San Luis Obispo High’s football team ran wild in the first half — tallying 235 yards on the ground and seemingly doing everything they wanted in their triple option system.
But a furious comeback in the final minutes of the contest by Righetti made what could have been a blowout a much more interesting finish.
The Tigers (5-3, 3-1 PAC 7) won the Friday home game 38-35 after leading 35-7 with 6:08 left in the third quarter.
San Luis Obispo finished with 316 yards rushing, highlighted by big runs by quarterback Garrett Giovannelli (55-yard touchdown) and running back Cole Bradley (70-yard TD).
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Running back Sawyer Scott also had several large gains to finish with a team-high 97 yards rushing.
A Righetti offensive flurry saw the Warriors score 21 points in the final three minutes of the game, thanks in large part to two onside kickoff recoveries, and gave the Warriors (2-6, 1-3) a chance to get the ball back in the final minute.
But Giovannelli snatched a third onside kickoff of the quarter that floated in the air and the Tigers closed out a victory that had their coach growing a bit nervous on the sideline.
“They’re making me old,” Tigers coach David Kelley said. “That was much too close for comfort. But I’m proud of my players. Any win in the PAC 7 makes me happy.”
Though Giovannelli only threw for 11 yards, the Tigers’ offense had no trouble moving the ball on the ground — finding big holes and distributing handoffs to several players.
Giovannelli finished with 87 yards rushing, including a 55-yard fake option pitch that he took up the right side of the field for a first-quarter touchdown.
Four other players (Riley Humphrey, Nate Greenelsh, Scott and Bradley) each rushed for at least 40 yards.
“Our offensive line played great tonight,” Giovannelli said. “We just have to clean up the little things as a team to be at our best. We just have to stay focused.”
A steady diet of run plays led to another Giovannelli rushing TD in the first quarter — bouncing off a would-be tackler for a 22-yard rumble — to build a 14-0 margin.
Meanwhile, the Warriors strayed from their earlier season focus on the spread offense to use a more balanced run-pass approach to move the ball into the Tigers’ territory early in the second quarter.
But an interception at the Tigers’ 3-yard line by Jordan Knauer on a long pass by Warriors quarterback Troy Prober killed a Righetti attempt to cut the lead in half.
The Tigers defense kept up the pressure in the second quarter with a shared sack by Ted Martin and Jack Milstead.
Defensive back Nick Hill added an interception to bring his season total to seven and he returned it 42 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter to put the Tigers ahead 28-0.
“I was just trying to stay on my man and keep my eyes on the ball,” Hill said. “We were playing a zone and there were two guys in my area. He was throwing to the front guy. The pass was a little off and I jumped and grabbed it.”
Hill joked that he got a little excited and ran into his own man on the return where he might have taken the easier path to the outside.
Coming into the game, Hill was ranked second in the CIF-Southern Section in interceptions after hauling in three last week, according to MaxPreps.com
But the game turned into a nail-biter once Prober started to find his groove, scrambling to break free and find receivers down field on plays in the fourth quarter.
Prober threw for 244 yards and his main target, Luke Wilson, caught nine passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. And the onside kick recoveries gave Righetti the hope it needed to get back in the game.
“We’ll work on the onside kicks,” Kelley said. “I told my team great teams finish.”
Kelley noted his team had no turnovers and was pleased to see them keep the ball out of the Warriors’ hands by eliminating mistakes.