Take that, expectations.
The Arroyo Grande High football team entered Friday night’s home playoff opener against Dos Pueblos with boulder-size expectations after last season’s unexpected campaign that ended in an appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division championship.
With a solid group of returners, the Eagles were eager to make a similar run in this year’s playoffs.
A 41-6 win over a helpless Dos Pueblos team said it all.
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Arroyo Grande improved to 10-1 after busting loose for a 27-0 halftime lead and never looking back, giving the Eagles’ fan base reassurance that there would be no upset in the first round of this year’s Western Division playoffs. The blowout win advanced Arroyo Grande to the quarterfinals next Friday against either St. Francis or Paramount.
“This was a big win,” said Arroyo Grande quarterback Brent VanderVeen, who had an outstanding night by completing 12 of 18 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. “We came in knowing this was a tough team. Their record didn’t show it, but we came and did our work.”
The Chargers entered the contest with a 3-7 record after logging seven straight losses to start the season.
Arroyo Grande, however, was its complete opposite.
Last season, the Eagles made an unforgettable run. As a wild-card team, Arroyo Grande had four straight playoff wins before losing to 35-10 to Serra High of Gardena in the Western Division title game. That showing landed Arroyo Grande in the CalPreps.com’s top 25 state rankings.
This season, the Eagles came into the division playoffs as the No. 2 seed and the PAC 7 title holders, meaning another Southern Section run was inevitable. Those accolades just made them want to win even more.
“To us, it doesn’t make any different whether we’re No. 2 or No. 16,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “Any team can get beaten on any night. It was good to see we finished the task at hand and not pay attention to the rankings. All that matters is getting the win on Friday nights.”
On this Friday night, the Eagles were unstoppable — though it took a while to get things going.
VanderVeen, headed to Oregon State, didn’t record his first touchdown pass until 5 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first quarter, when he found Garrett Owens (seven catches, 115 yards) on a 53-yard score.
VanderVeen connected with Gabe Deleon for a 24-yard TD strike to give his team a 14-0 lead about three minutes later.Arroyo Grande ended the first half with touchdown runs of 33 and 2 yards by Deleon and VanderVeen, respectively, for a 27-0 halftime lead.
But VanderVeen and the Eagles were not done, as Seth Jacobs (nine rushes, 71 yards) capped off an 11-play, 74-yard second-half opening drive with a 2-yard march-in score. And finally, Henry Adelman wrapped up Arroyo Grande’s onslaught with a late-fourth quarter TD.
Dos Pueblos star rusher Josh Bartley did score late with two minutes left in the game, and the Chargers did block an extra-point attempt, but those moments didn’t matter much in a game that belonged to Arroyo Grande from the beginning.
However, the Eagles believe there’s more to accomplish, with returning to the Western Division final as the main objective.
“This means nothing heading into next week,” Goossen said. “Next week is a separate game, a separate entity.”