In San Luis Obispo High football coach Dave Kelley’s eyes, a win is a win.
So, when his team gave up 15 fourth-quarter points, racked up seven penalties for 55 yards and ended many scoring chances with missed opportunities, he wasn’t too concerned as the Tigers defeated Morro Bay 29-15 on Friday night for their third consecutive victory.
“We got the W, even though it wasn’t exactly how we’d like to win,” Kelley said. “We talked about it earlier, all four of these (nonleague) games are just practice.”
The Tigers had a few things to hang their hat on in their fourth nonleague game of the season, one of which being the continuing maturation process of junior quarterback Garrett Giovanelli. Against the Pirates, he showed exactly what he’s capable of.
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He showcased his playmaking ability on the ground early in the first quarter, striking paydirt on an 80-yard quarterback keeper to put San Luis Obispo up 9-0 after a failed two-point conversion.
He then showed off his arm with just under five minutes left in the half, connecting with wide receiver Trevor McGuire for a 31-yard touchdown pass.
Giovanelli didn’t let up in the second half, finishing the game with a team-high 136 yards rushing, 65 yards passing and three total touchdowns.
“He played well and commanded the game,” Kelley said. “For a kid who’s only played varsity football for four games now, he’s doing a good job of leading. You can’t ask for anything more.”
In the second half, his Morro Bay counterpart, Bryce Owens, almost willed the Pirates to a comeback.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, he connected with Dan Beavers on a 5-yard touchdown pass to cut the Tigers’ lead to eight after a two-point conversion from Dolin Mininni.
San Luis Obispo stymied any further comeback, though, as Jacob Flores punched in a 16-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Defensive back Trevor MacLeod then intercepted Owens on the Pirates’ next drive and San Luis Obispo scored again on a Giovanelli 1-yard touchdown run.
The Pirates did, however, add a late touchdown, a 37-yard touchdown pass from Owens to Derek Viles.
“I don’t think we played to the best of our ability. Morro Bay came out and surprised us,” said MacLeod, who had two interceptions. “Their defense was definitely the toughest defense we’ve faced all year.
“We should have put up a couple more points on offense, but I mean a win is a win, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
There were some bright spots for Morro Bay in the loss. Owens looked like he started to find his rhythm in the passing offense. He threw for 169 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Tigers.
“Hats off to them, they didn’t quit,” Kelley said. “It shows that they have a program that has pride.”
But despite the Tigers’ win, and recent momentum with their 3-1 record as the they head into league play next week, their road to their first postseason under Kelley may be a long one. San Luis Obispo’s final three games come against PAC 7 foes Atascadero, St. Joseph and Arroyo Grande. Even before that, in three weeks the Tigers will have to travel to Santa Maria to take on a Righetti team that went 6-4 (3-3 PAC 7) in 2010.
“It’s going to be a dogfight, it’s going to be the last man standing,” Kelley said. “Bottom line is that you have to prepare for every practice from this point until the end of the season like we are playing for a championship.”