The Templeton High football renaissance continued in spectacular fashion Friday night.
The Eagles made good on a numbers draw that won them the Northern League’s top CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoff seed after splitting the title three ways with Nipomo and Morro Bay by hammering visiting Northridge Heritage Christian 47-27 in a first-round game.
It’s yet another sign that Templeton (9-2) is back after spending last season in the doldrums. “From going 1-9 last year to a CIF playoff game,” senior running back Christian Hauser said, “it’s unreal, and I’m feeling so good about it.”
Hauser had plenty to be proud of. He rushed for a game-high 145 yards on eight carries, returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown and hauled in a 20-yard reception.
Avery Shannon, another senior that toiled through last year, scored three touchdowns of his own, and no matter when this Eagles playoff run ends, the cupboards appear stocked for next season.
Sophomore Nate Avery had a 32-yard touchdown catch and a 9-yard touchdown run to go with 75 yards through the air and 55 on the ground, and junior quarterback Jordan Bernal was 10-of-12 passing for 161 yards and four touchdowns.
Nine different players ran the ball for Templeton, which also had seven different players catch passes from a quarterbacking duo that included senior Gunnar Griffin.
“We’re not the biggest players; we’re not the strongest,” said Hauser, who is listed at 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds, “but we’re a fast team. We want to get on the edge. We’ve got speed. So, that’s our thing.”
The defense also got it done for the Eagles, limiting the Warriors to a single second-half touchdown and allowing Templeton to run away with the game when the lead was just six coming out of the half.
Alex Alcala did all he could for Heritage Christian. He ran for a 30-yard touchdown, caught one for 2 yards and threw for a 50-yard score on a reverse pass. Alcala finished rushing for a team-high 76 yards and caught six passes for 44 yards.
Avery’s 9-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in the second quarter gave Templeton its biggest first-half lead at 27-7, but the Warriors’ Jake Rodriguez took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
A quick Templeton three-and-out gave the ball right back to Heritage Christian, and with the help of two 15-yard penalties against the Eagles, the Warriors cut the lead to six points at the half with a 2-yard touchdown catch by Alcala from quarterback Michael Debesirian with 9.5 seconds left.
Templeton was penalized 11 times for 120 yards, which helped keep Heritage Christian in it until the Eagles refocused at halftime.
“The first half was a close one,” Avery said. “Basically, we weren’t playing the game we usually play. We fixed some things and came out and played. The fact that this could be our last game, we didn’t want that. We wanted to move on.”
Templeton also had a couple of fortunate fumble calls go its way.
On its first drive of the game, the Eagles were awarded possession of a fumble when the pile was sorted out at the Heritage Christian 4-yard line. The ball appeared to plop on the grass in middle of multiple Warriors players, but none of them could hold on long enough.
Shannon ran the ball in for a touchdown on the next play.
Controversy hit later in the quarter with Heritage Christian punting in its own territory. Templeton muffed the fair catch, and this time the Warriors were able to recover the ball. But an inadvertent whistle before the ball was recovered led officials to huddle up and order the down to be replayed.
After protesting heartily on the sidelines, Heritage Christian coaches gambled with a fake field goal that the Eagles sniffed out easily and stuffed for a 14-yard loss to the Warriors’ 26-yard line.
Bernal tossed a short pass over the middle to Shane Campbell, Campbell took it the rest of the way for a touchdown on the next play, and Templeton led 20-7 with 35 seconds left in the first.
Heritage Christian got a first-quarter touchdown on a 40-yard hook-and-ladder play that Alcala took the final 30 yards on a pitch, but the Warriors shot themselves in the foot with two failed fourth-down conversions in Eagles territory on each of its first two drives. Including the failed fake punt, the Warriors turned the ball over on downs three times in the first quarter alone.