As an at-large team from the PAC 7, the San Luis Obispo High football team wasn’t going to play dead in last week’s first-round game against Camarillo in the CIF Southern Section Western Division playoffs. In fact, the Tigers believe they’re just getting started.
Their 54-28 playoff thumping of the Scorpions was a message to all the nonbelievers.
“It says we’re serious contenders for the (Southern Section) championship,” said junior middle linebacker Jack Ferguson, the Tigers’ leading tackler with 137. “It shows that we’re not a fluke this year.”
It could’ve been a temporary postseason stay, based on San Luis Obispo’s recent history. This is the first time in four years that the Tigers have had an extended season.
San Luis Obispo (8-3) hopes to make nonbelievers into believers again tonight when the Tigers host 9-2 Chaminade at 7, which also signifies their first quarterfinal match since 2006, when current coach Dave Kelley joined the program as the defensive coordinator.
A win means the Tigers could face either PAC 7 foe Arroyo Grande or St. Francis in the semifinals.
“It’s exciting times for San Luis Obispo football,” Kelley said. “We’ve been out of the playoffs for so many years. We’ve done a lot of hard work the last three years.”
Their latest example happened last Friday at Camarillo, where San Luis Obispo jumped out to a 48-7 lead before the Scorpions issued a minor scare with 21 points to end the playoff meeting. The late-game rally didn’t change the attitude of the Tigers.
With eight rushers combining for 280 yards and six touchdowns, and six defenders coming together for seven quarterback sacks for a loss of 47 yards, the Tigers figured this season’s playoff is different.
“We don’t have one star player who we depend on,” Ferguson said. “It’s usually someone different who steps up every week.”
San Luis Obispo is getting it done with a triple-option offense, with senior fullback Jacob Flores being the main beneficiary. He has 1,147 yards and 11 touchdowns on 154 carries. Bryan Coburn stepped up last week with two touchdowns.
“We haven’t been respected as a football team,” Ferguson said. “This season is definitely getting our team some respect. As a school, we’re bringing back respect to football.”
For Arroyo Grande, it’s not about respect. It’s about meeting expectations.
But the Eagles didn’t expect the shocking news that Serra, the two-time reigning division champion and the 2009 Division 3 state bowl winner, took a long, hard fall out of the playoffs.
The Cavaliers, who were sure to repeat previous years’ runs as the top seed in the division, blew a two-touchdown advantage and got booted by Culver City in a stunning 21-14 loss.
“Nothing in high school sports surprises me, especially in football,” said Tom Goossen, who’s in his fifth year as the Arroyo Grande coach. “Certainly, in high school sports, anything can happen. It’s surprising, yes. But it’s nothing that I haven’t come to expect.”
At No. 2, Arroyo Grande is the highest remaining seed in the division, and the Eagles are more than willing to take over Serra’s throne.
But first, the Eagles must take care of their next assignment, which involves traveling to La Cañada Flintridge near Los Angeles to face 9-2 St. Francis High — the wild-card team from the Mission League — in tonight’s quarterfinal matchup at 7.
“We have to work as hard as we can with the opponents we’re facing and not the opponents we could face,” Goossen said.