Arroyo Grande High quarterback Sawyer May has been carving up opposing defenses like a skilled sushi chef all season, but Friday night he met his match.
In a battle of highly-touted quarterbacks on undefeated teams at Doug Hitchen Stadium, Camarillo quarterback Jake Constantine did his best Ben Roethlisberger impression in a 27-13 win over Arroyo Grande while May succumbed to the Scorpions’ pass rush.
Constantine, who's listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds and not known as a runner, slipped through the grasp of Eagles pass rushers all night.
"He's not the prototypical scrambling quarterback, but he was Houdini back there and was able to escape some pressure and put us in some bad spots," Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said.
Never miss a local story.
And no escape was more magical and timely than a play halfway through the fourth quarter.
With the Scorpions just inside Eagles territory, it was third-and-19. Constantine dropped back to pass, but no one was open. As Arroyo Grande rushers closed in, Constantine muscled his way through two would-be tacklers, out of pocket and down the sideline for an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Camarillo running back Isaiah Otis picked up the first down on fourth-and-1. A few plays later, Otis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:30 left, his second of the night, to make it 27-13 and close out the scoring.
"To be honest with you, we don't want (Constantine) running that much," Camarillo coach Jack Willard said. "He's just a competitive kid. He just competes his (expletive) off which is part of the reason I think he makes those plays."
Constantine's scramble almost didn't happen. On second-and-15, the ball squirted loose on a bad snap and Arroyo Grande had a chance at the ball before Otis fell on it.
Making things more difficult for the Eagles on defense was the absence of linebacker and leader Joey DeLaRosa. The senior captain, who also pulls fullback duties, was forced to trade in pads for a polo shirt Friday night after suffering a foot injury.
"He's a real good player and that hurts when you lose a guy like that who can block it up in there," said Willard of DeLaRosa's ability to pass block for May.
In its first two wins, Arroyo Grande (2-1) made its living off of big plays, but Friday, May was sacked six times in the second half, most of which were created by good coverage and pressure by Camarillo's front four. Camarillo (3-0) also limited the Eagles’ explosive offense. Arroyo Grande completed just two passes over 15 yards and had one run longer than 15 yards after scoring on plays of 35 yards or more on eight of the team's 11 touchdowns entering the game.
"I just didn't want to get beat in (man-to-man) coverage and then somebody run a fade route for a cheap one," Willard said. "I wanted to make them earn whatever they were going to get so I left it up to those four guys up front to rush the quarterback."
"They brought pressure off the edge and we had trouble handling it," Goossen said.
May failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this season and finished 11 of 18 for 132 yards. Despite a subpar performance by May's standards, he has yet to throw an interception on 53 pass attempts.
Constantine also showed off his strong arm, going 21 of 26 for 246 yards and two touchdowns. His timely scrambles of 20, 18 and 12 yards in the second half, added up to 56 yards on five carries.
"Hopefully we will be able to contain that type of play in the future," Goosen said.
But the long-time coach knows its still early.
"It's not how you're playing in the beginning,” Goossen said, “it's how you're playing in the end."