San Luis Obispo High had a goal of keeping St. Joseph under 17 points on offense on Friday.
The Tigers accomplished that target at home against a football team that put up more than 40 points in its first two games this season.
But the Tigers couldn’t find a way to generate much offensive punch of their own and lost 16-6 in the first PAC 7 contest for both squads.
After giving up 40 points in a loss to Morro Bay the week before, the Tigers (3-2, 0-1) returned to their early-season form on defense Friday.
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They kept dynamic Knights quarterback Curry Parham from throwing a touchdown pass.
But Parham went 14-for-29 passing for 188 yards and scored on a 5-yard run at 3:41 in the second quarter to make it 6-0 after the extra point attempt was blocked by James Zanoli.
The Tigers took over on a fumble midway through the first quarter after a jarring hit on Parham by defensive end Brandon Cutler.
But San Luis Obispo wasn’t able to capitalize on the turnover, finding few holes with which to maneuver in the triple-option offense.
“Our defense really stepped up today,” Cutler said. “On offense, we just have to work on the little things. We have a young line. But I’m not let down. We’re going to work hard and be ready for Paso Robles next week here at home.”
The Tigers defense kept them close to the Knights (4-0, 1-0), last year’s league co-champion with Arroyo Grande.
In the third quarter, San Luis Obispo appeared to get the break it needed.
Vanley Bernard found a seam through the middle on a kickoff return for a 57-yard dash to about the Knights’ 5-yard line.
That set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Nate Greenelsh a couple of plays later. After the Tigers’ extra point attempt was blocked, the score was knotted at 6 with 8:01 left in the third quarter.
“That was the spark that we needed,” Tigers coach David Kelley said about Bernard’s return. “(Bernard) is a playmaker. But we just didn’t get the execution we needed on offense.”
But Kelley added that he’d take 16 points against St. Joseph “every time,” crediting his defense.
“My hat’s off to them,” Kelley said. “They’re a good football team.”
After the score was tied at 6, St. Joseph got an 11-yard touchdown run by Mateo Becerra at 5:15 in the third.
A safety with 1:14 left in the quarter with the Tigers pinned at their end of the field was all the scoring the Knights needed.
St. Joseph dominated possession while marching downfield and bleeding the clock in the fourth quarter.
“I’m bummed,” Tigers quarterback Thomas Orradre said. “Everyone really wanted to win our first league game. We’ll have to bounce back against Paso. We’ve had success against Paso, and we’ll just have to bring it to them.”
Orradre finished with 30 yards on 4-for-13 passing and an interception and 33 yards rushing.
The Tigers had six players rush for between 25 to 30 yards in the game, including Sawyer Scott, who ran for 31 yards on 10 carries and Cole Bradley, who rushed for 27 yards on eight carries.
Repeated attempts by the Tigers to get around the end of the Knights defense were quashed — typically a staple of their offense on pitches to Greenelsh and Bradley.
Now after starting 3-0, the Tigers find themselves in a hole to start league play.
But 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive lineman Steve Howard, who was an anchor on defense recording several tackles, isn’t deterred.
“We just have to put our game face on,” Howard said. “We won’t give up. We just have to work hard on our assignments. We have to do our jobs.”