Templeton High and San Luis Obispo, two teams headed in opposite directions, are set to take the field in a nonconference matchup of county teams Friday night at 7 in Templeton.
Templeton is on its way up. At 3-0, the Eagles have earned wins thanks to a strong defense that has allowed an average of just 15 points per game so far. The Tigers have struggled on both sides of the ball, allowing just over 37 points per game and scoring 23 total points on the way to an 0-3 start.
“Everyone is just swarming to the ball,” Templeton linebacker Clint Howland said of the defense. “We’re really quick and we’re in shape, too, because we run no-huddle in practice so we have to condition with the offense.”
Howland, who has 40 tackles in nine quarters of play, suffered an injury in the first quarter of last week’s 33-13 win on the road against Santa Paula and is unsure if he’ll be able to play Friday night. But, dealing with injuries has been a common theme for the Eagles early in the season.
The defensive backfield has been hit particularly hard by injuries. Brandon Bracey, who was originally slated to be a wide receiver, was moved to cornerback because of injury, and sophomore Jessie McClain came up from the junior varsity to fill in at cornerback after injury. “With these injury bugs, we’re just having to adapt,” Templeton coach Dan Loney said. “The big thing is the kids that are stepping into those spots, kids that didn’t think they we’re going to play at all, and playing big roles that are helping our team to win right now.”
Loney says he also hopes to get linebackers Cory Delisle and Isaiah Harrold back after they missed games because of injury. Despite injuries and inexperience in the linebacking corps, Loney says the play of junior defensive lineman Isaac Lindsey has been a key for the Eagles defense.
“He does a good job of taking on two blockers, three blockers sometimes, and that allows our linebackers and other guys to get free,” Loney says. “You might not always see it in the stats, but he’s an occupier and when people game plan they have to take notice and know where he is.”
Lindsey has 10 tackles this season, two of which have been behind the line of scrimmage. “This is the first year I have played defensive line so it was kind of new to me this year,” Lindsey said. “The double teams are probably my biggest struggle, but I’m getting the hang of it.”
San Luis Obispo coach Pat Johnston has taken notice.
“They get off the ball as anybody that we play, and that includes the big teams in the PAC 5,” Johnston said of Templeton’s offensive and defensive lines.
The Tigers have struggled to find consistency on offense, but Johnston feels the running game has been improving and is ready to take on the Eagles front five.
“I liked how for the most part how we were playing on the line of scrimmage against a physical Oxnard front,” Johnston said of his offensive line. “I didn’t think that we did everything we could, but Pierson Mosichuk ran the ball hard.”
Mosichuk, a sophomore, had 20 carries for 90 yards in the 42-0 loss.
Templeton is wary of the Tigers’ offense as well. Despite a lack of touchdowns, San Luis Obispo quarterback Omeed Djassemi has shown he can move the ball in the air. In the Tigers’ second loss of the season, Djassemi threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns. Johnston says he wants his senior quarterback to work on being more of a facilitator and getting the ball to playmakers like Delvon Jack and Tegan Rawlins and not force the ball.
“The biggest thing that we’ve seen on film is there screen passes,” Howland said of the Tigers’ offense.
“On the defensive line, I think our biggest focus from the film we’ve seen is they like to cut block,” Lindsey said. “So we’ve really been working on our hand placement to get the blockers on the ground.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, have a balanced offensive attack led by senior quarterback Jordan Bernal and running back Michael Capelli. Bernal has thrown for three touchdowns and run for two more this season. Capelli has averaged more than 7 yards in each of his 38 carries and has three rushing touchdowns. Lindsey, who also plays fullback, had 10 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown last week.
On paper, Templeton is a favorite to win Friday’s game, but these two teams have a history of close games. The Eagles won by seven in last season’s game, 35-28.
“For us we’re just going to do what we normally do and continue to practice and not take any team lightly,” Loney said.