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Arroyo Grande pulls away late to remain perfect in PAC 7

Arroyo Grande High running back Gabe Deleon breaks away for a 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of the Eagles’ 28-7 win over Righetti on Friday night.
Arroyo Grande High running back Gabe Deleon breaks away for a 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of the Eagles’ 28-7 win over Righetti on Friday night. nlucero@thetribunenews.com

There’s a lot of offensive firepower on the Arroyo Grande High football team.

On Friday night, it took longer than usual for the Eagles to show it, but their defense made sure the wait didn’t matter.

Arroyo Grande scored half of its points in the final four minutes at Doug Hitchen Stadium, eventually breaking free for a 28-7 PAC 7 win over Righetti.

“Our kids obviously were ready for the challenge,” Eagles coach Tom Goossen said. “Because that’s a very tough team to stop, with the size of that offensive line and the running backs being so big. So, I was so pleased with how our defense reacted to adversity.”

The Eagles (7-1, 4-0), the second-ranked team in this week’s CIF-Southern Section Western Division poll, stayed unbeaten in league play.

The only scoring of the first half came on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Arroyo Grande quarterback Brent VanderVeen to tight end Grant Talley with 3:55 left in the first quarter.

The Warriors (5-3, 2-2) threatened late in the second quarter, but Elijah Holt blocked a chip-shot field-goal attempt 10 seconds before halftime to preserve the shutout.

Senior linebacker Seth Jacobs had two tackles for loss in the first half, and also made a potentially touchdown-saving tackle by catching Collin Cooper from behind, bringing him down after a 53-yard run.

A 46-yard scoring run by Gabe Deleon just 49 seconds into the second half put the Eagles up 14-0.

Then, though, on back-to-back series, Arroyo Grande suddenly needed its defense more than ever.

When the Warriors decided to go for the touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from inside the Arroyo Grande 5-yard line, quarterback Troy Prober completed a short pass in the flat to fullback Ian Sheppard, but Arroyo Grande cornerback Tyler Auerbach was on the spot for the textbook tackle to force a turnover-on-downs.

“I think we played really great,” Auerbach said. “We stopped them when we needed to.”

On the ensuing possession, Arroyo Grande lost a fumble at its own 10-yard line, but when Righetti again kept its offense on the field for a crucial fourth-down try that followed, the Eagles stopped the Warriors a second time to take over on downs again at their own 1-yard line.

The Warriors eventually got on the scoreboard with a 10-yard Taelor Griego run with 10:28 remaining in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 14-7.

After a 58-yard run by Henry Adelman, Deleon scored on a 4-yard run to give the Eagles a 21-7 lead with 3:57 left.

Then, after a Matt Willkomm interception for Arroyo Grande, Deleon sprinted for a 37-yard TD run with 1:13 remaining.

“Our defense did a great job,” Deleon said. “They put us in some good spots, and we just took it from there.”

Deleon, listed at 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, finished with a game-best 130 yards and the three TDs on 10 carries.

“It was probably one of my better games, for sure,” Deleon said, “but I couldn’t have done it without the line. They opened giant holes.”

A senior, Deleon has also made big contributions at receiver and cornerback this season.

“I’ve always said Gabe is a unique individual,” Goossen said. “He plays as if he’s 6-5 and about 300 pounds. Just a huge heart, and he’s capable of taking any handoff he gets and going all the way.

“Pound-for-pound, he’s just a tremendous player.”

The Eagles will travel to face Paso Robles next week before a bye and then a regular-season finale against San Luis Obispo.

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