Maybe these two teams should get together more often.
In their first varsity football contest against one another, the Templeton High football team and San Luis Obispo treated the fans at Holt Field to a back-and-forth, entertaining matchup that featured five straight touchdown drives to open the second half.
On the strength of two second-half scores from running back Christian Hauser, including a 57-yard swing pass on third-and-15, the visiting Eagles came away with their third straight win, 35-28.
“We’re working hard and we’re surprising people,” said Hauser, a senior whose team won just one game in 2013. “It’s been a team effort from the start, and it feels awesome.”
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Hauser was one of seven Templeton players to run the ball, finishing with 69 yards on six carries, but it was through the air that he found paydirt.
The 5-foot-8, 145-pounder opened the fourth quarter with his 57-yard scamper, and after James Zanoli’s 10-yard run for the Tigers tied the score at 28-28, Hauser caught a third-and-goal pass from Jordan Bernal in the flat at the 7-yard line and launched himself over a defender for the tie-breaking score.
“Sometimes in these games, it comes down to who has the ball last, or one play that determines a game,” San Luis Obispo coach Pat Johnston said. “We put up 28 points; can’t complain about that, and our guys never quit.”
Following Hauser’s second score, the Tigers (1-3) got the ball back on their 38 but quickly had to punt following a three-and-out.
The Eagles (3-1) iced the game with a 13-play drive that included first-down runs by Hauser and Bryson Messer, who finished with a game-high 105 yards on 13 carries. The drive started at their own 24-yard line and ended with Bernal taking three straight kneel downs in San Luis Obispo territory.
“(Johnston) has a great team, and I knew this was going to be a fight,” Templeton coach Dan Loney said. “I knew they were a better team than what their record showed, and they showed it tonight.”
Bernal, who has been splitting quarterback reps with Paso Robles transfer Gunnar Griffin, finished 9 of 17 for 116 yards and three touchdowns, also running for 35 yards, including a 17-yard TD in the first quarter.
He played the first quarter and gave way to Griffin in the second before playing both the third and fourth.
“We name a starter at the beginning of every week, and they knew they were going to get at least a quarter apiece,” Loney said. “After that, we’ve been going with the hot hand at the time. They both know it and they both understand it, and they’re being professionals about it.”
San Luis Obispo quarterback Sam Thompson completed 10 of 18 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns to fellow senior Nate Greenelsh, but threw an interception in the second quarter that Brody Camping returned 34 yards for a score.
“Throughout the whole game, there were definitely things there for us,” said Thompson, who also ran 19 times for 45 yards and a score. “We improve every game we play.”
Greenelsh finished with five catches for 77 yards and two scores, bringing the Tigers within two, 22-20, by catching a crossing pattern on fourth-and-13 from Templeton’s 14 and beating three defenders to the corner of the end zone.
“Nate’s a phenomenal player,” said Johnston of Greenelsh, who also returned a kickoff to Templeton’s 17 to set up Zanoli’s score. “He’s so special with the ball in his hands, and I can’t say enough about how he just makes stuff happen.”
The Tigers drove right down the field in the game’s opening drive, running a 10-play, 63-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions. Thompson was 2 for 2 passing on the drive and capped it off with a 3-yard read option keeper on the left side.
After their first drive stalled on a fourth down in Tigers territory and a three-and-out, Bernal and the Eagles got on the board just before the end of the first quarter, when the left-handed junior called his own number from 17 yards out and scampered in for the score.
The game got sloppy for a period in the second quarter with three turnovers in six plays.
Templeton came away from the stretch with momentum when Camping jumped in front of a Thompson pass and took it in for a touchdown with 5:40 left in the half to put the Eagles up 15-14.
That was the score going into halftime, as Templeton opened the second half by marching right down the field and scoring on a 16-yard pass from Bernal to Avery Shannon.
San Luis Obispo came into the game off its first win of the season, a 29-26 come-from-behind victory at Oxnard. The Tigers head to Morro Bay and host Cabrillo before kicking off PAC 5 play Oct. 10 at Righetti.
For Templeton, it’s a three-game winning streak following a season-opening loss to Bakersfield Christian. The Eagles will head to Cabrillo and host Santa Ynez before a Northern League opener at home Oct. 10 against Mission Prep.
“It’s good and bad — and I hate to say it that way,” Loney said of the three victories. “We’re preparing ourselves for league, and that’s how we look at these games.
“Record is nice, but it doesn’t matter until we get into league.”