The Templeton High football team did a little bit of everything Friday night.
The Eagles rushed for 211 yards, forced three turnovers, scored six total touchdowns, including one on a 87-yard kickoff return, and cruised to a 45-8 Los Padres League win over Santa Maria.
“I was happy with the way we played,” Templeton coach Dan Loney said. “We still had some mistakes but it was a good win. Any win that you can get at the varsity level is hard to come by and we don’t take them for granted.”
The Eagles got started early. Scott Lawson put the Eagles on the scoreboard first, punching in a 2-yard touchdown run to take a 6-0 lead after a blocked extra point. Junior running back Conner Truhitte scored the game’s second touchdown on a 9-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
That set the stage for running back Matt Arace. He scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, and then set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Alex Elterman to Tobey Isbell for a 29-9 halftime lead.
“I mean (Arace) is a hell of a running back,” Loney said. “And if we believe in each other, and make sure everyone does their job, we’re going to get some great yardage out of him.”
Arace has some big shoes to fill. Last season, Templeton used Tyler Gray as the workhorse of its offense as he rushed for 1,628 yards and 25 touchdowns in a season which ended with a 35-7 loss to South Torrance in the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division semifinals.
To this point, Arace has done an admirable job filling in for Gray, who after signing a letter of intent with Hawaii last year, became the first Templeton player to go directly to an FBS team. Coming into Friday’s game against Santa Maria (1-5, 0-4 LPL), Arace had rushed for 624 yards and six touchdowns through six games this season.
And now with a strong performance against Santa Maria, the running back is looking more and more like he can help the Eagles to back-to-back playoff berths.
“I don’t think I can completely fill Tyler’s shoes, I mean he could do everything,” Arace said. “But I’m just going to do what I do and try to get better.”
Arace was benched in the second half with Templeton holding a big lead. He finished with 82 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
The Eagles, however, didn’t need their star in the backfield to keep the points coming. James Ralston took the opening kickoff of the second half 82 yards for a score, and Cameron Silzer added a 31-yard field goal, his second in the game, for a 35-0 lead.
Santa Maria scored its only touchdown on a 13-yard pass from David Wilkerson to Martin Mensera, and after the two connected again for the 2-point conversion, the Saints cut it to 35-8.
Templeton answered with a Jackson Wheeler 5-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring.
The win gives Templeton a 4-3 (2-1 LPL) record to open the season under Loney, a first-year head coach. The Eagles will have their hands full next week, as they will travel to play Lompoc (7-0, 3-0 LPL). But for now, Loney is just focused on celebrating his team’s current success.
“We’ve got a great group of kids, and they’re doing a great job,” Loney said. “I think they’re trusting us with what we are doing as coaches. We trust them as well, and together we are just getting it done.
“We’ve got Lompoc next week. It’s going to be a hard-fought game and we’ve just got to prepare the kids as best we can. They know what’s at stake and so does Lompoc.”