SANTA MARIA — The Arroyo Grande High football team’s defensive line provided the pressure, and the secondary reaped the benefits, intercepting four Righetti passes in a 40-20 Eagles victory Friday night.
When Arroyo Grande wasn’t racking up its four sacks, the Eagles were hurrying Warriors sophomore quarterback Troy Prober into a 7-for-28 passing performance.
“All year long our defense has been playing exceptionally well and been very aggressive putting pressure on the quarterback,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “We’ve had quite a number of picks this year, and I think part of that is we’re just a little more aggressive up front and putting pressure on people.”
The Eagles (7-1, 3-1 PAC 7) remained on pace to challenge for the title in what has been a PAC 7 season filled with parity. With its second straight loss, Righetti (5-3, 2-2 PAC 7) is fading fast.
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Kelly Shepard had an interception and an 11-yard touchdown catch in the first half, Seth Jacobs had a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second half and Arroyo Grande running back Christian Chricton finished off the Warriors with 23 of his team-high 71 yards coming on a fourth-quarter touchdown run.
L.T. Johnson had a touchdown catch on a 10-yard slant pattern, and Derek Johnson and Garrett Owens also had interceptions for the Eagles.
“We changed up our coverage, and it was hard for them to adjust,” said Jacobs, whose interception return to start the second half stymied a would-be Righetti comeback before it could get off the ground. “We just stuck to our man, and if we had to go zone, we would go zone.”
Thanks in part to a flurry of Warriors miscues early in the game, Arroyo Grande staked itself to a 24-0 lead with 1:33 left in the second quarter when Henry Adelman burst up the middle for a 60-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the game.
After failing to get much going for most of the game to that point, Righetti promptly put together its first scoring drive, which was capped by a 3-yard run by Dylan Jones with 49 seconds left in the half.
Expecting to get the ball to open the second half, the Warriors were poised to cut the 24-7 lead by another touchdown, but only two plays into the third quarter, Jacobs stepped in front of a pass from his safety position and had a clear route to the end zone.
“I’m just thinking catch, catch, catch,” Jacobs said, “and then pick six.”
Said Goossen: “That was huge starting the second half, and I think it took a little bit of the wind out of the sails.”
In slick conditions on Righetti’s artificial turf field, the Warriors helped set up each of Arroyo Grande’s early scores.
Not only did Righetti either go three-and-out or throw an interception on each of its first six possessions of the game, but the only thing the Warriors used their shotgun formation to do in the first quarter was to shoot themselves in the foot.
In drizzling rain, Prober bobbled two snaps, fumbling one before recovering it for a 6-yard loss and getting sacked for an 8-yard loss after mishandling another.
The Warriors didn’t record a first down until there was 3:37 left in the half.
The win for Arroyo Grande came just three weeks after the Eagles were beaten 18-6 by Atascadero in PAC 7 play. Atascadero then went on to lose a surprising 3-0 decision to Righetti.
Goossen wasn’t prepared to interpret any of those events after Friday’s game.
“All I know is next week we have a tough game with Paso,” Goossen said, “If anybody could figure this out, please let me know because I’d like to be clued in.”