Led by quarterback Matt Willkomm, who was 19 of 25 passing for 195 yards and two touchdowns, the Arroyo Grande High football team rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to defeat archrival San Luis Obispo and earn a share of the PAC 7 title.
It was an absolute slugfest Friday night, a game in which both teams held the lead and the Tigers had the ball, and a chance to win, in the final seconds.
“They gave us a war,” Willkomm said. “That’s what we expected, and that’s what it was. We just made some plays, and some plays happened to go our way. We just played hard ’til the end and I’m just so proud of my team.”
Michael Jordano and Elijah Holt had a touchdown run apiece, and Grant Alton caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from Willkomm to help the Eagles clinch a share of the league championship with St. Joseph.
“I just can’t have enough superlatives to talk about Matt Willkomm,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goosen said. “Matt has been doing the same thing all year long. He’s been making great decisions with the ball. He knows when to throw it away and he knows when to fit it in there. He’s been amazing.”
The Tigers may have lost more than just the game. Quarterback Garrett Giovannelli went down with an MCL injury in his right knee early in the second quarter, knocking him out of the game and out of San Luis Obispo’s playoff plans.
“Obviously with Giovannelli getting hurt, that impacted what they could do offensively,” Goosen said. “They showed a lot of heart and grit, and they came back and battled us.”
Giovannelli had six carries for 46 yards and was 4-for-7 passing for 76 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game.
Nate Greenelsh had 13 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns, and backup quarterback Thomas Orradre ran for 33 yards and passed for 52 more with an interception.
“Obviously it was a game that we really wanted to win,” Tigers middle linebacker Jack Ferguson said. “We haven’t won a league title in quite some time, and we came very close tonight. It was truly heartbreaking to lose this game. There’s nothing we wanted more than to win this game.”
Ferguson finished with two sacks, and Jordan Knauer had an interception for the San Luis Obispo defense, which forced a three-and-out with under two minutes left to get the ball back from the Eagles and give the Tigers offense a chance to win.
But it was the Arroyo Grande defense that held at the end, forcing the eighth San Luis Obispo fumble as time expired to end the game.
“It feels good, but we don’t stop here,” Willkomm said. “We got CIF (Southern Section playoffs) next week and we have to look forward now. But we’re gonna celebrate tonight. This is good.”