A win next week would put the Templeton High football team in solid position entering the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs.
Before the Eagles could reach that point, though, they needed to settle an old score Friday night. They did just that, beating Morro Bay at home, 41-21, reclaiming the commemorative trophy annually earned between the two Los Padres League rivals, after the Pirates had won it a year ago.
Templeton (5-4, 3-2), ranked No. 8 in this week’s divisional poll, will play at Nipomo (3-6, 2-3) in its regular-season finale.
“Every game’s big from here on out,” Eagles coach Dan Loney said. “This is getting us prepared for that next week and getting into (the postseason), and then after that, in my opinion, records don’t matter. It’s whoever plays the best that Friday night.”
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The LPL, which features a state bowl-game favorite in Lompoc and another team unbeaten in league play, Cabrillo, is considered by far the toughest conference in the Northwest Division.
“It’s huge,” Eagles running back Matt Arace said of the Nipomo game and its playoff implications. “We train all year for this.”
On Friday, the Eagles used a variety of quick strikes to pull away, including a handful from the speedy Arace.
Arace rushed for 146 yards and two TDs on 15 carries and caught two passes for 43 yards. He scored on a 75-yard run in the first half, and then had a 35-yard catch-and-run, a 25-yard carry and then a 5-yard touchdown run during one especially lightning-quick drive in the second half.
“It’s just the offensive line,” Arace said.
The ground attack was complemented well throughout the night, though.
Quarterback Alex Elterman went 5-of-7 passing for 166 yards and two TDs with one interception.
His scoring bombs went for 89 yards to Tobey Isbell and then 32 yards to Cameron Silzer. Backup QB Weston Coy also later found Isbell for an 18-yard TD pass.
“I think they’re starting to believe,” Loney said. “When your number’s called, you’ve got to make the play and believe in the team concept, and that it’s eventually going to come around to you.”
On the balance between the passing and running, “we’ve really fine-tuned everything,” Arace said. “We’ve really come together. Everything’s meshing.”
Arace, Elterman and Isbell, as well as fellow running back Connor Truhitte (who had a 60-yard TD run) and versatile 6-foot-5 receiver Andy Garretson, are all juniors.
Justin Frey and Tyler Murphee each had an interception for Templeton, and the Eagles also blocked a field-goal attempt.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Loney said. “It’s very encouraging as we go through the season that we keep getting better, and that’s the big thing we want to do, is just make sure we keep getting better and getting ready for that tournament that’s coming up.”
Morro Bay (0-9, 0-5), which will try to get its first victory of the season against Santa Maria next week, is fielding a particularly young squad after replacing numerous starters at the skill positions who graduated from the 2010 team.
One of seven sophomores playing for the Pirates, running back Tristan Collins rushed for a game-high 172 yards and two TDs on 30 carries. Jordan Bray also scored on an 80-yard run for Morro Bay.
Kaine Davis had an interception and a sack for the Pirates.