It would be an understatement to say last week went well for San Luis Obispo County high school football teams.
In fact, as far as the first round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs are concerned, it went historically well.
Consequently, for the first time in at least 15 years, five county teams will be playing in tonight’s divisional quarterfinals. The last time as many as four schools made it this far in the same year was 2001.
In the Western Division, Paso Robles will host Inglewood, Atascadero will visit Chaminade of West Hills, and Arroyo Grande will play at home against Compton Dominguez. In the Northwest Division, Templeton is at home against Centennial of Compton and Morro Bay will travel to South Torrance.
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All of tonight’s games will start at 7 p.m. except for Templeton’s, which will begin a half-hour later.
A week ago, the PAC 7 and Los Padres League combined to go 7-0 in the first round. Among respective milestones achieved by particular schools were Templeton’s first playoff victory as a member of the Southern Section, as well as Arroyo Grande’s first postseason win in a half-decade.
Divisional realignment throughout the section over this past offseason was intended to improve competitive equity over the next four years, and for the PAC 7 and LPL, those changes appear to have already amounted to a more level playing field than they were up against the past eight years.
For the most part, though, everyone’s rain-soaked openers were relatively close.
Aside from Morro Bay’s 28-0 shutout of Mary Star of San Pedro, the county’s wins came by an average margin of just under 10 points per game. And the going gets tougher from here.
Here’s a look at each of tonight’s matchups:
Inglewood (9-2) at Paso Robles (9-2)
Paso Robles got huge contributions from its defense and special teams a week ago, holding the state’s leading rusher, Terrell Watson, more than 100 yards below his average in a 21-6 win over Oxnard. Additionally, the Bearcats forced six turnovers, got an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Elias Stokes and blocked an extra-point attempt.
Paso Robles’ defense will have to account for plenty of speed against the Sentinels.
Inglewood’s top playmaker is receiver and cornerback Patrick Onwuasor, who reportedly has offers from Boise State, Nebraska and Arizona. Rated by Rivals.com as the 50th-best college receiver prospect in the nation, Onwuasor has 37 catches for 745 yards and seven TDs this year, as well as six interceptions returned for 164 yards and a score.
Onwuasor has also returned two punts and a kickoff for scores and is known to get the ball on reverses. Derrick Woods, the Sentinels’ second receiver, is also considered a BCS-level recruit, and had a 60-yard touchdown run last week.
Defensive end Jaswha James, who has eight sacks and has verbally committed to Oregon State, leads Inglewood’s defense.
Paso Robles’ offense features Stokes, a versatile receiver who has 25 all-purpose touchdowns on the season — 15 on catches, six on runs and four on kickoff returns. Bearcats quarterback Jacob Searcy ranks second in the Western Division in passing efficiency, while running back Jesse Felgenhauer has nearly 1,200 rushing yards.
On a side note, there is a certain amount of history between these two programs: Dec. 8 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Bearcats’ 43-40 win over the Sentinels for the 2000 Division X championship.
Atascadero (9-2) at Chaminade (10-1)
Third-seeded Chaminade, coming off a 52-16 thrashing of Culver City, suffered its only loss this year, 35-21, to top-seeded Serra of Gardena, a Mission League rival and top-10 team in the state.
The Eagles got a combined 213 rushing yards and five touchdowns from running backs Terrell Newby and Tru Jarvis last week.
Chaminade is also seldom out of field-goal range. Matt Goudis, rated by Scout.com as the fifth-best senior kicker in the country, has committed to Boise State and has connected on nine field goals this year.
The Greyhounds got 157 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries from Tanner Thompson in last week’s 13-6 victory over Ventura, and Deonte Barnes added 99 yards and a score on 20 carries.
Defensively, Atascadero took advantage of last week’s conditions, limiting Ventura to 6-of-22 passing.
Dominguez (10-1) at Arroyo Grande (9-2)
Second-seeded Domin-guez escaped the first round with a 28-25 win over St. Francis of La Cañada.
St. Francis had a common opponent with Arroyo Grande this season, having lost 42-28 at Paso Robles earlier in the year — exactly three weeks before the Bearcats edged the Eagles 14-10.
Dons coach Willie Donerson told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that their three-point first-round win was “the best wake-up call we could have got,” adding his squad was “thinking nobody can beat us, and tonight, we almost lost. Hopefully this game will change these kids’ attitude.”
The Dons are led by dual-threat quarterback Chris Brown, who has an 8-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio for the season. Brown passed for 163 yards and accounted for two scores last week. Dominguez also relies upon Will Gregory, rated by Rivals.com as the 46th-best running back recruit in the nation, with offers from Arizona State and Washington. Brandon Beaver, a cornerback with offers from UCLA and Fresno State, highlights the Dons’ defense.
For Arroyo Grande, junior quarterback Brent Vanderveen has passed for eight touchdowns with three interceptions and is averaging nearly 85 rushing yards over his past three games. Running back Christian Crichton, a third-year starter, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in this past week’s 27-20 win at Rio Mesa of Oxnard.
Defensively, the Eagles held the Spartans to just 55 yards of total offense in the second half, as standout safety Seth Jacobs had two sacks.
Morro Bay (6-5) at South Torrance (10-1)
According to MaxPreps.com, Morro Bay senior Sam Crizer has rushed for the most yards in the state among quarterbacks, with 1,799 yards on 268 carries. He has 25 rushing touchdowns. Running back Darek Mendoza, also a star at strong safety, had a productive game offensively last week, rushing for 148 yards and a TD on 17 carries.
On defense, the Pirates, who’ve won three straight games, held Mary Star to just 124 total yards.
Duplicating that kind of performance against South Torrance should be a tall order. The Spartans rushed for 240 yards in their 41-10 opening-round win over Santa Paula.
Brent Malone leads South Torrance’s defense with 18 sacks.
Centennial (6-5) at Templeton (7-4)
The Eagles upset third-seeded Bishop Montgomery of Torrance last week, 43-33, as Tyler Gray rushed 23 times for 253 yards and five touchdowns.
Templeton, which rallied from a 14-0 deficit, also got a big game from Daulton Oropeza, who ran for 50 yards on three carries and intercepted a pass at linebacker.
Centennial, meanwhile, survived a shootout with Oak Park, 67-48, rushing for 462 yards and scoring 61 points in the final three quarters.
Dwain Jackson led the Apaches by rushing for 156 yards on 13 carries, returning a kickoff 95 yards for a score, catching a 29-yard TD pass and coming up with two interceptions on defense.