At the dawn of this season, San Luis Obispo High football players would tell anyone within earshot that they were going to be better than last season.
The Tigers went a long way in proving it Friday night.
A year after losing to Morro Bay 34-10 at home, San Luis Obispo almost reversed that score verbatim on the road, routing the Pirates 34-12.
“All of us that played last year, we all had a nasty taste in our mouth,” senior quarterback Anthony Maez said of the 3-7 season marked by the blowout defeat at the hands of their nonleague San Luis Coastal School District rival. “Getting this win today just got it out of our mouth.”
A year ago at this time, the Tigers were still getting used to a brand-new triple-option offense that had just been installed by then-first-year coach David Kelley. During the trial-run year, they averaged 11.8 points per game, losing 17 fumbles.
Through four games thus far, the Tigers (2-2) have lost one fumble and are putting up 25.8 points per contest. Maez highlighted Friday’s win, going 9-of-14 passing for 121 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for 114 yards and a score on 12 carries.
“It’s just a good complement we have now,” Kelley said of the offensive balance. “It’s what we were hoping for.”
Maez’s main target was wide receiver Mason Orradre, who caught six passes for 94 yards and three touchdowns.
“It goes back to January 5,” Kelley said of the turnaround from 2009. “Those seniors decided that they were not going to go through anything bad again, and (Maez and Orradre) are two of them at the top.
“They put in extra time and went above and beyond what was expected, and rewards are coming now for them.”Added Maez: “It’s just all the preparation we did in the offseason, getting ready for moments like this.”
Tigers fullback Vance Cramer added 90 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
“When they run that option, it’s assignment football,” Morro Bay coach John Andree said, “and we blew a few assignments.” Andree added the Tigers “are able to throw the ball. You try to stack the box on them and they’ve got some good athletes on the perimeter who can make plays.”
Overall, the Tigers, who dressed about 25 players and have a small offensive line by PAC 7 standards, ran for 270 yards on 39 carries.
“It may sound cliché, but we all believe,” Orradre said of the second-year triple-option system, a misdirection-driven look known to overcome such size differences in the trenches.
“We went out there for the second half and told ourselves, ‘We’re not going to let them stop us on O,’ ” Orradre said.
Gregg Wright and Nick Butier combined to share a sack for San Luis Obispo, while Marco Murillo had an interception.
Morro Bay quarterback Sam Crizer came into the contest sixth in the state in rushing yards per game (151.5) at his position, but the Tigers held the Pirates (1-2) to 44 yards on 22 carries. It was a dramatic flip of last year’s script, when Crizer was the catalyst for Morro Bay’s dominance, running 20 times for 158 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Crizer did have a productive night through the air Friday, completing 6 of 11 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Wide receiver Jesse Landry caught both touchdowns, hauling in four passes for 168 yards.
“We’ve got to get the running game going,” Andree said, “but it’s nice that Sam has a go-to receiver (Landry), and it’s nice that we have a big-play guy. Hopefully that will loosen some teams up a little bit.”
San Luis Obispo won despite being penalized seven times for 55 yards.
“If we want to be a great team,” Kelley said, “we’ve got to eliminate all the other stuff.”