The San Luis Obispo High School football team did something Friday night it hasn’t done since 2011 — start a season 4-1.
The Tigers beat Hanford West convincingly, 74-36, in a non-conference game. It is also the first time since 2013 that the Tigers have posted at least four wins in a season.
San Luis Obispo head coach Pat Johnston has been through the tough times with the Tigers after taking over in 2014. In his first and second years at the helm, the Tigers posted back-to-back 2-8 records. In 2016, the Tigers went winless with a 0-10 record, scoring only 98 points the entire year. In 2017, the Tigers went 2-8 again.
Now he’s here for the resurgence, too.
In 2018, the Tigers have already matched the win total of the past three seasons and look poised to make a splash in the new Ocean League, which kicks off next week against Pioneer Valley.
Johnston said the turnaround came from players wanting to make a change.
“I attribute it all to our senior leadership and to our kids who stuck it out through the bad times that we’ve had,” Johnston said.
Johnston added that he feels the team has a long way to go to play the football they want to on a consistent basis, but the team is “getting better each week.”
Johnston said that he and the coaching staff have always tried to build up the program, but ultimately the change comes from the players.
“I was a part of the turnaround at the high school I went to,” said Johnston, who attended Carmel High School. “The coaching didn’t change, the things that we did didn’t change. It was a mentality by the players that they weren’t going to lose anymore. They didn’t want to be known as that.
“I see a lot of that in this group.”
The upperclassman led the way Friday night, with senior Emilio Corona throwing for a pair touchdowns and rushing for another two. Senior David Hernandez had two rushing touchdowns, and junior Jeremy Fitzsimmons caught a score and returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Junior Anthony Arroyo had two rushing touchdowns, and Wyatt Engdahl added another.
Max Soltero also had a receiving touchdown and an interception on defense. Tanner Van Brasch also had an interception.
The Tigers defense forced a safety to open the scoring and had two fumble recoveries in the game. Hanford West (0-5) had another safety on an illegal forward pass out of the end zone following an interception of Corona.
The Tigers will play host to Pioneer Valley (2-3), which is coming off a 36-7 win against Atascadero to kick off the league season.
Other scores involving SLO County teams
Arroyo Grande 24, Bullard 12
Sanger 27, Paso Robles 24
Santa Ynez 49, Templeton 21
Pioneer Valley 36, Atascadero 7
Trona 42, Coast Union 29
Central Coast scores
Orcut Academy 42, Riverdale Christian 0
Lompoc 24, St. Joseph 21
Righetti 34, Dos Pueblos 14