The way the football season had been going, San Luis Obispo High was emerging as a top team on the Central Coast, while Morro Bay, undersized and undermanned, was in for a long year.
But after going scoreless in its first two games, the Pirates offense is suddenly potent, spurring Morro Bay (2-2) to a 40-14 victory over the San Luis Coastal School District rival Tigers on Friday night after scoring 37 points last week.
“We got shut out the first two games, and people were questioning our offense,” offensive guard Daniel Perlette said. “This definitely makes a statement that we can run the ball. We can compete like we did last year on offense.
“Our line’s definitely one of the smallest on the coast, but I’d say it’s probably one of the toughest. Size doesn’t matter. Just get off the ball, stay low and blow people up, and I think we did that tonight.”
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Primarily out of a three-back jumbo formation, senior running back Tristan Collins carried the ball 27 times for 165 yards and a touchdown, and Morro Bay quarterback Dan Beavers had three 1-yard touchdown runs and passed for 113 yards and two more scores.
Executing coach Jack Greer’s gameplan behind the rally cry of “Hustle, Hit, Never quit,” the Pirates fell in a 7-0 hole to start the game, but chugged along with ease from then on, converting on their first nine third downs while previously unbeaten San Luis Obispo (3-1) continually shot itself in the foot.
“There’s been a lot of talk that San Luis is going to be a really good team this year,” Beavers said. “We expected to come out as the underdogs as this one. We hope it makes people have a different opinion on us. A lot of people thought since we lost a lot of our captains last year, we’d come out this year and not be as good, but we’ve still go the same amount of heart, the same amount of talent and we’re ready to come out and compete against anyone.”
Morro Bay was 8-4 last season and pulled off a huge first-round upset over Inglewood in the playoffs. The Tigers also had a lot to prove after losing several key players from a 6-5 playoff team.
San Luis Obispo could still have a quality campaign this year, but Friday, the Tigers’ every move seemed doomed.
San Luis Obispo racked up 100 yards worth of penalties in the first half alone compared to just 10 for Morro Bay before the break. In all, the Tigers were penalized 13 times for 135 yards, including six 15-yarders.
San Luis Obispo lost both of its two fumbles, each one serving to take the starch out of the Holt Field home crowd.
With Morro Bay leading 20-7 after touchdown runs by Collins and Beavers and a 10-yard touchdown catch by Zach Smith, the Tigers drove to the Pirates’ 4-yard line with less than a minute left in the second quarter.
But on a keeper on first-and-goal, San Luis Obispo quarterback Thomas Orradre lost his grip on the ball while trying to stretch it over the goal line.
While the Tigers had a case to argue whether Orradre had broken the plane, referees ruled the play a fumble, and in the commotion, Tigers receiver Zach Wilson appeared to throw a punch and was ejected from the game.
Morro Bay opened the third quarter with another touchdown drive, capped by Beavers’ second touchdown run of the night, and on the first play of the next drive, Orradre lost another fumble on a late-developing option pitch to the left side.
Beavers use the short field to convert his third 1-yard touchdown run of the night, and the Pirates took a commanding 34-7 lead.
San Luis Obispo got a 48-yard touchdown run by Sawyer Scott late in the fourth quarter but were largely ineffective in the second half.
Cole Bradley finished with a team-high 75 yards on 14 carries and Scott added 62 yards on four attempts while catching two passes for 37 yards.
In the first half, Orradre was 6-of-7 passing for 87 yards and a 22-yard touchdown to Dillon Walter, but he was just 3 for 8 in the second half, finishing with 117 passing yards and running for 34.
San Luis Obispo was just 3 for 9 converting third downs. Morro Bay didn’t fail on a third-down conversion until early in the fourth quarter, and immediately after coming up short for the first time, the Pirates hit Mario Barragan on play-action for an 18-yard score on fourth down.
The Pirates didn’t punt until there was 3:31 left in the game.
The big question now is whether Morro Bay can carry this momentum into a home game against Los Padres League favorite Lompoc next week.
“I always look at what do we need to do to get better and this will definitely helps as a stepping stone going into league,” Greer said. “We have a beast in Lompoc, but you never know.
“If our kids just come out and play hard, we get a couple of breaks, some turnovers, we move the chains, we could be in that game at the end, if not leading it. Why not?”