If you ever wanted to see a prototype for how the San Luis Obispo High football team’s triple option is supposed to function, save the game film of Friday’s first half of a 38-16 victory at Paso Robles.
The Tigers (3-3, 1-1 PAC 7) churned the clock with two methodical first-quarter drives, leaving the Bearcats (3-2, 1-1 PAC 7) time for just a few measly plays and keeping the Paso Robles offensive players kicking dirt on the War Memorial Stadium sideline.
San Luis Obispo had 12 first downs before the Bearcats had three. The Tigers found room to run up the middle and on the edge. The passing game was efficient, too.
The keep-away was all by design, and it was the missing element in last week’s league-opening loss at St. Joseph, where San Luis Obispo fell behind early and struggled to catch up.
“It’s a lot easier,” Tigers senior quarterback Garrett Giovannelli said, “to play from ahead because our offense is slow, and we like to have long drives and run down the clock. When we’re behind, we have to rush ourselves, and that’s when we really get into trouble.”
Giovannelli had a balanced game with 99 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air as well as 74 yards rushing on 10 carries. Sophomore running back Nate Greenelsh had eight carries for 114 yards and touchdown runs of 25 and 58 yards. And fullback Sawyer Scott had a game-high 115 yards on 15 carries.
Thomas Orradre caught two touchdown passes, one for 43 yards, and finished with two receptions for 50 yards, and Jordan Knauer had the other touchdown catch, a 7-yarder with 11 seconds left in the game.
“There’s an even distribution in this offense,” San Luis Obispo coach David Kelley said. “We’re not looking for that star player. We’re looking for whatever they’re going to give us. So our guys understand the concept of that sacrifice and understanding. ‘I might not get that 200 yards tonight, but we’re going to win.’ ”
The victory kept the Tigers one-half game back of Arroyo Grande in the PAC 7 race with a potential showdown between the two scheduled for the season finale.
After last week’s dominant victory over Righetti, the Bearcats are also just one-half game back of the league lead, but they found they have much to work on to get back in the race.
Paso Robles quarterback Garrett Nelson was 11 of 20 for 159 yards with a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Davis but threw two costly interceptions to San Luis Obispo senior captain Nick Hill in the first half.
The Bearcats lost out on another score when the Tigers’ Parker Lauritzen snagged a diving interception in the end zone on an ill-advised halfback pass from Joshua Jeter.
Paso Robles was 0 for 5 on third-down conversions in the first half, and though things improved some in the second, there was not much to encourage coach Rich Schimke.
“What aspect were we not off on?” Schimke said. “I don’t think we were hitting on anything tonight.
“I’m not worried about the league race right now. I’m worried about checking out the film tonight and finding out what the heck we did wrong and fixing it. If we can’t, it could be tough, but these guys are resilient. They’re going to bounce back.”
Friday’s game also marked the return of San Luis Obispo standout Jack Ferguson to the middle linebacker spot.
An all-county selection at the position last year, the 6-foot-2, 245 Division I college prospect bulked up and switched to defensive end the first four games of this season.
And though he wasn’t involved in any game-changing turnovers or an overwhelming amount of tackles Friday, Ferguson’s presence was felt on blitz packages. Having him back in a familiar spot might also have given the Tigers some added inspiration.
“I just know that emotionally and psychologically,” Kelley said, “what it did for our kids is just gave them a little bit of spark and a little bit of enthusiasm and they played with a little more passion possibly.”
Some colleges are looking at Ferguson to play defensive line. Others are looking at him as a linebacker. For such a big frame, he’s been clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.6 seconds in previous years.
And he’s not the only Tigers player flashing his speed.
Greenelsh’s first touchdown run came after he dropped an option pitch on the right, picked the ball up, reversed field and outran everyone to the end zone.
With two kickoff returns out past the San Luis Obispo 40-yard line, Greenelsh has quickly earned the reputation as a sprinter, though last spring he was on the diving team instead of the track.
Greenelsh said he’s changing spring sports to more effectively cross train for football, but even so, he’s still not as fast as another San Luis Obispo player.
Giovannelli still regularly beat Greenelsh in the 40 in preseason workouts, running a 4.6 himself to edge out the youngster.
No matter who’s the fastest, there’s no debate that Greenelsh, who spent last season on the freshman team, has opened eyes.
“His freshman year was really great,” Giovannelli said, “and I didn’t think he’d be this big, but he’s really contributing this year.”