Los Padres League defenses may have a tough time making up their minds against the Templeton High football team the rest of this season.
The Eagles entered Friday night’s game against visiting Morro Bay with seven players who’d rushed for at least 77 yards, shuffling running backs in and out while churning upfield at a steady pace.
But the Eagles didn’t so much grind it out against the Pirates as they swiftly put the game out of reach with quick strikes culminating in a 35-7 win.
With 2 minutes and 13 seconds left in the first quarter, Templeton quarterback Nolan Hildebrand connected with receiver Dakota Oropeza for a 53-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles (4-1, 1-1 LPL) ahead 14-0.
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Later, with 7:45 remaining in the third quarter, the two hooked up again down the right sideline for a 67-yard score that pushed the lead to 21-7, forcing Morro Bay — a run-heavy team — out of its comfort zone.
“We have so many utility backs, and no one’s complaining about who gets the ball more or who has better stats,” Oropeza said. “All the running backs set up the play fake, Nolan sits back and the line blocks. It’s consistency.”
Hildebrand and Oropeza, both seniors, have been playing together since eighth grade.
“I know where he’s going to be, and he knows where I’m going to be,” Oropeza said.
Oropeza entered the game with six catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns. He finished Friday night’s game with two catches for 120 yards and the pair of scores.
“We’d like to establish the pass a little more than we have,” Templeton coach Dave Harper said, “but when we’ve needed it, it’s come up big for us.”
A scary moment occurred with 7:21 remaining when Morro Bay quarterback Sam Crizer — who had to receive stitches on his left hand after suffering a cut last week — lay on the turf for roughly 15 minutes before being taken off on a stretcher.
Pirates coach John Andree said that Crizer — the team’s leading passer and rusher, and also a safety, kicker and punter — suffered what appears to be a broken collarbone, which could possibly be season-ending.
Morro Bay (3-2, 0-2 LPL) is still in search of its first league win.
“Stranger things have happened,” Andree said of the chances of Morro Bay re-entering the LPL race. “We’ve got to play good football and finish the season.”
Templeton linebacker Tyler Gray — who also rushed for a game-high 122 yards on 21 carries — returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown with 6:03 remaining in the third to put the Eagles ahead 28-7.
“He gets better and better, and stronger and stronger every week,” Harper said of Gray, only a junior.
Templeton’s Christian Gomez rounded out the scoring with a 30-yard scamper with 40 seconds left.
After the game, Eagles players passed around an annually traded plaque with half-helmets of each rival school.
“There’s nothing better,” Oropeza said of winning the intra-county fray.
Morro Bay was able to cut Templeton’s lead to 14-7 at halftime as Hylan Lockshaw plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out 4:42 before intermission.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter on a 9-yard Chad McGill run.