It’s one thing to talk about returning a program to glory and reclaiming some bragging rights over longstanding rivals. The San Luis Obispo High football team is doing it.
The Tigers won 17-14 at Atascadero on Friday night. It was their first win over the Greyhounds since 2004.
“It was huge for our program,” San Luis Obispo coach David Kelley said. “This is what we’re talking about trying to get some respect back, and we feel like we’ve kind of shown that we deserve to be considered one of those types of programs. I’m just proud of my boys. I love them to death. They just showed a lot of heart, the heart of a champion tonight.”
San Luis Obispo (6-2, 3-1), which was in the others-receiving-votes category in this week’s CIF-Southern Section Western Division rankings, is in good position for a trip back to the postseason for the first time in four years. The Tigers will host St. Joseph next week before visiting Arroyo Grande in a regular-season finale Nov. 11.
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The Tigers’ surge so far this season has also included a 25-21 win over Paso Robles, their first victory over the Bearcats since 2006.
Friday’s win “couldn’t be bigger,” Tigers senior running back Jacob Flores said. “This is just a huge step for us.”
The Greyhounds (5-3, 2-2) struck first as sophomore quarterback Robbie Berwick found receiver Logan Sprouse on a 26-yard touchdown pass with 1 minute, 22 seconds left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Seven seconds into the second quarter, though, the Tigers answered with a 19-yard TD run by Flores, the county’s leading rusher, to tie the score. The teams traded possessions until the Tigers broke through again, as Tanner Kahn’s 29-yard field goal with one second left in the first half gave San Luis Obispo a 10-7 lead.
“That was huge,” Flores said. “Those three points were the difference in the game. It changed the momentum of the whole entire game.”
The second half started just as well for San Luis Obispo, as Trevor MacLeod scored on a 5-yard run to push the lead to 17-7 with 7:07 remaining in the third.
A couple of key, late-game plays by Atascadero senior Davis Cracknell helped keep the Greyhounds within striking distance.
Cracknell came up with a key interception to stave off a promising Tigers drive, picking off the ball just inside his own red zone. He then caught Berwick’s second TD pass of the night, a 7-yarder that cut the lead to 17-14 with 5:21 left.
Atascadero got the ball back deep in its own territory late in the fourth with one last chance to rally, but the Tigers were able to hold to end the game.
“It feels awesome,” junior quarterback Garrett Giovannelli said. “Better than anything I’ve ever felt.
“They’re a tough football team,” he added of the Greyhounds, “and they work hard, hit hard and do everything they’re supposed to. So this win meant a lot for us.”
Giovannelli rushed for a game-high 93 yards on 13 carries. Flores added 74 yards on 12 carries, and MacLeod (37 yards on seven carries) and Erick Cordova (34 yards on seven carries) also made steady contributions in the running game.
“Coming in, we felt like we had to get a little more distribution with the ball,” Kelley said, “and I think we did that tonight.”
MacLeod also caught three passes for a team-leading 36 yards.
Berwick went 10-of-23 passing for 143 yards and the two TDs, with no turnovers. Sprouse caught a game-best four passes for 72 yards and the score, and J.D. Mack had two receptions for 53 yards for Atascadero.