High School Sports

Eagles defense faces difficult task of stopping St. Joseph's Jaeckels

Arroyo Grande High’s Anthony Gutierrez closes in to sack Lompoc’s Torey Sims during the Eagles’ win Aug. 28.
Arroyo Grande High’s Anthony Gutierrez closes in to sack Lompoc’s Torey Sims during the Eagles’ win Aug. 28. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

In Arroyo Grande’s only loss of the season, elusive Camarillo quarterback Jake Constantine burned the Eagles on deep throws and timely scrambles on the way to a 27-13 win.

As good as Constantine was, Arroyo Grande faces a more difficult test this week as St. Joseph’s quarterback Blake Jaeckels comes to town.

“Unfortunately I would say that Jaeckels is certainly more athletic than the Camarillo quarterback and we know what kind of problems he caused us,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “Hopefully we are a better ball club than we were a couple weeks ago, but if we aren’t than I’m sure we’ll get exploited even more so than what happened versus Camarillo.”

Jaeckels is a true dual-threat quarterback and the leader of the 4-0 Knights. So far, the senior passer has thrown for 900 yards, 10 touchdowns and completed more than 70 percent of his throws. On the ground, he’s rushed for 244 yards and three touchdowns. His speed has helped him rip off runs of over 15 yards in each game this season.

“Blitzers need to take the right lanes,” Goossen said. “If you leave those lanes open then a good quarterback is going to exploit that.”

The Eagles will look to get pressure on Jaeckels to get him out of rhythm. Goossen says getting pressure on Jaeckels with players like defensive end Isaiah White, who has four tackles for loss this season, will be the key to keeping the ball out of the hands of St. Joseph's go-to receiver C.J. Cole.

Arroyo Grande cornerback Benny Willkomm and the rest of the secondary have been studying the Knights offense all week to figure out tendencies.

“I need to make sure I’m reading my receivers and not just keep my eyes on the quarterback the entire time,” Willkomm said. “I know (Jaeckels) is going to try to look me off so I come up, but I know just to watch my receivers.”

The Eagles’ defense will also have to contend with St. Joseph running back Joe Guzman who has more than 350 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, and they might have to do it without linebacker Joey DeLaRosa. The senior linebacker was limited in practice this week and Goossen says he’s a game-time decision. The Knights average about 225 yards per game on the ground.

Speaking of the ground game, the Eagles got their running game back in line last week in a 42-10 win over Pioneer Valley (281 yards) after rushing for only 107 yards in the loss to Camarillo.

A consistent run game “loosens up the defense because now they’re playing run and we can hit them over the top a few times,” Arroyo Grande quarterback Sawyer May said. “Or they’re worried about the run and they might have to adjust. It makes throwing a lot easier.”

But the Eagles have lost some of their offensive balance in the past two weeks, a trait that made the team unstoppable in the first two weeks. May was just 4 of 11 for 66 yards and one touchdown against Pioneer Valley. He also threw his first interception of the season.

“We have the utmost confidence in Sawyer as our quarterback,” Goossen said. “And once we get back on the right track with what we’re doing offensively ... the more difficult you are to contain.”

The Eagles will lean on a running attack led by Bradley Mickey and his 256 yards and four touchdowns this season. It remains to be seen if the St. Joseph's coaching staff load up the box to stop the run or try to get pressure on May using its front-five. After the Eagles got off to a hot start with explosive plays in the first two games, it was the combination of good play from Constantine and six second-half sacks by the Camarillo defense that ultimately led to the loss.

“We kind of assume the worst so if they blitz a lot then, we faced it so I think we will be fine,” May said. “I’m not worried.”