This week’s football matchup between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay highs features two local teams on the upswing — but for different reasons.
After a 1-9 season a year ago, Morro Bay has bounced back under new coach Jack Greer and is 2-1.
Following two painful one-point defeats against Garces and Dos Pueblos, San Luis Obispo (1-2) regained its mojo last week in a 21-7 road win against Oxnard in what’s expected to be a promising year for the Tigers.
Despite its losing record, the Tigers still are ranked fourth in the Northern Division ahead of three undefeated squads — Antelope Valley, Palmdale and West Torrance.
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Starting quarterback Garrett Giovannelli is expected to return to action tonight after sitting out the Oxnard game with a calf strain.Giovannelli, an option quarterback, ran for 112 yards against Garces and 46 against Dos Pueblos.
Because the matchup against Oxnard was nonleague, it was best for Giovannelli to sit out and recuperate, letting backup Thomas Orradre take over, Tigers coach David Kelley said.
“It was a tough decision because Garrett loves the sport,” Kelley said. “He’s a competitor.”
This week, Giovannelli is 100 percent healthy and expects to play the entire game, Kelley said. Kelley said that the early losses will help his team better deal with adversity and added: “I think the kids understand how close these games can be and don’t want to leave it to one play to decide things.”
The Tigers accumulated 258 yards rushing on 46 attempts against Oxnard, including 144 yards and a touchdown from Sawyer Scott. Jack Ferguson led the way on defense with 11 tackles and Ted Martin added nine.
Off to a strong start averaging about nine tackles and a sack per game, Ferguson has adjusted well to playing on the defensive line to give him more versatility in preparation for a college football career.
Last year, Ferguson was the PAC 7’s defensive MVP at linebacker. He has received football scholarship offers already from Cal Poly, Eastern Washington and UC Davis. Several other universities also have expressed interest.
“I’m really just waiting and seeing all the offers that come in,” Ferguson said. “If I played at a Pac-12 school or a big Division I program, I’d probably play D-line. But at a smaller school, I could play linebacker.”
Ferguson said his mentality hasn’t changed much with his position switch.
“I’m not the most vocal guy, but I like to lead by my actions,” Ferguson said. “If my teammates see me flying around and making tackles, it’s going to help them with their game.”
San Luis Obispo represents the first of two challenging contests for Morro Bay the next two weeks. The Pirates face powerhouse Lompoc to start Los Padres League play Sept. 21.
Greer spent time with his team in practice talking about playing “clean” football this week. Costly first- quarter turnovers set up early touchdowns for Atascadero in the team’s only loss Aug. 31.
The Pirates won 36-16 against Kern Valley last week despite three touchdowns being called back because of penalties and two turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“Overall, the kids are buying into our system and they’re truly working hard,” Greer said. “They have great hearts. But I’ve reminded them that we have to take care of the ball and worry about the blue and white (Morro Bay’s team colors) and not about who were playing.”
Greer said a quicker start is important, particularly after the 21-0 deficit the Pirates faced within the first seven minutes of the Atascadero game.
“We need to come out and play quality football immediately,” Greer said.
Greer said he expects the Tigers’ attack led by Giovannelli to be well-run, particularly the triple option.
“He’s a very explosive athlete and you have to account for him,” Greer said. “They have a lot of nice deception plays and they run a ground-and-pound, methodical style until you pack the box. Then they’ll throw the deep pass.”
As for his team, Greer highlighted the play of quarterback Jordan Bray, pointing out that he has only turned the ball over once. Bray had 10 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown and was 6-for-11 passing for 38 yards against Kern Valley.
Jake Beavers and Kaine Davis have pounded the ball as bruising fullbacks while also leading the team in tackles, accounting for a combined 24.5 per game.
Sophomore Edgar Rivera has been “a pleasant surprise” after earning his spot at the strong safety position, Greer said. He recorded three tackles and three assists last week.