The firsts have been piling up for the Templeton High football program lately. Now the Eagles want to add another piece of history to that list.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, Templeton will host South Torrance in the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division semifinals.
A win would send the Eagles to their first divisional championship game since transitioning to the Southern Section via the Central Section before the start of the 2006 season.
Two weeks ago, Templeton (8-4) picked up its first playoff win since joining the Southern Section, 43-33 at third-seeded Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, before coming away with the first home playoff win of that sort last week, 27-21 over Centennial of Compton.
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“Each thing is a new uncharted water,” Eagles coach Dave Harper said of the playoff run. “We’re just eager to get the game under way.
“We are very, very happy to have a game at home in front of the fans. We just know our work is not done yet.”
Against Centennial, Eagles star Tyler Gray rushed 25 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning 52-yarder with less than a minute remaining.
For the season, Gray has rushed for 1,468 yards and 24 scores on 194 carries. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior is a highly regarded Division I college prospect at linebacker, and has consistently ranked among the Central Coast leaders in tackles all season.
Templeton also got big games on the ground last week from Kory Dearie, who ran for 130 yards on 16 carries, and Daulton Oropeza, who rushed for 40 yards and a TD on 10 carries.
Dearie is also the Eagles’ leading receiver for the season, with 11 catches for 191 yards and a score, while Oropeza has had another standout season at linebacker after being an all-Los Padres League honoree a year ago.
Casey Dakin has provided a consistent pass rush for the Eagles up front, while Cameron Silzer and Ryan Heschke have combined for four interceptions in the secondary.
A week ago, Templeton’s defense gave up just four first downs.
“Each step is a confidence-builder,” Harper said. “We’ve had to overcome adversity all year long, each step of the way. It’s not done yet. It’s not finished yet, so we’ve just got to keep going.”
Second-seeded South Torrance (11-1), coming off a 33-12 home win over Morro Bay, hasn’t given up more than two touchdowns since Oct. 22. In that game, the Spartans edged past the same Centennial team Templeton beat last week, 35-29.
The Spartans’ defense is led by 6-2, 180-pound end Brent Malone, whose 21 sacks rank second in the state at the 11-man level.
South Torrance’s win over Morro Bay was close after three quarters, with the Pirates trailing just 19-12. In that game, 5-11, 210-pound running back Eric Capacchione rushed for 126 yards and two TDs on seven carries. Dylan Redondo also had a solid game for the Spartans in the quarterfinal round, running for 107 yards on 13 carries.
“They’re a good football team,” Harper said of South Torrance. “You have to be to make it this far.”