It’s one thing for a team to simply show some improvement from one year to the next.
What the San Luis Obispo High football program did Friday night at Holt Field is on another level.
The Tigers stunned Righetti 38-17, handing the defending PAC 7 champion Warriors their first league loss since 2008.
For San Luis Obispo (4-3, 2-1 PAC 7) — which surpassed its win total from 2009 — the final score can be regarded as emphatic evidence of the massive strides the Tigers have made under second-year head coach David Kelley, and in executing the triple-option offense Kelley had installed at the start of last year.
Never miss a local story.
“I’m feeling proud of the kids,” Kelley said. “All the hard work’s paying off.”
San Luis Obispo entered the game already averaging 12.7 points and 114 yards of total offense more than it did during a seven-loss season in 2009.
But what made Friday’s showing arguably even more impressive was that the Warriors (5-2, 2-1) were coming off something of a statement win in their own right last week, when they gave Atascadero its first loss, 3-0.
“Oh, it’s huge,” Tigers receiver Mason Orradre said of the win. “Tonight, you saw what we could do. You really saw what our offense could do and what our ‘D’ could do.
“We just want to keep rolling. It’s going to keep getting bigger from here (the rest of the season).”
The Tigers have a bye next week before closing out against Atascadero, St. Joseph and Arroyo Grande.
“The PAC 7 is wide open,” Kelley said. “It’s anyone’s for the taking.
“We’re going to get healthy and game plan for two weeks for Atascadero. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
San Luis Obispo linebacker Nick Butier said Righetti previously beating Atascadero indeed elevated the importance of the game to the Tigers coming in.
“We know they’re a big powerhouse in Atascadero,” Butier said. “(Friday’s win) just gives us confidence.”
Tigers quarterback Anthony Maez went 5-of-10 passing for 103 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 91 yards and two more scores on 12 keepers.
Orradre caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Tanner Kahn added field goals of 37 and 38 yards for the Tigers.
Butier had two sacks, and Favian Amaya recovered a fumble in the win.
San Luis Obispo came into the season knowing full well it faced undeniable obstacles in roster depth and player size, and that issue was no different versus Righetti.
The Warriors’ roster lists 16 more players than San Luis Obispo’s, including 10 more weighing at least 215 pounds.
It didn’t matter at all to the Tigers, who ran for 274 yards on 35 carries and held the Warriors to 78 yards on 21 carries.
“It just comes down to heart,” Butier said, “and that’s what our team has.”
San Luis Obispo dressed only 25 players, with a handful of them playing both offensively and defensively.
“We’ve got 25 warriors,” Kelley said. “When you’ve got 25 men (as opposed to a bigger roster), it has to be a family. When you say ‘team,’ I think we moved past that tonight. We became a family.”
Notes: Play was stopped for about 20 minutes in the second half as an ambulance was called to the field to take away Cramer, who suffered what appeared to be a head injury. Kelley said after the game he had heard Cramer was already “doing a lot better” in recovery. At halftime, San Luis Obispo inducted 2004 grad Katie Burkhart into its Athletics Hall of Fame. A two-time county player of the year in softball for the Tigers, Burkhart went on to lead Arizona State to the Women’s College World Series title in 2008 before going on to play for the U.S. National Team.