Coach Tom Goossen has always tried to get the message that “anyone can beat anyone in the PAC 7” across to his players. As warranted as that caution may be, it didn’t happen to his team this year.
Arroyo Grande High completed an unbeaten league championship season at home on a slightly rainy Friday night, beating rival San Luis Obispo, 42-12, to clinch the program’s first outright title since 2004.
“It feels really good, especially because it’s been a long time,” Eagles senior Seth Jacobs said. “We’ve come up short two years previously, so it feels good to pull it off. You’ve got to give it up for this community and the coaching staff.”
The Eagles (9-1, 6-0) entered this season as the favorite after returning numerous starters from last year’s team that, despite a third-place finish in the PAC 7, advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Western Division finals in the playoffs.
Ranked No. 2 in the division’s poll Monday, they had already clinched at least a share of the PAC 7 crown heading into last week’s bye.
But seizing the championship alone was far from a given against the seventh-ranked Tigers (7-3, 4-2), who were looking to grab a share of their first title since 2002.
“It’s very special,” Goossen said. “We played well, because they’re a tough team to stop, and they have some great athletes. I thought our kids rose to the challenge.”
Both teams moved the ball well in the first half, but the Eagles finished their drives with more consistency, taking a 21-0 lead with 6 minutes, 32 seconds left in the second quarter.
Although the Tigers cut the deficit to 21-6 with just 1:34 remaining in the half, the Eagles didn’t look back coming out of the locker room, establishing a 42-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Jacobs, who holds scholarship offers from nearly every Pac-12 program, rushed 14 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns and also had a second-half sack blitzing from his linebacker spot.
On one second-quarter play, Jacobs got the crowd roaring by breaking multiple tackles during a 21-yard run. The next play, he scored on a similarly physical 11-yard rumble.
Four other Eagles also rushed for at least 50 yards, part of a combined 329-yard performance on the ground, thanks in large part to a line featuring an Oregon State commit in Garrett Weinreich, as well as others likely to play in college.
“We kind of controlled the line of scrimmage, which is something we absolutely felt we needed to do to win this,” Goossen said. “I think our offensive line all year long has done an incredible job.”
Quarterback Brent VanderVeen, another senior committed to the Beavers, ran for 50 yards and a TD on nine carries and finished 5-of-9 passing for 86 yards.
Gabe Deleon (71 yards and a TD on 11 carries, plus a 30-yard catch), Henry Adelman (56 yards and a score on seven carries, plus a sack at linebacker) and Garrett Owens (53 yards and a TD on four carries, plus an interception at defensive back) also had key nights. Matt Willkomm added an interception in the win.
Jacob Flores had a team-best 40 yards and a TD on eight carries for San Luis Obispo, and teammate Erick Cordova caught two passes for 69 yards and ran six times for 38 yards.
Trevor McGuire caught two passes for 31 yards and a TD for the Tigers, and quarterback Garrett Giovannelli went 7-of-17 passing for 143 yards with the score and two interceptions.
Skylor Gram had a sack.
While the Eagles naturally celebrated afterward, the jubilation wasn’t over the top. They have even bigger goals in mind.
“It feels great,” Owens said. “Now that we’re league champs, we’ve just got to go prove ourselves in the playoffs.”
In another crucial Western Division game Friday, third-ranked Serra of Gardena edged top-ranked Chaminade of West Hills 35-29, which could mean the Eagles will be the No. 1 seed in the postseason. Brackets will be announced Sunday.
Perhaps no team is more aware than Arroyo Grande, though, how an at-large squad can get hot and knock off higher seeds.
“We have an opportunity to be that first-place team,” Jacobs said. “But then again (in 2010), we were the at-large team. We’ve got to stay focused.”