The Arroyo Grande High School football team opened its season with a 56-21 victory on the road Friday night over San Luis Obispo in an early non-conference game between two old PAC 5 rivals.
The Eagles were led by senior running back James Gilmet, who had 124 yards and two rushing touchdowns on nine carries. Senior quarterback Kadin Byrne added 106 yards rushing and two more rushing touchdowns.
Many yards came after initial contact.
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“You can tell our guys have put in the time during the offseason to improve their strength and speed,” said first-year Arroyo Grande head coach Mike Hartman, who takes over for longtime Eagles head coach Tom Goossen. “More importantly it shows the guys in front of them — our offensive line — the time they also have put in.”
Sophomore Caleb Tomasin had two touchdowns of 55 and 52 yards, respectively. The speedy underclassman amassed a total of 117 yards rushing, most coming in the second half when Gilmet was resting.
“We’re lucky we have some excellent depth at running back,” Hartman said.
“Caleb is an underclassman, but he is a starting-caliber tailback,” he said.
Arroyo Grande gave up an opening score to San Luis Obispo, but immediately answered in the form of a 95-yard return by Elijah Castro on the ensuing kickoff. Gilmet also returned a kickoff in the second half for a score.
Punter Colton Theaker pinned the Tigers back within their own 20 yard line several times.
“We spend an inordinately large amount of time on our special teams because they’re so critical,” Hartman said. “We spend more time than most teams, I would venture to say, and tonight you saw it pay off.”
The Tigers showed flashes of what they were capable of. On the opening drive, quarterback Emilio Corona connected on back-to-back passes to march from the Tigers’ 20 to the Eagle 1-yard-line. Corona found Max Soltero for a score and ran for another — a 39-yard scamper that highlighted his own breakaway speed. Corona finished with 137 yards passing.
Sophomore tight end Thomas Cole showed burgeoning chemistry with Corona, catching a pair of passes for 26 yards. At 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Cole could prove to be a matchup nightmare for any defense.
The Tigers (0-1), looking to improve on a winless league season last year (2-8 overall) in the newly formed Ocean League, will take on another former league rival Atascadero in the Greyhounds opener Friday. The Eagles (1-0), now in the Mountain League following Central Coast teams’ move from CIF-Southern Section to the Central Section this year, will play at Helix (0-1) of La Mesa.
Scores involving SLO County teams
Mission Prep 21, Morro Bay 14
Buchanan 56, Paso Robles 17
Nipomo 17, Santa Ynez 14
Other Central Coast games
Lompoc 49, Simi Valley 28
Righetti 56, Santa Maria 9
Bishop Diego 42, Cabrillo 0
St. Joseph 42, Central Valey Christian 6