The initial decision to pattern the San Luis Obispo High football team’s offense after the triple option of hometown FCS program Cal Poly was met with plenty of skepticism three years ago.
After averaging more than 35 points in their first three games so far this season — the latest a 28-7 victory over defending Pacific View League champion Oxnard on Friday — the Tigers aren’t regretting it.
Now 2-1, this year’s group is the first with a full junior class that has been practicing only the flexbone offense from the freshman level and up.
“They know the system,” said San Luis Obispo coach David Kelley, who acknowledged some growing pains the past few years. “They know how to do it. They know how to execute it. We said it was going to take some time. It’s a little untraditional. So with that, it’s going to take some time to work all the kinks out, and we feel like we’ve got all the kinks out.”
San Luis Obispo racked up 412 yards from scrimmage, controlling the clock and the scoreboard from its first possession through its last despite turning the ball over twice and giving away 90 yards worth of penalties.
The Tigers never trailed, and after junior quarterback Garrett Giovannelli ran for a 48-yard first-quarter touchdown, the Yellowjackets (0-2) never tied the score either.
Perhaps even more notable than San Luis Obispo’s increasing proficiency with its offensive scheme was its defense’s dominant effort. As much as the Tigers have been scoring this season, they’d also allowed 63 combined points in the first two games.
Concentrated on slowing Oxnard’s spread option rushing attack, San Luis Obispo stopped the Yellowjackets short on nine of 11 third-down conversion attempts and forced them to punt eight times.
Oxnard did rush for 135 yards, but most of that came on Grant Weiss’ 71-yard second-quarter touchdown run. On the remaining 39 rushing plays, Oxnard averaged only 1.9 yards per carry.
“Just clogging holes,” San Luis Obispo junior middle linebacker Jack Ferguson said. “We put some big kids in there tonight, and we clogged the holes. They had me blitzing a lot, which helped get me in the backfield and took advantage of just me being faster.”
Oxnard was also inefficient in the passing game, completing only three of 11 passes for 29 yards. Three-quarters of the incompletions came in the second half while desperately trying to close the scoring gap.
San Luis Obispo led 22-7 at the half after senior receiver Trevor McGuire caught his first of two touchdown passes with only 24.2 seconds left in the second quarter.
Giovannelli whipped an alley-oop to McGuire on a fade pattern, then ran in the two-point conversion after a botched snap on the PAT.
The Yellowjackets fumbled away their first possession of the second half, and McGuire put the Tigers ahead by three scores with a sliding 11-yard touchdown catch on a scramble by Giovannelli with 5:39 left in the third.
“Garrett Giovannelli is one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” McGuire said. “So, if we just get him running and throwing, we’re good.”
Giovannelli finished with 67 rushing yards on 11 carries and was 7-of-12 passing for 101 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. McGuire caught five passes for 47 yards, and Trevor McLeod set up two touchdowns with three catches for 67 yards.
Highlighted by a 50-yard run in the first quarter, San Luis Obispo fullback Jacob Flores led all rushers with 152 yards on 12 carries.
“We’ve got an offensive line right now that knows what they’re doing, and they’re executing well and a quarterback that’s reading it well,” Kelley said.
“We’re controlling the ball, we’re running the ball, and we’re efficient with the passing game. And defense, as soon as they get everything dialed 100 percent, we could be OK.”