implements the fly offense, which relies on ball concealing, deception and motion. The Eagles used it sparingly to begin the season, but it was the main method of attack against St. Joseph. Coach Tom Goossen said the scheme is dependent on what matchups the Eagles can exploit.
It worked to perfection in the second quarter when wide receiver Matt Sill lined up to quarterback Sawyer May’s right. May put Sill in motion — which made him sprint along the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped. The lone defender on Sill had no chance, and the result was a 20-yard touchdown for a 21-0 lead.
Running back James Gilmet also benefited from the fly. He had two touchdowns in the first half, including one of 58 yards. He was especially effective when May faked hand offs to other players before giving it to Gilmet, who finished with eight carries for 84 yards.
Backup quarterback Zach Ballard was implemented in the offense this week as a wide receiver, as well, giving May another target. At 6 foot 3, Ballard fits the possession receiver role. He had only one week of practice before his five catches for 79 yards.
Preventing the big play
While the Eagles made big plays when it mattered, they still struggled to stop the Knights from converting for huge chunks of yardage.
St. Joseph wide receiver Nate Guzman had six catches for 128 yards, including two over 40 yards.
The Eagles kept talented wide receiver/running back C.J. Cole bottled up, but Guzman picked up the slack. Cole finished with seven yards rushing on five carries and 10 yards receiving on five catches.
The Eagles (4-1) will play host to Nipomo next week at 7 p.m.