High School Sports

South Torrance is again in Templeton’s football playoff way

Templeton High running back Matt Arace, left, is congratulated by teammate Jackson Wheeler after scoring a touchdown in a Nov. 4 win over Morro Bay.
Templeton High running back Matt Arace, left, is congratulated by teammate Jackson Wheeler after scoring a touchdown in a Nov. 4 win over Morro Bay. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

This is what the Templeton High football team has been waiting for.

Granted, it comes in the form of South Torrance, which features massive, powerful linemen who were part of a unit that simply overpowered second-seeded St. Bernard in last week’s 55-41 win in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs.

But what the Spartans also bring into today’s quarterfinal matchup at Templeton is a chance at redemption.

Despite traveling 223 miles, South Torrance handed the Eagles a 35-7 loss in last year’s semifinals.

“To be honest,” Templeton coach Dan Loney said, “I think myself, the coaches and the players are excited to have a shot back at them.”

This shot, however, is loaded with big guns up front. The line of Kurtis Heinemann (6-foot, 300 pounds), Orion Gould (6-3, 272), Alex Lee (6-0, 222), James Pakzad (6-0, 225) and Anthony Aguilar (5-8, 235) was effective and strong enough to allow Brandon Chavez to run amok in South Torrance’s win last week, as the sophomore running back rushed 44 times for 353 yards and four touchdowns.

“You could drive a truck through some of those holes,” Chavez told The Daily Breeze newspaper.

That kind of damage was similar to the one Templeton experienced in last season’s semifinal disappointment. The Eagles allowed all 35 points in the first three quarters, with South Torrance amassing 328 rushing yards on 50 attempts compared to Templeton’s 26 rushes for 158 yards.

“We knew what they were going to run and it didn’t matter,” remembers Loney, who became the Templeton head coach after Dave Harper guided the Eagles to an 8-5 record last season before resigning. “They ran it at us anyway.”

Templeton (6-5) expects a similar game plan this time from South Torrance (6-5).

The Eagles believe they’ve come too far to get run over again, considering they’ve had to adjust to life without Tyler Gray — last season’s star running back and linebacker — and life with a new coach and his schemes. They made it clear in last week’s playoff opening win over Carpinteria that they want to stay in the playoffs. After jumping out to a 21-0 lead, Templeton managed to protect its lead and win 41-28.

This week’s challenge is trying to out-muscle monstrous linemen.

“We’re coming in with a very good game plan,” Templeton junior running back/safety Jackson Wheeler said. “Our coach is getting us ready really well. We have to play really well against their run offense. They have some big guys upfront. We have to put them on their heels a little bit.”

South Torrance — which won as an at-large bid last week to end St. Bernard’s undefeated season at 10-1 — is hoping for another shot at the division title. The Eagles, however, are determined to not let it happen again.

“We have to come back and get revenge,” fullback/linebacker Scott Lawson said. “They whooped us pretty good last year, but we feel like we can take it with the coaches and players that we have.”